The Ultimate Escape: The Bizarre Libertarian Plan of Uploading Brains into Robots to Escape Society
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But there is also a very vocal sect of transhumanist libertarians who see their future robot bodies as the best chance to escape statist control once and for all. Reason magazine’s Ron Bailey thinks transhumanism is the linchpin that will help libertarians “win the future.” Why? Because once we all become self-healing and self-medicating cyborgs, then “ideas about government health care and government-guaranteed incomes will appear quaint.” Who needs Obamacare when you have nanobots coursing through your blood?
Unlike many other types of transhumanists, who understandably worry about the potential negative consequences such technological advancement could have on both the environment and their fellow humans, the libertarian sect seems to simply shrug and say, “Bring it on!” Libertarian economist Arnold Kling thinks humans have been far too cautious in experimenting with radical life extension technologies that could help us live until the Singularity arrives. His solution is to unleash the magic of the free market and pay poor people to undergo dangerous experimental medical procedures.
“As an economist, I immediately think in terms of paying people to undergo risky therapies,” he writes. “For better or worse, this might appeal more to people who are very poor – perhaps even people living in other countries. However, those citizens who are squeamish about de Grey's proposal to expose more people to harm now in order to reduce harm to others in the near future probably would not feel any less squeamish just because those who undergo the experiments are well paid.”
Writing over at the Cato Institute, meanwhile, mortal non-cyborg law professor Glenn Reynolds acknowledges that the creation of godlike robo-humans might have negative consequences for both the environment and the poor souls who choose to remain in their current flesh-bag forms.
“The empowerment of ordinary people is a good thing, but it also carries with it the dangers inherent in empowering bad people,” he writes. “In a world in which individuals have the powers formerly enjoyed by nation-states, an already-shrinking planet can get pretty small.”
So how does Reynolds propose to remedy this? Does he think maybe we should make it illegal to inject the screaming hobo at the local 7-11 with matter-creating nanobots? Why, no! He thinks we should resign ourselves to the fact that the Earth is doomed and instead work on blasting off into space before we all die, since “humanity won’t survive the next thousand years unless we colonize space.”
Reynolds elaborates on this theme in an essay for Popular Mechanics, going into greater detail about the dangers the Singularity could pose for humanity. Among them: nanobots that emit mind-control drugs, computer worms that infect and kill our new robobrains, and even the possibility of putting “world-killer weapons into the hands of anyone having a bad-hair day.” Reynolds admits these things might be potentially bad, but he thinks we ought to go through with them anyway since the free market will naturally create a demand for remedies to nanobot-enhanced cocaine addicts that can fire cruise missiles from their fingers.
At this point, it would be good to remember that we as a species have a lot of difficulty cleaning up oil spills and preventing housing bubbles. Or, as libertarian Tyler Cowen has noted on a more trivial level, “I am still waiting for an Internet Explorer that doesn't crash, and for an NBA with the common sense to move out the three-point line.”
The point is, our chances of effectively handling killer microscopic robots are not very good.
Reading the ravings of these libertarian transhumanists should prompt us to ask the ultimate question: Even if technology can help us live forever with our brains uploaded onto a computer chip, is that really a good way to spend eternity? Before you answer, consider the type of people you’d be spending millions of years hanging out with. One of them would be Bryan Caplan, a George Mason University economics professor and another libertarian proponent of unfettered adoption of any and all new technology. Caplan’s dream is to create a clone baby of himself and then raise himself as his own son.