Lately, I have been giving a LOT of thought to a pressing question that is not small in nature and redefines who I am. That is question is “What does it mean to be human?” . That may sound philosophical and on one level I suppose it is but also notice it is different from ‘Who am I?” or “What is the meaning of life?”. No, I have focused on the ‘human’ part and the reason is that under the radar of most people events have happened to reshape the answer to that question.
Allow me to take a quick tour of the arc of the question. Really it is science that is driving me to ask this question. In the past month we have seen an ‘oxygen particle’ developed that will keep a person alive without breathing for 30 minutes. 3D printing is creating tools to keep people alive. A stent from a 3D printer was used to keep a baby breathing. Body parts are being grown in labs. 2 rats on separate continents received implants in their brains that allowed them to communicate using telepathy.
You combine this with the fact our collective knowledge doubles almost yearly now, that we are exploring not only space but other dimensions and the aspects of time, that technology is being weaved into our bodies, that even physically we seem to be evolving. On this last point I recall the several (and there are more than one group) clusters mainly in Eastern Europe of kids who seem to have been born with a somewhat magnetized body and it doesn’t take long for even a non-genius like me to realize we have left the days of when our main purpose was to hunt down tomorrow’s meal long behind.
As a species we’ve seemed to push aside all limits. We don’t even need sex to reproduce and not only can we populate using a test tube but there are labs right now beginning the process of cloning creatures that have been extinct hundreds of thousands of years. Things are happening so fast to our species that it is almost like we’re on a ride that we kept making go faster and faster, thinking we could control the speed, and then suddenly there is that point where you realize you can’t slow down even if you want to for you’re at the mercy of the speed and you pray a wall doesn’t suddenly appear in front of you.
Speaking of prayer, the more we explore the brain, the more we come to realize that free-will may not really exist or at the very least not on the level we thought it did which means there are a whole lot theologians who are going to have to re-think doctrine and that the excuse, “I couldn’t help myself” might be more valid than we thought.
I question the validity of planning for the future. How can I? I know that at this rate just 5 years from now there will be whole swaths of my species that will seem alien to me. I also know that no species can keep changing at this speed without major upheaval. All those tech guys out there who think they can predict where we’re going are just seeing the blur caused by that speed. Truth is they don’t know any more than me.
So back to my original question; “What does it mean to be human?” I don’t know. What I do know is that I don’t need to use Einstein’s theories of relativity to bend time-space to see that in the near future everything I thought being human meant may no longer apply.