After reading the paragraph "Trade-offs", first thing that pops into my head is: ""Deus ex: Human Revolution" anyone?"
As with most things, the mystics and the artists have already explored this. Read up on the classical Greek gods for an examination of the problems involved.
Or Marvel comics, whatever.
I don't think we will have to worry about this for some time. It will be a while before a prosthesis rivals a real limb. Enhanced memory will not necessarily give a person super intelligence or problem solving ability. If anything, depending on calculators and computers will have negative effects on human logic and abilities. Some will thrive creatively but others will become dependent. I have seen this at my local stores where young clerks can't make change without the cash register telling them what the amount is. Living longer may not be that big of a problem as baby boomers who grew up obese on fast foods will likely start bringing the average lifespan back down. We will however continue to see super machines changing our lives for better and worse.
Some good points Bob. The current fastest super computer is still 3-5 PFlop/s behind what the brain can do but actually using it is harder. There was an experiment where the 4th fastest super computer was used to run a simulation of the brain and they were about to simulate about 1% of 1 second of brain activity and it took about 40 minutes to do it and the super computer used (K computer) has 705k cores and takes up a building.
Creating neural interfaces to interface directly with computers will be difficult too.
Things like being able to modify DNA are already happening though so who knows where that could go if people start making changes to human DNA.
With prosthetics people are mostly already matching or passing human capability. Oscar Pistorius (Blade Runner) was a double amputee who competed in the 2012 Olympics and we have hardly scratched the surface on the potential there.
Ralf Biernacki
This is a field where, more than in other endeavors, it is imperative to think everything out carefully in advance. When it comes to alteration of the human germline, an ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of the cure. In view of that, I am disappointed by how poorly thought out the opinions of the "experts" quoted in this article are. Just two examples:
"If we . . . remove a specific gene . . . we may find that in 200 years time that gene is hugely important . . ." So it will be put back. Duh. The capacity to remove a specific gene implies the capacity to replace it.
". . . the example of super-strength. In order for that, you are going to need added muscle mass . . ." That depends on how you increase strength. It is likely to happen by genetically engineering a stronger muscle, rather than just adding on more muscle. As a matter of fact, all that is necessary is reversing the well-known mutation that makes our muscles weaker than muscles of other adult primates.
But having said that, I must give prof. Miah his due; he is right in saying that progress cannot be halted, and human enhancement by genetic engineering is in the long run utterly unavoidable.
Rocky Stefano
All good points including Diachi. However, you never know what recent advances will do. Just the other day Gizmag posted an article about some scientists in Singapore that showed it was possible to run a computer circuit at 250THz. That changes the game and by 2050 (my estimate for manufacturing feasibility), we are going to have machines faster than our brain can calculate and with the ability to upload/download our consciousness into new bodies or into machines themselves.
Ralf Biernacki
In order to prevent the worst abuses, I propose adopting the following four rules (modeled on Asimov's laws of robotics) to guide human germline enhancement. The intent of the rules is to safeguard against outright disaster, without introducing shortsighted constraints.
Four key precepts for genetic modification of sentient germline:
1. "Existing functionality should not be impaired." No four-armed, legless "space-humans" for instance, as this would sacrifice existing ability to walk in gravity for the sake of an adaptation to a niche.
2. "Psychological, moral and emotional qualities must not be tampered with." Even "ordinary" sociotechnic engineering conducted with propaganda has resulted in unpalatable dystopias rather than improvement; if genetic changes are employed, the end will likely be a permanent hell on earth, regardless of how well-intentioned the changes are. Production of psychopathic "supersoldiers" is a threat obvious to everyone. But going the other way and producing docile, empathic, law-abiding drones is actually _more_ likely to result in totalitarian horror. N.B. Rule 2 is applicable not only to germline engineering, but to somatic genome engineering of sentients as well. 3. "The modified humans must be dependent on technological assistance to no greater degree than the original species." For instance, modifying for a bigger cranium would necessitate Caesarean births; this is not permitted unless other modifications are first made, allowing children with bigger heads to be born naturally (e.g. rerouting the birth canal). There is an exception: It is permissible to slow the rate of mutation and evolution. A sentient species evolves primarily by genetic engineering. Evolution by natural selection is no longer significant, anyway: it is faster for a sentient species to repeatedly develop from stone age to a mature genetech technology than it would be to evolve appreciably in the natural fashion.
4. "No separate specialized human species incapable of interbreeding must be created; modifications which affect viability of interbreeding must be applied to all non-dissenting population at once, free of charge." Dissenting groups may /refuse/ modification, but not obtain variant modification. Thus it is OK to leave "straggler" communities at various stages along the way, but not OK to fork the development process. If the majority refuses a modification, it may not proceed.
:-) Please let me know what you think, and please be specific.
I don't know if Prof. Miah's assumption is correct - adding muscle mass is not the only way to achieve "superstrength" - chimpanzee or tiger muscle is, pound for pound, far stronger than human muscle, so it's conceivable more power from the same mass is achievable, as Freederick pointed out above.
And as for Prof. Warwick's concern regarding superintelligent folks, , I'd say they might "cull the heard"
Dan Lewis
It's a new game for domestic violence. Yikes.
This road of evolution/progression was chosen for us.