Following on from the topic of wisdom technology (cf information and knowledge management technology), there is an emerging and varied philosophical discussion ongoing, concerning modification/enhancement of human constitution and capability. It goes under different names: transhumanism, humanity plus, human enhancement, etc. My impression is that it currently is a movement in the traditional sense with a number of enthusiasts driving it. The output is quite varied, and there is cause for concern over some of the proposals, although surely this general discussion is of great relevance for the future.

Recently, there was some media interest in statements by scientist Stephen Hawking arguing that humanity would need to colonize space for its long-term survival, essentially due to the supposed inability of our species to regulate itself within the bounds of our planet. In somewhat condensed form here is what he had to say:

'I see great danger for the human race. There have been a number of times in the past when survival has been a question of touch and go. The Cuban missile crisis in 1963 is one of these. The frequency of such occasions is likely to increase in the future. We shall need great care and judgment to negotiate them all successfully. But I am an optimist. If we can avoid disaster for the next two centuries our species should be safe as we spread into space. Our population and use of the finite resources of planet Earth are growing exponentially along with our technical ability to change the environment for good and ill. But our genetic code carries selfish and aggressive instincts that were a survival advantage in the past. It will be difficult enough to avoid disaster in the next 100 years let alone the next thousand or a million. Our only chance of long-term survival is not to remain on planet Earth but to spread into space. We have made remarkable progress in the last 100 years but if we want to continue beyond the next 100 years our future is in space.

The Power of Sustainable Thinking

Bob Doppelt – Review by Martin Sahlén

Earthscan, 2008, 218 pp, £16.99 (hardback), ISBN 9781844075959

Given its subtitle of “How to create a positive future for the climate, the planet, your organisation and your life”, you could be forgiven for having high expectations of this book. You might also consider it unlikely to live up to them. However, it largely does, successfully delivering a practical and inspiring vision for change that is applicable in many life situations.

Regarding the UK government research policy:

It is worrying to see the stance of the UK government on this important issue, however they might protest that no-one will be disadvantaged. All of academic research cannot, to fulfil its full functional potential, be made to oblige under typically short-sighted or simply ill-defined socio-economic cost-benefit analyses. A crucial part of academic research is that of re-imagining the frameworks within which society operates. If reduced to a set of cogs in the already-existing machine, the crucial function of creating new machines (or whichever analogy may appeal to the reader) will be significantly hampered.

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