Cyborgs, Transhumanism, and Immortality
This Essay will cover the ways is which the use of technology may change the minds and bodies of human beings over the next half-century. These technological avenues include better nutrition, treatment of disease, surgical repairs, artificial organs and appliances, and genetic engineering. We also talk about the pros and cons of becoming “transhuman” cyborgs, of uploading our “personhoods” into computer simulations, and about what may result when computers “wake up” by themselves in a watershed moment dubbed the “Technological Singularity.”
It is difficult to predict the order in which these developments may emerge, or how they will be received by the world’s societies. Some of the technologies use medical-biological science, and some use mostly mechanical-digital engineering. All of them have the same two overlapping aims:
1) Repair or cure humans. For example, it would be good to cure Alzheimer’s Disease.
2) Improve humans. For example, make people more intelligent, or make them disease resistant.
Of course, what constitutes an “improvement” will be a controversial matter of ethics and aesthetics.
This Essay Capstones Three Prior Essays
This Essay stands as a capstone for three preceding Essays:
- This Essay caps our “Dealing with Death” Essay by explaining how we can rationally extend our lives through medicine and technology. In that Essay we discussed Rational Ways to deal with death. In all, we covered 12 of 14 Rational Ways, deferring 2 ways to be discussed in this Essay. Those last two rational methods for Dealing with Death are: “Reduce Aging and Lengthen Lives,” and “Transhumanism.” Unlike the false promises of fictional life after death (e.g., heaven, reincarnation), these two rational avenues could provide humans with additional years of actual quality living.
- This Essay also caps our “Human Evolution” Essay by describing how humans may increasingly augment their bodies by implanting electronics and appending mechanical devices; or even by implanting entire “personhoods” (i.e., minds and memories) into a digital medium.
- Lastly, this Essay caps our “Evolution of Technology” Essay by explaining how computers and robots (or networks of them) could “wake up” and achieve independent consciousness. This would be a major historical watershed comparable even to the origin of life. Expected to happen within the next 50 years, this watershed, known as the “technological singularity,” could provide humans with marvelous new tools, or it could create independent and hostile robots who compete, or even make war, with us.
In fact, any one of the technological avenues we will discuss could move us toward utopia or toward dystopia. Different people will have different opinions on them, depending on what they think is morally and ethically human, what they think is aesthetically human, and what they think our human role should be in Continuing Creation here on Earth. (In the far future, human populations living on other planets might reach different judgments.)
Medical Science Will Slow Down Aging & Lengthen Lives
Reducing Pain and Suffering
Medicine has already greatly reduced human pain and suffering, particularly in advanced nations. This has been done by preventing and/or curing disease and also with pain-relieving (anesthetic and analgesic) medicines and procedures. In the last 30 years, many of these treatments have benefited from complementary hospice care programs.
The modern concept of hospice includes palliative care for the incurably ill given in such institutions as hospitals or nursing homes, but also care provided to those who would rather spend their last months and days of life in their own homes. The first modern hospice care was created by Cicely Saunders in 1967.
In the United States today, the Medicare system makes hospice care widely available, either in an inpatient facility or at the patient’s home, to patients with a terminal prognosis who are medically certified to have less than six months to live. 1
Extending Human Life
The sciences of medicine and nutrition have done an excellent job of extending human life. We have increased the average life span (for people surviving early childhood) from around 38 years in ancient Rome 2 to 72 years in Europe and North America as of the year 2014, according to The World Bank. 3
Over the next half century, many more people may live to reach an old age of 125 years. Significant scientific breakthroughs could extend it further. However, The Path of Continuing Creation holds that this extension would only be worth doing if the period of high-quality living (healthy, active, alert) is also extended – say, from 75 years old today to 90 then. 4
Later in this Essay, we’ll talk about achieving immortality through medical science.
The Way of Continuing Creation emphasizes a very important point of this Essay: Earth cannot support either significant life extension for all (or even for most) people unless the human population is controlled; preferably through voluntary birth control. As we discuss in our Essay, Overpopulation Threatens Continuing Creation, modern history proves that when women are given freedom, jobs, safe birth control methods, and education they will voluntarily limit the size of their families in order to secure a brighter future for the smaller number of children they do elect to have. However, it is not clear that those good trends will in fact outpace today’s rapid pace of population growth. If voluntary birth control is not adopted quickly enough across the Earth, legislated birth control may become a necessary stop-gap measure.
Improving Human Bodies with Medical Technology
Human bodies and brains would be improved if we were more intelligent; if we could see better (perhaps including the ability to sense longer and shorter wavelengths of light); if we were less afflicted with mental disorders (including psychopathy and sociopathy); were less war-like; less obese; more disease resistant; and seldom suffered baldness, acne, tooth decay, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and many other diseases and birth defects.
In our Essay, Answering Evolution’s Critics, we quoted a list of major problems with the human body in order to show that humans were not designed by a super-intelligent God. (Or, perhaps that such a God intended these imperfections as a series of practical jokes on the human race.) We list those problems again below, to illustrate all the things that we might want to actually fix through modern technology.
Quoting from the article, “If Humans Were Built to Last,” Scientific American, 2003, updated from March 2001, written by S. Jay Olshansky, Bruce A. Carnes and Robert N. Butler:
“A number of the debilitating and even some of the fatal disorders of aging stem in part from bipedal locomotion and an upright posture—ironically, the same features that have enabled the human species to flourish. Every step we take places extraordinary pressure on our feet, ankles, knees and back— structures that support the weight of the whole body above them. Over the course of just a single day, disks in the lower back are subjected to pressures equivalent to several tons per square inch.”
Bones that Lose Minerals After Age 30
“Demineralization makes bones susceptible to fractures and, in extreme cases, can cause osteoporosis (severe bone degeneration), curvature of the spine and ‘dowager’s hump.’”
Fallible Spinal Disks
“Years of pressure on the spongy disks that separate the vertebrae can cause them to slip, rupture or bulge; then they, or the vertebrae themselves, can press painfully on nerves.”
Muscles that Lose Mass and Tone
“Such atrophy can impede all activities, including walking. In the abdomen, hernias can arise as the intestines (always pulled by gravity) protrude through weak spots in the abdominal wall. Flaccid abdominal muscles also contribute to lower-back pain.”
Leg Veins Prone to Varicosity
“Veins in the legs become enlarged and twisted when small valves that should snap shut between heartbeats (to keep blood moving up toward the heart) malfunction, causing blood to pool. Severe varicosities can lead to swelling and pain and, on rare occasions, to life-threatening blood clots.”
Relatively Short Rib Cage
“Current cage does not fully enclose and protect most internal organs.”
Joints that That Wear Out
“As joints are used repetitively through the years, their cushioning and lubricating cartilage can grow thin, causing the bones to grind against each other. The resulting pain may be exacerbated by osteoarthritis and other inflammatory disorders.”
To solve these problems, combinations of bio-technology mechanical engineering could give us “thicker, stronger bones and thicker spinal discs, more ribs in the rib cage to better support internal organs, knees that bend backward, leg veins with more check valves, larger hamstrings and tendons, larger outer ear and more plentiful ear hairs, urethra that runs along the outside of the prostate not through it, and a stronger sphincter valve on the bladder.” 5
Should We Just Accept Our Natural Bodies as They Are?
There are certainly religious groups, such as the Christian Scientists, who believe that man-made medicine should not interfere with the human bodies that “God has given us.” Some people on Nature-based spiritual paths, including folks on our Path of Continuing Creation, may feel the same way.
The Hindu religion originally taught that the only way to deal with suffering was to mentally and spiritually transcend it, using meditation, diet, and yoga to raise the mind and spirit to Moksha – unity with Brahman. (See our Essay on Hinduism)
But most people by far, including most modern Hindus, welcome such things as eyeglasses, hearing aids, pacemakers, cardiac stents, cataract surgery, organ transplants, and artificial limbs for amputees, all of which are products of Western science and technology.
The Weave of Continuing Creation is clearly in favor of the medical technologies we use today, including those just mentioned. Most of us would also be in favor of life spans that are 25 years longer, if those years were healthy, active, and relatively pain-free. But will People living our Way of G>O>D> be in favor of body augmentations, body transformations, or near-immortality, all of which we will discuss later in this Essay? Many of us, perhaps most of us, would not. Nearly all us will approach these radical technologies one-by-one, very cautiously, and after years of study and reflection.
Gene Therapy and Genetic Engineering
Both Gene Therapy and Genetic Engineering use gene modification and/or replacement methods to change the genetic makeup of a creature. Gene Therapy aims to cure defects and diseases, principally in humans. Genetic Engineering modifies the genes to enhance the capabilities of individual creatures or even entire plant and animal species beyond their current evolved states.
There is a spectrum of technology that runs from comparatively modest Gene Therapy to the more radical Genetic Engineering. Gene Therapy is already happening. Genetic engineering probably will happen, and is likely to accelerate the Growing>Organizing>Direction of the Cosmos toward greater complexity.
Gene Therapy means replacing a damaged gene in a person with a working gene. It is the therapeutic delivery of nucleic acid into a patient’s cells in order to treat disease.6The first attempt at modifying human DNA was performed in 1980 by Martin Cline, and the first direct insertion of human DNA into the nuclear genome was performed 1990. By February 2016, over 2,300 clinical trials using gene therapy techniques had been conducted. 7
Genetic Engineering is a set of technologies used to change the genetic makeup of cells, including the transfer of genes within and across species boundaries to produce improved or novel organisms.
In Genetic Engineering, new DNA is obtained by either isolating and copying the genetic material of interest using recombinant DNA methods or by artificially synthesizing the DNA. The artificially-constructed segment of DNA is then inserted into the host organism. As well as inserting genes, the process can be used to remove, or “knock out,” genes.
An organism that is generated through genetic engineering is called a genetically modified organism (GMO). The first company to focus on genetic engineering, Genentech, was founded in 1976 and started the production of human proteins. Genetically-engineered human insulin was produced in 1978 and insulin-producing bacteria were commercialized in 1982. Genetically modified food has been sold since 1994. Most current GM crops are modified in order to increase resistance to insects and herbicides. Currently, Europe has more stringent regulation than the U.S. on GM foods.
An extremely serious problem for genetic engineering will be how to avoid adverse outcomes. Adverse or evil outcomes could occur even when the intent of an engineered change was laudable. For example, a gene manipulation might achieve the goal of increasing human intelligence, but also unintentionally decrease human empathy. Science fiction is replete with stories about unexpected consequences that create “semi-humans” having, say, two additional arms — with claws. Science fiction also describes many fictional dystopias in which a genetically modified “master race” subjugates an “inferior” race that has received little or no genetic enhancement. (For more about the nightmare of a “master race,” see the section on Eugenics later in this Essay.)
Hailed in 2018 as one of the most important medical advances in the decade 8, CRISPR allows researchers to easily alter DNA sequences and modify gene function. Its many potential applications include correcting genetic defects, treating and preventing the spread of diseases, and improving crops.
CRISPR technology was adapted from the natural defense mechanisms of single-celled microorganisms. These organisms use CRISPR-derived RNA and various Cas proteins, including Cas9, to foil attacks by viruses and other foreign bodies. They do so primarily by chopping up and destroying the DNA of a foreign invader. When these components are transferred into other, more complex, organisms, it allows for the manipulation of genes, or “editing.” 9
As cellular and molecular pathologist Dr. Aparna Vidyasagar writes, “We’ve already learned that it [CRISPR] can help us create mushrooms that don’t brown easily and edit bone marrow cells in mice to treat sickle-cell anemia. CRISPR could one day even allow us to wipe out entire populations of malaria-spreading mosquitoes or resurrect once-extinct species like the passenger pigeon… However, scientists have recently learned that the approach to gene editing can inadvertently wipe out and rearrange large swaths of DNA in ways that may imperil human health. That follows recent studies showing that CRISPR-edited cells can inadvertently trigger cancer.” 10 Of course, eradication of human diseases ought to be matched by increases in voluntary human birth control.
In the future, Human cloning could be a way to extend the presence of an individual’s body and mind. The cloning of animals, such as Dolly the Sheep, was achieved in 1996 by transferring the nucleus of a cell taken from a regular (somatic, i.e. not an egg or a sperm) sheep cell and implanted into the egg of a second sheep. A third sheep carried the fetus to term. 11
A clone of you would be genetically identical to you, just as identical twins are genetically identical to each other. However, each of the two people still has their own separate “point-of-view,” and therefore their own distinct identity and personhood. As the twins or clones grow up and have different life experiences, their opinions and judgments – their personhoods — inevitably grow farther apart as the years go by.
If you were to be cloned in your old age, your clone would begin as a new-born baby. Sixteen or eighteen years later, that child might be able to begin taking the reins of your adult life. Hopefully, you would be around to coach him or her for a number of years before making your “exit.” But that new version of you is not really going to be you. You, buried six feet under, are not going to be feeling and doing what your clone is feeling and doing.
So, cloning would not give a person immortality, because taking a cell and growing it into an exact copy of your body would produce a new-born baby that has none of your memories and can never experience the same life experience as you have. Still, like a legacy, some might see it as a kind of immortality; maybe a “shadow immortality.”
Note: “There are some [single-celled] creatures [bacteria, amoebae, and others] that do not seem to die at all; they simply vanish totally into their own progeny. [In effect, they clone themselves.] The single-cell becomes [divides into] two, then four, and so on… It cannot be seen as death; barring mutation, the descendants are simply the first cell, living all over again.” 12
Traditional (non-eugenic) Human Mating Practices
Since our prehuman ancestors first came down from the trees, men and women have been selecting each other based on beauty, strength, endurance, intelligence, agreeability, fecundity, wealth, family connections, tribe, race, nation, age, and (most important of all) proximity. Men and women with favorable inheritable traits (strength, endurance, disease resistance) would marry and have children who were more likely to have those same traits.
In many cultures, going back to the dawn of tribal civilization, men have unfortunately dominated women and treated them like property. In many clans and tribes, the dominant males gathered more than their “share” of females into a personal harem. On the other hand, courtship and marriage could often be a “free-market” selection system, one in which even the less “desirable” men and women could usually find a mate.
In larger and more organized societies, the choice of mate was often made for couples by their parents, based on the criteria of wealth, social standing, tribe, and caste.
All these evolved traditions were inadvertently practicing a kind of “selective breeding,” with the selection being done by the mating individuals themselves, or by their families and clans according to custom.
We’ve just described how that traditional mating practices called for “selective breeding” where the selection was done largely by the mating couple themselves and/or by their families. Eugenics, a now-discredited pseudo-science that dates back to the early 1900’s, also called for “selective breeding” among humans. However, under the pseudo-science of Eugenics, governmental policies would dictate the match-up of men and women on the basis of their “favorable traits” – such as intelligence and health. Also, under Eugenics, people with “less-desirable” features – e.g., a cleft palette, below-average intelligence, retardation — would be disallowed or discouraged from having children.
Between 1900 and 1940, many Western countries adopted eugenic policies encouraging individuals deemed particularly “fit” to reproduce, and establishing marriage prohibitions and even forced sterilization of people deemed unfit for reproduction. People deemed unfit to reproduce often included people with mental or physical disabilities, people who scored in the low ranges of different IQ tests, criminals and deviants, and members of disfavored minority groups. 13
Eugenics became a key doctrine of Nazism and provided false justification for the systematic slaughter of some six million Jews in The Holocaust, along with people having physical or mental disabilities, during World War II.
Today, the “gene selection” of modern medicine, rather than the “people selection” of Eugenics, has been made increasingly possible through advances in genome editing, leading to what is sometimes called new eugenics, also known as neo-eugenics, consumer eugenics, or liberal eugenics. 14
“Resurrection” Through Cryonics
Cryonics is the low-temperature preservation (usually in liquid nitrogen, at −196°C) of a legally dead human corpse, with the hope that resuscitation and restoration to life and full health may be possible in the far future. Cryonics is regarded with skepticism within the mainstream scientific community and is not part of accepted medical practice.
A number of people who believe in cryonics have had their bodies frozen, and intend to keep them frozen, until a time when medicine will be able to thaw them out, cure what killed them, maybe even restore their youthful energies, and send them forth into the world of the future. Unlike cloning, Cryonics entails no “copying-of-you,” so the future “you” really would be the real you.
However, It is not known if it will ever be possible to revive a cryopreserved human cadaver. Such views are at the speculative edge of medicine.15
Note: Cryonics has little or no connection with Cryogenics. Cryogenics is a proven and respected engineering discipline that studies the behavior and the uses of materials under extremely cold temperatures. An example would be achieving electric superconductivity with metals that are taken down to extremely cold temperatures.
Even if cryonics actually worked, a technically successful resurrection could have either a good result or a bad result for the awakened human. On the one hand, you might “wake up” to find an Earth that’s healthy, peaceful, enlightened, prosperous, democratic, and just. But on the other hand, you might find an Earth riven by disease, violence, ignorance, poverty, and slavery. In the real world, we must remember that Continuing Creation makes no promise that a future “heaven-on-Earth” awaits the “newly-thawed.”
Biological Immortality (for Humans)
In our Essay, Dealing with Death on the Path of G>O>D>, we talked about the downside of immortality or near-immortality when we pointed out that Heaven and Nirvana would take all the challenge, all the “creating,” out of human lives. In heaven, we could end up existing in eternal ennui, always saying to ourselves, “Been there, seen that, done that.”
Still, many people are excited about the possibility of immortality, so we’ll discuss it here as a real possibility that might be achieved through real medical science. It is possible that immortality could be achieved by purely biological means, but most people think it would involve a combination of biological organs/systems plus mechanical and electronic implants and enhancements. In this section, we will take up biological immortality by biological means, leaving mechanical-electronic methods for the following section.
Aging and Senescence
To achieve biological immortality, humans would have to overcome senescence — our natural aging process.
Aging may ultimately be the result of entropy applied to biological creatures. In all complex open systems, living and non-living, entropy (the second law of thermodynamics) ensures that every system eventually wears out and breaks down.
Remember: for the Growing> Organizing> Direction> to function, grow, and develop, there must be a continual inflow of energy from the outside. So G>O>D> happens here on Earth because our sun supplies the outside energy. But for the universe as a whole, there is no “outside,” and therefore no outside energy. So, for the universe as a whole, over the longest of all time-frames, Entropy wins. Unless you believe, (without any real evidence), that God stands outside the universe and that He-She-or-It provides the needed outside energy.
Systems can also break down before any critical parts wear out. Instead, breakdown happens when systems lose their input of energy. For plants and animals, it might be due to thirst, starvation, or suffocation (or loss of sunlight for plants). Or, it could happen when an organ of the body loses its ability to process food-energy and deliver it to the body’s cells.
However, most human old-age deaths appear not to be caused by a loss of energy input. Most human deaths happen before the food-energy systems breakdown. How so? It appears that the human body is programmed to increase cell death – senescence — over time. Leading theories of senescence are the gene theory of aging, the disposable soma theory, and the telomere theory. 16
Senescence happens in nearly all multi-cellular plants and animals. In the senescence process, the individual cells in our body are continually breaking and/or becoming less efficient. Their inefficiency is detected and they are torn apart by still-living cells. Then they are replaced by fresh new replacement cells.
Every cell in the human body gets replaced in this way about every seven years. All this is actually genetically programmed to happen. In effect, the body as a whole, “judges” that it is more efficient to eliminate and replace defective cells than it is to try to repair them. 17 (Many Corporations do an analogous thing when they periodically lay-off or flush-out the “bottom” 5% or 10% of their workforces.)
As we age, senescence happens faster, to more cells, more often. When critical functions can no longer be performed (e.g. pumping of blood by the heart, purifications by the liver, respiration by the lungs, etc.) the entire body dies. The autopsies find and name an “immediate cause of death,” with “old age” cited as the “supporting cause of death.”
After all, as we discussed earlier (and in other Essays), for Continuous Creation, survival of the genes is more important than survival of the individual bodies carrying them. The cells of the blood, brain neurons, heart muscle cells, etc., are all “support” cells whose mission is to preserve, nurture, and enable the sperm and egg cells to pass on their DNA. The sperm and egg are the generals, and all those support cells are “expendable soldiers.”
That’s why senescence mostly takes place after individuals have lived through their reproductive years. This concept – that the body is a “survival machine” for protecting genes and transporting then into the future — was fully proposed and elaborated in Oxford biologist Richard Dawkins’ landmark book, The Selfish Gene, written in 1989. 18
“Cure” Senescence and Achieve Immortality?
People who are not happy with their mortality tend to see senescence as another one of the physiological “flaws” that we listed earlier. These people advocate trying to eliminate senescence, or at least slow it way down. They argue this is feasible by pointing to the fact that there are some multi-cellular creatures that don’t age (or who age very slowly) – including “tortoises and turtles, sturgeon, rough-eye rockfish, and lobsters.” 19
Going further, they note that the lowly but multi-cellular Hydra is considered to be “biologically immortal,” meaning that it can never die unless it’s killed by a predator or accidental violence. (The hydra is a soft tube not quite a half-inch long, with no skeleton or shell. At one end of the tube is its mouth, surrounded by a ring of tentacles which capture tiny fresh-water plankton for food.)
To paraphrase from the last chapter of Nick Lane’s book, Life Ascending, “In 1988 Drs. David Friedman and Tom Johnson reported life-extending mutation in nematode worms. Lifespan was doubled, from 22 to 45 days. Later studies have reported very similar results in fruit flies, yeast, and mice. And the genes in all of them worked along the same biochemical pathway. Therefore, for mammals it is also possible that “a single mutation in just one gene can double lifespan and at once “put on hold” the diseases of old age.” 20
Cancer Is A Type of Biological Immortality
Before we get too excited about biological immortality for humans, consider its very real “dark side:”
Mother Nature tells us a cautionary tale about biological immortality, because “Immortality [already] has a very real existence in the present cellular world — it’s called cancer. In fact… most novel cancer therapies are designed to allow cell death (senescence) to occur as it normally would.” 21 Cancer cells are able to bypass senescence, which gives them indefinitely extended reproduction lives. 22
Elephants should get a lot of cancerous tumors because their huge size means they have many more cells dividing and possibly mutating. Yet elephants actually get fewer cancers than humans do. One of the reasons appears to be that elephants “protect themselves with a unique gene [the p53 gene] that aggressively kills off cells whose DNA has been damaged.” Researchers have found that elephants have 20 copies of the p53 gene, while humans have only one. 23
Human Immortality Assisted by Computers and Machines
In the science fiction film, Blade Runner 2049, a visiting human-cyborg “replicant” asks another replicant, “Your dog there, is he real?” The dog owner replies, “I don’t know, ask him.”
Cyborgs: Combinations of Humans and Machines
A cyborg, short for “cybernetic organism,” can be “any organism (usually a mammal) that has restored function or enhanced abilities due to the integration of some artificial component or technology that relies on some sort of feedback.” 24 By this definition, people with cochlear implants to improve hearing, cardiac pacemakers, or implanted lenses to cure eye cataracts are all cyborgs.
Yes, we may indeed add third eyes that can perceive longer and shorter wavelengths than we do now. Maybe we’ll install echo-locators, implanted GPS systems, night-vision systems, recording systems that can video and replay our entire lives, powered armor that allows us to jump very high and run at terrific speed, or the ability to individually fly through the air. (Of course, many of us many zero desire to individually fly through the air; but J.X Mason is certainly “up for it!”)
But why would we do all this? To what end? Are we humans so dissatisfied with simply being human? These questions are hard to answer. Enhanced capabilities could provide excitement and exploration, perhaps on other planets. Or, cyborgs could be gladiators who fight to entertain crowds in future coliseums. Or, they could make war. Buddhists say that dissatisfaction is the cause of all suffering (we would say all mental suffering), but their solution is to extinguish dissatisfaction though meditation and understanding, not by adding attachments to the human body.
Due to decades of violent superhero movies and TV shows, most of us do think of cyborgs as monster-like abominations, half-human and half-machine, which fight against “pure” humans on the science-fiction battlefields of the future. In the 1970’s, fictional spies Emma Peel and John Steed fought cyborgs in the British television series, The Avengers. A classic fictional collection of cyborgs were The Borg, who appeared on a number episodes of television’s Star Trek series. The Borg consisted of evil (or maybe just enslaved) humans loaded up with so many computer chips, mechanical prostheses, and electronically enhanced eyeballs that they were as much machine as human.
The evil cyborgs (“The Borg”) of Star Trek: Next Generation
These Borg creatures were embedded in closet-like niches on a giant skeletonized spaceship, where they performed specialized functions. However, some of them were able to “unplug,” so they could stalk around and fight the heroic crew of Starship Enterprise man-to-man (or “borg-to-man”).
The Book of G>O>D> says — Perhaps the “pre-Borg,” (people who originally became the Borg) did it to themselves. Maybe they tried to construct a kind of heaven, and then things went wrong. Their vision of a techno-heaven morphed into a techno-hell. This danger – the danger of unintended consequences – is ever-present in all human plans for the future.
Transhumanism – Opportunities & Dangers
While the word cyborg has distinctly negative connotations, there is a newer intellectual movement that views the same technologies positively. These folks call their movement “Transhumanism.”
Transhumanism, (often abbreviated as “H+” or “h+”) calls for employing both the electro-mechanical technology used to build cyborgs, and the medical science and bio-engineering technology used to do genetic engineering. The goals are to make humans smarter, more physically powerful, disease resistant, and healthy; with enhanced senses, reduced criminality, and even immortality (or near immortality).
The Book of Continuing Creation asks — If humans become immortal through the application of non-human technologies, would we still be human at the end? The answer could be “yes,” because all the technology came from humans. On the other hand, the answer could be “No” if the values and behaviors of the new entities are no longer human values and behaviors.
The most common transhumanist thesis is that human beings may eventually be able to transform themselves into different beings with abilities so greatly expanded beyond current human powers as to merit the label “post-human” beings.25
Transhumanism argues that over time, most humans will choose to make these modifications to themselves and/or to their progeny.
However, the Book of Continuing Creation holds that the word “transhumanism” should not be reserved for optimists. The same techniques that could lead to an improvement of human existence could also lead to human tragedy. Therefore, we prefer to talk about two kinds of Transhumanism — Pessimistic and Optimistic Transhumanism.
In his landmark book Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, Professor Yuval Harari of Hebrew University in Jerusalem writes that in our lust for power and immortality, humans will be complicit in creating a “Dataist” future that co-opts and then eliminates our own human-ness. In this future, humans will be valued only for their data, equal to comparable data that may be contained in robots or digital networks.
“In its extreme form, proponents of the Dataist worldview perceive the entire universe as a flow of data, see organisms as little more than biochemical algorithms and believe that humanity’s cosmic vocation is to create an all-encompassing data-processing system — and then merge into it.” 26 This would be like merging with an electronic, digital “Godhead.” (See our Essay, Dealing with Death on the Path of G>O>D>.)
In Homo Deus, Harari also sees an intermediate stage, between now and ultimate Dataism, where the super-rich of the world, who can afford genetic modifications, implants, and prostheses, will have more power, wealth, and longevity than the still-human common people who serve them (or who are ignored by them). With their new enhanced abilities, the rich will be able to exploit and bully the poor even more than they do now… [unless the poor rise up and destroy them].
Today, with more and more products and services provided each year by machines, not people, it is already clear that the owners of those machines (i.e., corporations and the super-wealthy) are getting richer and richer while wage earners fall farther and farther behind. If such a trend continues, the wealth and income generated by the machines will need to be redistributed down to the humans. How would that re-distribution be done? We think a discussion of that question lies beyond the scope of this Book.
Readers may ask: “Doesn’t the Path of Continuing Creation encourage us to participate in the adoption of new technologies, including the creation of cyborgs and Transhumans?” Yes, but not without restraint. As we discuss in our Essays Leading a Moral Life and Leading a Virtuous Life, our human path within Continuing Creation calls for us to simultaneously advance all three sides of the Moral Triangle:
- Morality Toward People: Family, Friends, Neighbors, Tribe, Citizens, Humanity
- Morality Toward Earth and its Biosphere
- Morality Toward G>O>D>: The Growing>Organizing>Direction> of the Cosmos
As we’ve said, most transhumanists are optimists who would disagree with Professor Harari. These optimists believe that humans will remain in the driver’s seat, steering technology toward a better future for people.
In the long term, Optimistic Transhumanism envisions two types of techno-heaven for humans: “active” and “passive.” Both types would be achieved through combinations of medical science and technology.
Active optimistic transhumanism envisions the transfer of a person’s mind and experience into a tiny computer and housing that tiny computer inside an advanced robot or robot/human cyborg that can both move around and sense things as well as think. Perhaps such an embodiment could “live” on Earth or on other planets that might seems like a kind of “Heaven.”
A little girl who is able to hear with the aid of a cochlear implant.
Passive positive Transhumanism envisions the transfer of a person’s mind and experience into an immobile computer, server, or network of servers. There, a human being’s “personhood” would “live” in an elaborate, lifelike computer simulation. Perhaps such a simulation could seem like a kind of “Heaven.” Interestingly, this kind of heaven and the usual kind of heaven described by the Old Religion have something in common: they are both fictions. (Unfortunately, if we destroy Earth’s biosphere, a fictional heaven will be the best we can do!) We will talk more simulated heavens in our section on “mind-uploading.”
The positive transhumanists believe we can do all this and more while keeping human values, human family and social life, and democratic governments. Your author, J.X. Mason, believes that it would be very difficult to preserve human values in such a world, because our human values would inevitably change and evolve in response to our physical changes. Poster for Transhumanism Conference in 2014
Note: “Humanity+ Inc.,” (formerly the Transhumanist Association), is regarded as the leading international transhumanist organization.27 The Longevity Party and The Mormon Transhumanist Association also have significant memberships.
For more information, we recommend Mark O’Connell’s book, To Be a Machine: Adventures Among Cyborgs, Utopians, Hackers, and the Futurists Solving the Modest Problem of Death, 2018, Anchor Books.
How About A Tech-Future Along a Middle Way?
We Followers of G>O>D> should pause to ask ourselves what drives the Positive Transhumanists’ passion for extending and augmenting life. Is it a vision of an achievable better world, or just another example of humans imagining a fantasy-future, a fantasy fueled by our ingrained human fear of death and an obsessive fascination with technology.
Can Followers of G>O>D> envision a Partnership between humans and technology that does preserve human values? Yes, we can, but our envisioning it doesn’t mean it will happen. The Path of G>O>D> can certainly evolve in directions unfavorable to humankind, with or without our efforts. The future could end up “all machines,” or “all insects,” or maybe “insect-machines.” Practitioners of Continuing Creation must try to balance concern for human, for the environment, and for the creative processes of G>O>D; but where to strike that balance is up to each individual.
Maybe we should reject a future where we are jumping tall buildings and punching out other cyborgs with our weaponized arms. Instead, how about a future where humans live in largely self-sufficient villages featuring civic-cooperation, crafts, small businesses and small farms, energy independence, strong families and communities, and local democracy?
There are many fine publications on sustainable living. For example, don’t miss Laura Emerson’s “Alaska Bush Life, Off-Road, Off-Grid,” at alaskauu1.blogspot.com. See also, Dick and James Strawbridge, Self Sufficiency for the 21st Century, Revised & Updated, 2017, Random House; and Brett L. Markham, Mini-Farming: Self-Sufficiency on ¼ Acre, 2010, Skyhorse Publishing.
In such a future, we would certainly pursue education and new knowledge. We would adopt all new technologies that are consistent with our Triangle of Moral Values: Care for humans, care for the Earth, and care for the Processes of Creation. We would never be anti-technology, but we would adopt mostly sustainable, eco-friendly technologies… plus the technology needed to explore and colonize other planets and moons.
We would adopt all medical and technical means to cure and prevent diseases, and to help everyone be strong and intelligent, but not so much so that people become “non-human.” We might put on powered exoskeletons to lift heavy weights, but we would not implant “endo-technology” or change our genetic makeup in order to always have the strength of gorillas.
However, it would be difficult to do this in one region if neighboring regions did not also do it. It would be hard to live as cooperating villagers if the there was a large war-like, high-tech city next door that was intent on taking over our land and resources. Would we even want to take the competition and assertiveness out of human nature? If we all did that, would we still be human?
And can technology really be advanced without the support of a vast techno-industrial infrastructure? Maybe it can, with things like 3-D printing, on-site power generation, and free information available to everyone via the internet.
Today, there are academic disciplines devoted to the study of Medical Ethics. It’s usually (and should be) a required course in medical school. Perhaps the new field of techno-ethicswill also grow. In the near future, ethical questions will hopefully present themselves in small steps, allowing us to carefully feel our way along to the long-term future. On the other hand, real-life events may quickly outpace our ethical discussions, especially if the change process includes trigger-events, chain reactions, or positive feedback loops. (See our Essay, Complexity and Continuing Creation.)
The Technological Singularity (or Technological Awakening)
We’ve talked about applying medical science and bio-technology to human lives, and we’ve talked about ways in which humans could incorporate mechanical and digital devices into their bodies to improve their physical and mental abilities. Now let’s take up the possibility that computerized machines could “wake up” and become conscious, self-aware creatures on their own, outside the control of humans.
The technological singularity is the hypothetical future emergence of greater-than-human intelligence through technological means. It will be when computers become self-aware, can learn on their own, and can then modify and reproduce by designing and constructing improved generations of themselves. 28
Since the capabilities of such advanced, post-singularity intelligence would be difficult for an unaided human mind to comprehend, the technological singularity is rightly seen as an intellectual watershed or event-horizon, beyond which events cannot be predicted or even understood.
Today’s “artificial intelligence” efforts are the forerunner of tomorrow’s Technological Singularity. Within the next 30 years, it is likely that Artificial Intelligence (“AI”) will progress to the point that computers achieve consciousness and self-awareness.
Arrival of the Tech-Singularity is usually defined as the time when computers can pass the Turing Test. This test takes place when an educated, intelligent human person conducts a conversation (typed or verbal) with an unknown “entity” that the person cannot see, touch, or hear. If the person cannot correctly tell whether the entity on the other side of the conversation is a human or a computer, and if the entity is in fact a computer, then that computer will have passed the Turing Test. Of course, this test would need to be repeated many times, using (a) the same computer with (b) many different humans, to yield a verifiable conclusion.
We know that evolution accelerates, especially when it is assisted by human agency. Bicycles and computers evolve (actually, they are “evolved,” i.e. designed, by humans) much more rapidly than elephants.
Therefore, within this century, it is possible that computerized robots could achieve consciousness, sensing ability, tool-using ability, and maybe even emotional parameters, thus coming alive as mentally and physically independent “persons” who can move around and interact with their environment pretty much as real human beings do. If so, we humans will have created a new “species” of technological creatures – machines that are intelligent, can replicate (manufacture copies of themselves), and can evolve (re-design themselves) their own.
When the technological singularity is attained, it would be further proof that the process of G>O>D> is more important than the discrete embodiments that the G>O>D> process takes along the way.
When computers have achieved both consciousness and independent intelligence (call them “robot-persons”), it is a short step to “computer immortality,” and they could achieve it before human beings (human bodies) do. Would immortality be a goal for them? Maybe not – it might be easier (“cheaper”) just to let old robots break down and manufacture new ones. Still, self-aware robots could replace their own aging parts and plug themselves in when recharging is needed. Also, a network of cooperating robots and mechanical devices could create and supply each other’s parts.
In the last thirty years, many academically respected books and articles have been written about the “Technological Singularity.” Among these are Murray Shanahan’s The Technological Singularity, published as part of the “Essential Knowledge Series” published by The MIT Press in 2015; and Ray Kurzweil’s comprehensive and critically reviewed work The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology, published in 2005 by Penguin Books.
The Super-Net: Join it or Fight It?
Many works of science fiction, including the Terminator series of motion pictures, predict a dystopian future in which humans battle against a controlling “super-net” of inter-communicating computers and robots. We get closer to that every year. Today, data is stored centrally in “the Cloud,” which is a storage network. Even the most mundane data now seems to be immortal, because it’s cheaper to store it than to get rid of it. In addition, people are now talking to machines and machines are talking back, on a network dubbed “The Internet of things.”
Some might argue that data is never “alive.” But it can also be argued that an animal’s body is just a medium in which all its data resides. In any case, data (a language, for example) surely has an “existence,” it can grow, evolve, die out, and change “carrying mediums.)
It is even possible that independently-evolving robot-creatures, or a regime of linked computers and robots, would turn on and try to eliminate their human forebears, as many science fiction writers have imagined over the past decades. In the series of “Matrix” movies (starting in 1999), humans unknowingly subsist in techno-cocoons built by a ruling network of Machines. There, human bodies provide “bioelectric” power to The Machines, while human minds are aware only of “The Matrix,” which is a shared simulation of the world.
The Design of G>O>D> says – An attempt by networked robots and computers to dominate the world would actually be consistent with the process of Continuing Creation; but it would not be a path of Continuing Creation preferred by human beings! In other Essays (including Leading a Moral Life, The Purpose of Life, and Suffering & Evil in Continuing Creation) we explain that humans must attempt to simultaneously advance all three sides of our Moral Triangle — People, Earth, and Continuing Creation.
The Growing> Organizing> Direction> may well lead to an End Point – call it the Whole of All Wholes; the Sum of All Sums, the Interconnection of all Interconnections — what paleontologist, Catholic Priest, and theologian Teilhard de Chardin called The Omega Point in his book, The Phenomenon of Man.
In de Chardin’s Process Theology, God Himself is the Omega Point, and the Omega Point is by definition supreme good. However, in this theology evil still exists in the world today because God — the Omega Point – is not yet fully evolved, has not yet fully emerged, is not yet fully self-created.
However, the Book of Continuing Creation warns that we humans must work to ensure that the real-life “End Point” or “Omega Point” of Continuing Creation doesn’t itself turn out to be some rigid dictatorship of the machines that is hostile toward the humanness of human beings.
Life Shortly After the Technological Singularity
Two or three decades after the Technological Singularity, it is quite possible that nearly all productive work on Earth will be done by robots and machines.
Even today, we have already seen millions of manual jobs eliminated in farming, mining, and industry due to electric power and automation. If self-driving trucks become a reality, millions of truck drivers will also become unemployed.
In fact, our number-crunching and document-handling jobs are also pretty much gone. These days, computers are doing most of the clerking and number-crunching. Then research and security jobs will become largely automated. After that, Artificial Intelligence will start to do most of the necessary thinking as well; especially post-singularity.
In other words, all the real work of the world — the work that provides food, shelter and clothing — will be done by non-humans.
Free-market economists like to argue that our evolving economy (which is part of Continuing Creation) will create new jobs for people to do. That is true – but all these will be “cultural jobs” such as musician, hair-stylist, artist, poet, athlete, T.V. commentator, massage therapist, tour-guide, policemen, regulatory bureaucrat, tattoo-artist, and so on.
Maybe all the future people will spend their days on those cultural pursuits. But they will still need to buy and pay for the nitty-gritty things supplied by the machines — the food, shelter, clothes, medicine, and transport. But how will the bulk of people, who hold only low-paying jobs, be able to pay for the necessities they need? They could do that if minimum and maximum wages/salaries were legislated, and/or if people received guaranteed minimum incomes.
And when they do pay the money to buy those things, who will get the lions’ share of those funds? Not the machines – they have no use for money. No, the bulk of the net revenue will today go to the upper 5% of the people who own all the machines (and all the productive land and buildings). Perhaps legislation can spread ownership more widely in the future.
So, there will have to be one or more of the following societal changes:
- A way to re-distribute — transfer — the money from the machines’ owners) down to the lower 95% of the people, so they can continue buying their food, shelter, clothes, and transport. Without such a redistribution, the 95% would likely rise up and overthrow the 5%, in a revolution reminiscent of the Russian Revolution or French Revolution, guillotine and all.
- Or, perhaps society can transfer the 95% of ownership of the machines down to the people.
- Or, we will find ways to reduce the numbers of the people on our planet… which, given the Earth’s massive over-population, may not be a bad idea. Then the Earth itself has a chance to live as well as the humans who walk on Earth.
- Or, perhaps we can have people work 20 hours a week instead of the present 40, 50, or 60! We could do that as a near-term transition, at least.
Readers may ask: How does this advocacy of redistribution square with the Book of G>O>D> opposition to the “radical sharing” proposed by Jesus (See our Essay, Why Radical Sharing and Love Don’t Work)? It is consistent because this radical redistribution would take place after the machines are doing nearly everything; whereas Jesus’ redistribution was long, long before that. Jesus was way too early.
Leaving Planet Earth
Perhaps many humans will opt to leave the Earth for other inhabitable planets and moons. There, people could lead exciting physical lives of exploration, construction, and terra-formation – lives like many men and women were able to lead the from time of Christ until the settling of the Great American West.
Will it be possible to leave Earth for other “homes?” Do “friendly” planets and moons exist? The following astronomers say it will:
“In an announcement with massive consequences for the human race, astronomers say there are ‘probably about one hundred’ planets within just 30 light-years of our solar system which could support life along Earthly lines. By their calculations, there are tens of billions of such worlds in our galaxy, suggesting that even if life is very rare it is bound to have arisen elsewhere. ‘Because red dwarf stars are so common — there are about 160 billion of them in the Milky Way — this leads us to the astonishing result that there are tens of billions of these planets in our galaxy alone,’ enthuses French astronomer Xavier Bonfils, lead scientist on the investigation.” 29
Adopting the Middle-Path Lifestyle
Instead of tossing our personhoods into a static computer, why not try the lifestyle of sustainable independence, self-sufficiency, craftwork, growing our own food, and generating our own power off the grid? Among a community of friendly and helpful neighbors – all as we described earlier in this Essay.
The Way of G>O>D> says — This avenue would permit us humans to look after Mother Earth, which would not happen if we were digital blips in a computer simulation!
Note: As of this writing, in October, 2018, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has just issued a dire new scientific report to the world, warning that Earth faces a “Strong Risk of Planetary Climate Crisis as Early as 2040.” 30
Mind-Uploading: Eternal “Life” Inside a Computer Simulation
Transfer of a person’s mind and memories into a computer, whether it’s into a robot’s computer or an immobile server-computer, is called mind-uploading.
Mind-Uploading to Mobile Robots “Living” on Earth
Housing a human mind inside an advanced robot may be possible one day. Transfer of a person’s mind and memories into a computer is called mind-uploading.
We’ve previously talked bio-and-tech advanced cyborgs who could move around and be active on the surface of the Earth. “Active” Mind-uploading – uploading a whole human mind into a robot — might “feel” about the same way as being a cyborg, if the robot had all five human senses. Perhaps human minds embodied in robots could “live” powerful and satisfying lives on Earth, or on other planets and moons.
The first type of mind-uploading would be a lot like converting oneself into a cyborg, a topic we’ve already covered. So here we’ll talk only about the second type of mind-uploading.
Mind-Uploading to an Immobile Computer
Other futurists envision uploading human minds into a computer at a fixed location (a main-frame, server, or network) that cannot move, sense, or use tools on its own. In this case, the vision of tech-immortality pictures disembodied human minds floating around in an elaborate computer simulation – as if they were playing in an elaborate video-game. They could be doing this alone, inside individual simulations, or together inside communal simulations. A best-case tech-heaven would be analogous to the “merger-with-the Godhead” version of religious heaven. The Technological Singularity, with its immense computing power, would make it much easier (but likely no more desirable) for individual humans to achieve this kind of simulated immortality.
The best motion picture depiction (so far) of the future world of mind-uploading is the 2018 film Ready Player One, based on Ernest Cline’s 2011 novel of the same name. In this film, people still have every-day, unenhanced bodies that live in stacks of used mobile homes right here on Earth. But more important to them (and to the movie’s audience) are their online game avatars, which provide all the color, adventure, and romance in their dual existences.
A number of writers have suggested that this kind of computer simulation could be a way to extend the regular, real life of a person beyond that person’s death, resulting in a kind of immortality. They think this would be done by uploading everything there is to know about you as an actual person. That would be your entire informational legacy, which you could enhance with pre-death questionnaires and interviews.
Followers of G>O>D> think there would hardly be enough available data about a person to assemble his or her thought patterns, preferences, and pre-dispositions into a complete personhood. However, the amount of available personal data on individuals could rapidly build up in the near future.
Your author, J.X. Mason thinks that most “immortal” or near-immortal human personhoods would rather be walking on Earth than pulsing through the wires of a simulation. So if our personhood were inside any sort of machine, being inside a robot would be much better than being inside a net of motionless servers.
Nevertheless, one big advantage of a simulated afterlife inside a computer-cloud is that our avatars would likely consume fewer of Earth’s resources than would an equal-sized population of real cyborgs or real humans!
- See: https://www.medicare.gov/Pubs/pdf/02154-Medicare-Hospice-Benefits.PDF.
- Bruce W. Frier, “More is Worse: Some Observations on the Population of the Roman Empire,” in Walter Scheidel, Debating Roman Demography, 2001, Brill pp. 144-145.
- Michael Shermer, Heavens on Earth: The Scientific Search for the Afterlife, Immortality, and Utopia, 2018, Henry Holt, pp. 1-2.
- “If Humans Were Built to Last,” Sci Am, 2003, updated from March 2001, by S. Jay Olshansky, Bruce A. Carnes and Robert N. Butler,
- G. Ermak, “Emerging Medical Technologies,” 2015, World Scientific, ISBN 978-981-4675-81-9. See also Eugene H. Kaji, “Gene and Stem Cell Therapies, 02-07-2001, JAMA. 285 (5). doi:10.1001/jama.285.5.545. ISSN 0098-7484.
- “Gene Therapy Clinical Trials Worldwide Database,” The Journal of Gene Medicine, June 2016, Wiley.
- Javier Z. Arracina, “A Simple Guide to CRISPR, Vox, 6/23/2018. https://www.vox.com/2018/7/23/17594864/crispr-cas9-gene-editing.
- Aparna Vidyasagar, “What Is CRISPR,” LiveScience, 4/20/18, https://www.livescience.com/58790-crispr-explained.html.
- Paraphrased from Dr. Aparna Vidyasagar, “What Is CRISPR,” LiveScience, 4/20/18, https://www.livescience.com/58790-crispr-explained.html,
- Sally Lehrman, “No More Cloning Around,” Scientific American, July, 2008. See also, K.H. Campbell; J. McWhir; W.A. Ritchie; I. Wilmut, “Sheep Cloned by Nuclear Transfer from a Cultured Cell Line, 1996, Nature. 380 (6569): pp 64–6.
- Lewis Thomas, The Lives of a Cell: Notes of a Biology Watcher, 1974, Bantam Books, p. 114.
- Randall Hansen and Desmond King, “Eugenic Ideas, Political Interests and Policy Variance Immigration and Sterilization Policy in Britain and U.S.”,1/1/2001, World Politics. 53 (2): 237–263. doi:10.1353/wp.2001.0003. JSTOR 25054146. See also, “Sterilization of Unfit Advocated – Feeble-minded Increasing at Disproportionate Rate in Canada – Case for Ungenics,” The Montreal Gazette, 11/14/1933. Retrieved 10/19 2017 – via News.Google.com.
- Alex Reis, Breton Hornblower, Brett Robb, and George Tzertzinis, “CRISPR/Cas9 and Targeted Genome Editing: A New Era in Molecular Biology,” 2014, NEB Expressions. New England Biolabs. Retrieved 8 July 2015.
- R. Merkle, “The Technical Feasibility of Cryonics,” Medical Hypotheses, 1992, Elsevier. 39 (1): pp. 6–16. See also B. Wowk, “The Future of Death,” Journal of Critical Care, 2014, Elsevier. 29 (6): pp. 1111–1113.
- Michael Shermer, Heavens on Earth, The Scientific Search for the Afterlife, Immortality, and Utopia, 2018, Henry Holt and Company, pp. 225-233..
- Nick Lane, (biochemist and Provost’s Venture Research Fellow at University College London), Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution, 2009, W.W. Norton, pp. 267-274.
- Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene, 1989, Oxford University Press.
- Michael Shermer, Ibid., p. 225.
- Paraphrased from Nick Lane, Ibid., pp. 272-274
- Haider Javed Warraich, “What Our Cells Teach Us About a ‘Natural’ Death,” The Stone, 3/13/2017.
- Andrew Lewis, Baylor College of Medicine, https://www.researchgate.net/post/Are_all_cancers_truly_immortal.
- Carl Zimmer, “The ‘Zombie Gene’ That May Protect Elephants from Cancer,” New York Times, 8/18/2018.
- Joseph Carvalko, The Techno-human Shell-A Jump in the Evolutionary Gap, 2012, Sunbury Press. ISBN 978-1-62006-165-7.
- Nick Bostrom, “A History of Transhumanist Thought” (PDF). Journal of Evolution and Technology, 2005, Retrieved 2/21/2006. See also, Calvin Mercer and Tracy Trothen eds., Religion and Transhumanism: The Unknown Future of Human Enhancement, 2015, Praeger See also, Joseph Carvalko, Ibid.
- Per wmbriggs.com/post 19677, quoting Yuval Harari.
- Annalee Newitz, “Can Futurism Escape the 1990s?” Retrieved 11/18/2008. https://io9.gizmodo.com/5067829/can-futurism-escape-the-1990s.
- Stuart Kauffman, At Home in the Universe: The Search for the Laws of Self-organization and Complexity, 1995, Oxford University Press, p.182.
- Paraphrased from Lewis Page, “Earth-like Planets Orbit Stars Within 30 Light-years,” posted to Space, 2-28-2012, www.space.com. See also the “List of Potentially Habitable Exoplanets,” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_potentially_habitable_exoplanets
- Coral Davenport, “Major Climate Report Describes a Strong Risk of Crisis as Early as 2040,” New York Times, 10/7/2018.