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Super- and/or Meta-being(s)

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The integration of human beings will proceed in another dimension than that of human culture, a dimension of depth. We conceive of a realization of cybernetic immortality by means of very advanced human-machine systems, where the border between the organic (brain) and the artificially organic or electronic media (computer) becomes irrelevant. Such hybrid organisms would survive not so much through the biological material of their bodies, but through their cybernetic organization, which may be embodied in a combination of organic tissues, electronic networks, or other media. With communication through the direct connection of nervous systems to machines and to each other, the death of any particular biological component of the system would no longer imply the death of the whole system. Such metasystems will be evolutionary selective, in that they will have advantages for survival in an evolving environment. This is a cybernetic way for an individual human person to achieve immortality.

It is an open question whether such cybernetically immortal cognitive systems that would emerge after the next metasystem transition should be considered as individual beings ("meta-beings"), or as a society of beings (a ">super-being"). It is clear that the different levels have very complicated interactions in their effect on selection, and hence we need a careful cybernetic analysis of their mutual relations.

The creative act of free will is the "biological function" of the human being. In the integrated meta- or super-being it must be preserved as an inviolable foundation, and the new qualities must appear through it and because of it. Thus the fundamental challenge that the humanity faces now is to achieve an organic synthesis of integration and freedom.

The future immortality of the human person does not imply its frozen constancy. We can understand the situation by analogy with the preceding level of organization. Genes are controllers of biological evolution and they are immortal, as they should be. They do not stay unchanged, however, but undergo mutations, so that human chromosomes are a far cry from the chromosomes of viruses. Cybernetically immortal human persons may mutate and evolve in interaction with other members of the super-being, while possibly reproducing themselves in different materials. Those human persons who will evolve from us may be as different from us as we are different from viruses. But the defining principle of the human person will probably stay fixed, as did the defining principle of the gene.

Should we expect that the whole of humanity will unite into a single human super-being? This does not seem likely, if we judge from the history of evolution. Life grows like a pyramid; its top goes up while the basis is widening rather than narrowing. Even though we have seized control of the biosphere, our bodies make up only a small part of the whole biomass. The major part of it is still constituted by unicellular and primitive multicellular organisms, such as plankton. It is far from obvious that all people and all communities will wish to integrate into immortal super-beings. The will to immortality, as every human feature, varies widely in human populations. Since the integration we speak about can only be free, only a part of mankind --- probably a small part --- should be expected to integrate.

But it is the integrated part of humanity that will ultimately control the Universe. This becomes especially clear when we realize that the whole Cosmos, not just the planet Earth, is the arena for evolution. No cosmic role for the human race is possible without integration. The units that take decisions must be rewarded for those decisions, otherwise they will never take them. Can we imagine "human plankton" crowded in rockets in order to reach a distant star in ten, twenty or fifty generations? Only integrated immortal creatures can conquer the outer space.

Copyright© 1993 Principia Cybernetica - Referencing this page

F. Heylighen, C. Joslyn, V. Turchin,

Aug 1993


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