“We will transcend all of the limitations of our biology.” –Ray Kurzweil
Approximately 9000 years ago, hunters and gatherers were lactose intolerant. Their bodies couldn’t process milk after infancy. However, when they began to herd animals instead of simply hunting them, they developed gene modifications allowing their bodies to continue creating the enzyme that allowed them to digest milk during adulthood.
Traditional evolution is glacially slow. It can take thousands of years for genetic modification to take hold and provide positive effects. Medical and genetic technology is rapidly advancing and is quickly outrunning natural genetic evolution. Altering the human body through gene therapy will be a viable remedy to disease, birth defects, aging, and even death. Humans will direct their evolution through biotechnology.
Josiah Zayner, Ph.D. is a biohacker, biochemist, and biophysicist who has worked for NASA. Zayner is the first person to edit his genes by performing a full body microbiome transplant in efforts to heal his gastrointestinal condition.
A documentary called ‘Gut Hack’ documents the process. Also, Zayner successfully created a fluorescent beer by engineering jellyfish proteins. He’s shared his achievements by placing his biohacking curriculum online to aid other transhumanists in editing their genetic codes.
There are many arguments about the morality of merging technology and human experience. Authorities worry about gene modifications to avoid criminal charges. Religious fundamentalists are concerned about the ethical question of genetic revisions and social scientists warn us about the increasing technological divide between the haves and have-nots. Despite the criticism, biotechnology isn’t going to disappear but expand, greatly influencing human evolution.
Currently, biohacking is mainly reserved for wealthier people with the time, training and medical insurance to support them. Most consumers struggle in identifying the best DNA tests and to stay abreast of current research.
Gene editing isn’t without dangers. The science is still very new. Zayner admits having regrets about his experiments after the CEO of Ascendance Biomedical injected himself with an untested herpes treatment in 2018 during a live-streamed conference.
The transhuman movement is in its’ infancy. It’s difficult to imagine a future without humans merged with technology. Targeted DNA editing and biotechnology hold the greatest promise for eliminating diseases like Tay Sachs, Sickle Cell Anemia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Type 2 Diabetes, Cystic Fibrosis, Huntington’s, HIV, and many inherited disorders.
These advancements aren’t science fiction. The University of Alberta regenerated horsepox without any living sample of the disease. Many experts believe the future of bioengineering will reduce faulty genetic makeup to routine gene modifications.
The CRISPR kits are an affordable, convenient way to attempt to alter specific genes. CRISPR is defined as clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats as a family of DNA sequences found in genomes of prokaryotic organisms like bacteria. However, these kits are recent developments and may be inadequate in completing successful genetic revisions.
The Cyborgs of Now
Humans haven’t figured out how to balance technology, nature, and genetics. Yet, we’re closer than we’ve ever been to meeting the three supers of transhumanism: super longevity, superintelligence, and super well-being.
The invention of the internet has made information more accessible than ever before. The limits to information are those of the researcher instead of the resource which makes super intelligence almost a reality.
Lance Armstrong admitted to using smart drugs to heighten his performance during the Tour de France. Armstrong used Erythropoietin (EPO). Erythropoietin is a hormone that increases the production rate of red blood cells. Red cells carry oxygen to the muscles which determine performance.
Many athletes engage in somatic gene therapy to bulk up their muscles or speed up the healing process after an injury. Medical science has relied upon technology for decades to repair limbs, bodily senses, and organs. For example, the pacemaker was developed in the 1970s and has saved millions of lives, functioning as a highly successful advancement in biotechnology.
Artist, Neil Harbisson was born with achromatopsia which prevents him from seeing colors. A fiber optic sensor attached to a microchip was implanted in his skull which allows him to see colors. The implant even has a Bluetooth function that allows friends to send him colors from their phones. Harbisson claims, “it feels like a six sense.” Future genetic therapies could identify the genes associated with achromatopsia making implants obsolete.
A software engineer and amputee, Vic Vawter used technology to restore his missing leg. The technology used to decipher brain signals into physical movement is called Targeted Muscle Reinnervation (TMR). TMR powers Vawters’ prosthetic leg.
The TMR software was originally created for upper-limb prosthetics. In 2003, Vawter changed that to become the first to utilize the advancement for the lower extremities. In 2012, Vawter climbed 2100 steps in Chicago’s Willis Tower with his mind-controlled, bionic leg.
Technology allows humanity to speed up evolution. Diseases, epidemics, and other vulnerabilities of the organic body may one day be a distant memory. However, right now the tools to increase overall health and well-being are being honed through genetic information and DNA tests.
Today, the best DNA tests provide a panel examining an individual’s DNA from a health and wellness perspective. Many kits offer different focuses providing insight in improving longevity, energy levels, digestion, flexibility, strength, stamina, sleep patterns, and weight management.
These tests can help improve diet and fitness routines, identify nutritional needs and food sensitivities. The DNA tests illuminate how an individual processes carbohydrates, proteins, and fat, and while creating in-depth reports on sleep needs and the impacts of stress.
Humanity may need to wait for more technological advancements when it comes to choosing how tall we’ll be or the color of our eyes, but super-powering wellness is a reality of today. There are many rewards to DNA testing. Understanding the strengths and weaknesses of an individual according to their genetic codes is just one of the influences of transhuman technological development.
D.T. Max 2017,’How Humans are Shaping Our Own Evolution, Accessed 24 March 2020, <https://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2017/04/evolution-genetics-medicine-brain-technology-cyborg/>
Erica Orange, Jared Weiner, & Eshanthi Ranasinghe, 2019, ‘8 Billion MEcosystems. Transhumanism becomes Reality,’ Omidyar Network, Accessed 24 March 2020, < https://www.omidyar.com/blog/8-billion-mecosystems-transhumanism-becomes-reality>
Michael Garfield, 2018, ‘The Future is Indistinguishable from Magic,’ Medium, Accessed 24 March, 2020 < https://medium.com/@michaelgarfield/the-future-is-indistinguishable-from-magic-5b9596a4ea>
Alex Pearlman, 2015, ‘Geneticists are Concerned Transhumanists Will Use CRISPR on Themselves,’ Vice, Accessed 24 March 2020 < https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/d7yzmm/geneticists-are-concerned-transhumanists-will-use-crispr-on-themselves>
Robin McKie, 2018, ‘No Death and an Enhanced Life: Is the Future Transhuman?’ The Guardian, Accessed 24 March 2020, < https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2018/may/06/no-death-and-an-enhanced-life-is-the-future-transhuman>
Sarah Zhang, 2018, ‘A Biohacker Regrets Publicly Injecting Himself with CRISPR,’ The Atlantic, Accessed 24 March 2020, < https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2018/02/biohacking-stunts-crispr/553511/>
Victor Tangerimann, 2017, ‘The Future is Here: Six of Today’s Most Advanced, Real-Life Cyborgs,’ Futurism, Accessed 24 March 2020, < https://futurism.com/six-of-todays-most-advanced-real-life-cyborgs>
This post is by Guest Author: Madison Brown.