Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Artificial You

The potential for robotic and even cyborg versions of our self, as well as variations on those themes may soon be possible. Advancements in A.I. (artificial intelligence) as well as nanotechnology, robotics, and genetics will make artificial life just another spectrum of our everyday reality. But something that has not even been whispered is the possibility of beings which are artificially created as chemical and biological variants based on our very own DNA. This would make it possible for us to create a version of ourself out of Silicon, or Boron or some other inorganic chemical base. Genetic engineers will eventually be able to take the subtle information patterns within your DNA and translate it into another kind of physical living being. Imagine talking a walk across the face of a barren planet, breathing poisonous gases, in a thin wisp of an atmosphere, at temperatures nearing that of space itself. The famous techno-prophet Ray Kurzweil, quoted in the RollingStone article "When Man & Machine Merge," that what we would call a "person" can be eventually reduced to a computer file, a beautifully complex pattern of intelligent software that just so happens to be self aware. If Kurzweil is correct than the transition from carbon based life to that of silicon and other comparable elements may be even easier. DNA is not much more than a computer file arranged in an electrochemical pattern using A,C,G, and T[*1] instead of 1 and 0, with the exception that DNA functions as both software and hardware. [For all you naysayers out there thinking that translation of DNA into an alternate chemical compound structure would never be possible, consider the following: we convert computer files all the time, it would simply a matter of chemical translation, instead of electronic.] I will admit, we currently know next to nothing about inorganic life,[*2] but you can bet that it will be a challenge that we will see within the next 50 to 100 years. And even if we don't remake ourselves out of some exotic chemical stew, you can be sure that we will uploading the contents of our digital memory chip into 23rd century carbon nanocircuit brains. If our bodies fail us we will simply grow new ones in labs, or manufacture them with the use of bacteria driven nano-machinery. If that prospect bothers you, then there will always be androids, which will pass in almost every way for natural biological humans, which could be infused with an artificial brain containing all your memories and your thought patterns, the very essence of your life. Need I point out (for those who wish to opt out of this whole venture) that the time is quickly running out, there will soon be the technology and the need for humanity to begin its catalog of genetic variance. It can only be so long before each man, woman and child are cataloged by genetic sequence as part of a standard protocol at birth. A small sample of blood, taken at birth, could be sequenced and stored on a secure server for future use. Once that sample is taken, sequenced and the data stored, one would not be able to "opt" out of this kind of world. A sample taken tomorrow could yield a being that would live 10,000,000 years from now in a galaxy at the other end of the known universe. So it is that the future begins.... silently, with a single drop of blood.

[*1] [
A,C,G, and T are the four nucleic-acid bases that make up our DNA. The A stands for Adenine and pairs with the T, which stands for Thymine. The C stands for Cytosine and pairs with the G, Guanine. These four nucleic acids are the building blocks of our genetic code, or DNA. ACGU are the four amino acids that make up our RNA. RNA pairs up like DNA, except Thymine is replaced by the nucleic acid Uracil.]

[*2] [We do know that there is the possibility for inorganic life. Consider the strange but true case of The Gold Bug, 'no not the story by Edgar Alan Poe' but the gold eating microbial space-worm found by a NASA engineer known to eat thermal sensors on space-station equipment. There have been countless wires and components replaced because of this strange microscopic metal eater, that lives in the vacuum of space.]

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