What they care about is what it means to be human, what it means to have
relationships, what it means to live life, to have loves, or to tell
lies. If you want to engage such people, you have to tell a story about
culture and valueswho we are, how we got that way, where we're headed
and what makes us tick. That's what has always interested me; it's what
my reporting has always been about. The gee-whiz technology is just a
window through which to gaze upon human nature.
Four interrelated, intertwining technologies are cranking up to modify
human nature. Call them the GRIN technologiesthe genetic, robotic,
information and nano processes. These four advances are intermingling
and feeding on one another, and they are collectively creating a curve
of change unlike anything we humans have ever seen.
Already, enhanced people walk among us. You can see it most clearly
wherever you find the keenest competition. Sport is a good example. "The
current doping agony," says John Hoberman, a University of Texas
authority on performance drugs, "is a kind of very confused referendum
on the future of human enhancement." Extreme pharmacological sport did
not begin or end with East Germany. Some athletes today look grotesque.
Curt Schilling, the All-Star pitcher, in 2002 talked to Sports
Illustrated about the major leagues. "Guys out there look like Mr.
Potato Head, with a head and arms and six or seven body parts that just
don't look right." Competitive bodybuilding is already divided into
tested shows (i.e., drug free) versus untested shows (anything
goes).That's merely the beginning. Scientists at the University of
Pennsylvania who created genetically modified "mighty mice" have been
deluged by calls from athletes and coaches who want to try this
technology themselves. These mice are shockingly large and muscular.
They are built like steers, with massive haunches and necks wider than
their heads. Could such gene doping work in humansassuming it isn't
already? "Oh yeah, it's easy," H. Lee Sweeney, chairman of Penn's
Department of Physiology, told The New York Times. "Anyone who
can clone a gene and work with cells could do it. It's not a
mystery....You could change the endurance of the muscle or modulate the
speedall the performance characteristics. All the biology is there. If
someone said, 'Here's $10 millionI want you to do everything you can
think of in terms of sports,' you could get pretty imaginative."
Then there's the military. Remember the comic-book superheroes of the
1930s and 1940s, from Superman to Wonder Woman? Most of their
superpowers right now either exist or are in engineering. If you can
watch a car chase in Afghanistan with a Predator, you've effectively got
telescopic vision. If you can figure out what's inside a cave by peering
into the earth with a seismic ground pinger, you've got X-ray vision.
Want super strength? At the University of California at Berkeley, the
U.S. Army has got a functioning prototype exoskeleton suit that allows a
soldier to carry 180 pounds as if it were only 4.4 pounds. At Natick
Labs in Massachusetts, the U.S. Army imagines that such an exoskeleton
suit may ultimately allow soldiers to leap tall buildings with a single
"My thesis is that in just 20 years the boundary between fantasy and
reality will be rent asunder," writes Rodney Brooks, director of the
Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology. "Just five years from now that boundary will be breached in
ways that are as unimaginable to most people today as daily use of the
World Wide Web was 10 years ago."
A Man Called Intrepid author dies aged 89(Dec 03 2013) William Stevenson, a journalist and author who drew on his close ties with intelligence sources to write two best-selling books in the 1970s, A Man Called...