Guest: Professor Nayef Al-Rodhan, PhD
Expertise: Neuroscience, Global Policy, Ethical Implications of Transhumanism
Recognition in Brief: Neuroscience researcher / trained neurosurgeon, Mayo Clinic (Rochester, MI). Previously a fellow at the department of neurosurgery at the Massachusetts General Hospital at Harvard Medical School. Senior Scholar in geostrategy and Director of the Geopolitics and Global Futures Programme at the Geneva Center for Security Policy in Geneva, Switzerland.
Current Affiliations: Geneva Center for Security Policy, St. Antony’s College – Oxford University
Dr. Al Rodhan spent decades studying the human mind, and it helped him form a theory of humanity, it’s nature, and it’s technological future. Namely, that our very nature will inevitably bring us to go beyond nature – not merely in the extension of our capacities through devices – but through a literal enhancement and extension of our bodies and minds.
In his belief – human beings are emotional creatures with a moral compass that exists for their own egotistical needs. Our desire for power, profit, pleasure, pride and permanency – says Neyef – will drive us beyond the bounds of our physical condition, and it’s the role of governments (not corporations) to regulate that process of enhancement and experimentation for the good of humanity. If you’re interested in human motivation and the next 20 years of enhancement technology, this is an interview you won’t want to miss.
The Transhuman Inevitability:
Dr. Al-Rodhan believes that human beings are “amoral,” in the sense that they are not essentially “moral” or “immoral,” but exhibit morality as a way of furthering their perceived collective emotional needs. In this sense, humans desire to further their own innate human drives in any “moral” act. Nayef identifies these innately egoic motivating human forces ower, profit, pleasure, pride and permanency (points that he elaborates on in many of his own essays). These drives are not limited to or married to the present human condition, and in Nayef’s eyes, these same drives brought us to invent the wheel and the iPhone, and they will the the same motivators that bring us to enhance our bodies and (eventually) our minds.
Al-Rodhan himself is no mere armchair psychology theorist. With a PhD in neuroscience and extensive research experience at Mass General Hospital and Mayo Clinic, he has informed his theory of the human condition through his understanding of the mind itself. While some neuroscientists or philosophers may have different views of the human condition, Nayef argues that his model is an apt one in terms when it comes to basing political and policy theories.
The Coming Two Decades of Transhuman Technologies:
In the coming ten years, Nayef predicts the most viable “transhuman” technologies (those that expand our mental capacities) to come through pharmacological means (more targeted / powerful drugs to enhance memory, influence emotion, improve learning capacity, etc…). Referring to the oodles of (seemingly somewhat regrettable) military research in these domains over the last four or five decades, Nayef believes that these are likely to be the technologies that make the extension of human capacity possible in the coming decade.
Two decades from now, says Nayef, we are much more likely to see the advent of brain-machine interface technologies that more directly augment our memory or change / expand out modes of thinking and feeling. These more drastic changes are troubling to Nayef, as the creation of super-human minds could easily be seen as a threat to humanity (as it might be presumed that our superior brain power led us to subjugate other animals).
Will Governments Be Prepared to Regulate the Accelerating Transhuman Technologies?:
Dr. Al-Rodhan explains some of the somewhat unfortunate realities of bringing transhuman / human enhancement matters to major government attention. Since the topic doesn’t concern most of the general public (who is more likely to be more concerned with job crises, the environment, etc…), it has less sway at the ballot box. Since politicians work within short time horizons for election periods, longer-term considerations about the future of human nature (and consciousness itself) tend to be tucked asside. However, there is hope that increasing awareness and global technological events will place emerging technology on the roster for important factors in political yield and governance. Nayef continues to write and proliferate long-term thinking about transhumanism and world governance, and hopes to be part of the transition that will bring these matters to light.