Id - The quest for meaning in the 21st century.
Susan Greenfield, 2009. (Amazon review: 5 out of 5 stars)
January 25th, 2010 - by Simon Laub - Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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As IT is merging cyberworlds and reality, nano technology is merging human bodies with
the outside and biotechnology promise to create healthier, enhanced humans with prolonged
What will the 21st century be like? What should we hope for?
Will we be more comfortable and have more fun, but without a real human identity and without
experiencing any real ''meaning'' in our lives?
Or can we create a (forever) creative, and balanced, world, where all have a robust sense of self?
Susan Greenfields book presents a number of the emerging technologies along with the possible
In one version of the future, human identity and individuality might be threatened, as people here
live ''screen-dwelling' lives with short attention spans, thinking in icons rather than abstract ideas.
Good at hectic ''fact''-field activities, but no longer capable or good at placing isolated events
in a context.
Sure, the absence of self consciousness might be desirable as an intermittent state. Drugs and fast-paced sports
(whose dominant feature is the raw quality of the sensations, devoid of cognitive content, where one momentary
experience is superseded by the next) have always been popular activities.
As have excessively strong sensory stimulus from music/wine/food or sports/sex in rapid succession.
All the stuff that leaves us with no time to think about content and meaning.
But in the long run surely you would want a full personal identity, as well as full selfconsciousness.
Something the reactive,''screen-dwelling'' life of many future cyberworld realities obviously wont give you.
At least not if it is a ''process heavy - content light'' activity world, where personalized brain connectivity is either not
funtional or absent altogether.
And if tech doesnt end up making us totally reactive, stimulus oriented - then we might end up in the other extreme,
where people are living lives fired up to be creative, excited by revelation and discovery and
with a robust sense of self. A future where self realization and creativity reaches new heights.
But where such (super self centered) brain modes creates people, who are unable to form successful relationships
and interact successfully with others.
The end of a society where humans have meaningful bonds to each other.
Finding the balance is of course going to be difficult. The balanced version where there are time slots for being creative
with a robust ego, slots for working together in team efforts, slots for creating meaning to our existence and
slots for ''letting go'' through e.g. excessively strong sensory stimulus.
But Susan Greenfield does seem to think that it will be possible. Even though many new technologies (in excess)
surely will push us away from the balanced future we want.
Biologist Julian Huxley  came up with the term ''transhumanism''
 in 1957 to describe the future point we are
now moving towards - ''on the threshold of a new kind of existence''.
Transhumanism optimistically holds that there is room for improvement even in the healthy human brain and body.
Not all agree though. E.g. Francis Fukuyama has described transhumanism as the ''worlds most dangerous idea''.
The end of homo sapiens?
For the body, we might introduce an artificial 24th chromosome to complement the twenty three
we already have. The extra chromosome will then act like an extra coathanger for genes.
Genes that will do all the extra good stuff, homo sap genes couldnt do.
Or we might introduce new genes in germ cells, along with killer genes with enzymes that can destroy it.
The killer genes can then be activated by certain pills, e.g. so that your ''unnatural genes'' are ejected from sperm and eggs,
when you want to reproduce.
Brazilian neuroscientist Miguel Nicolelis  has developed a technique for implanting a microchip into the brain, to translate
the nerve impulses into electric pulses - I.e. hooking the brain up to computers in order to do all the cyborg stuff of the future.
Some devices can convert soundwaves into electric signals the brain can understand, and other devices can convert
brainwaves into sounds known as phonomes.
Ultimately, it should be possible to connect minds directly through the internet with this technology.
Still, it is a bit more tricky to improve on the mind, because it is less than obvious what a perfect mind is.
But, surely we can improve on even the best of us - Even the current ideal: ''the super-outgoing individual,
wih perfect recall, who is monotonously and unconditionally jolly all the time''?
Susan Greenfields ''executive summary'' of analogies between brains and societies:
The parts we should try to keep healthy at all costs.
And the all important constant changing relationsships that define living societies and brains.
Relationships that must always be nourished, pruned and cared for.
Basic analogies between brains and societies
Different brain regions
Similarities between synapses and relationships
Id - The quest for meaning in the 21st century.
Amazon review January 25th 2010.
(Five stars out of five).