Beyond the human

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By EUGENIO BUCCI*

Every day, humans lose relevance. The human, derogatorily human, ceases to be the protagonist in his own destiny

Now the little signs are everywhere. Intelligent devices make decisions in the place of flesh-and-blood people. In traffic, what decides whether you are going to turn left or right is an algorithm, which gives you orders through the electronic screen. Using a similar system, the taxi driver knows who the passenger will be, and at what address he should pick him up. Nobody escapes.

Everyone is a bit of an Uber driver: everyone, sometimes more, sometimes less, follows the baton of software that direct the routine of connected populations. The heartbeat of anonymous people, air traffic, the ebullience of the stock markets, the feeling that people like or dislike us: everything goes through the digits. What we once liked to call “free will” has finally been reduced to the will of machines.

Signs, lots of signs. The electorate relies on internet films to choose who to vote for. There are a lot of lies out there, we already know. In Brazil, the Superior Electoral Court announces that its biggest concern is to contain calls deepfakes, those perfect, impeccably believable scenes, in which a candidate, in front of the cameras, says, with all the syllables hidden, a phrase he has never uttered – all the work of cybernetics. This type of evil trick was widespread in the elections in neighboring Argentina, and complications are already foreseeable on this side of the border.

In the press on all continents, newsrooms enact rules of conduct to regulate the use of Artificial Intelligence tools by their professionals. The chances of success are slim. Artificial Intelligence undermines journalistic activity without leaving anyone a moment to breathe. It increasingly regulates us, without being regulated by us.

Now, these little signs that are everywhere show us that a virtual limit has been placed – only virtual, for now – on the human adventure on Earth. Every day, humans lose relevance. The human, derogatorily human, ceases to be the protagonist in his own destiny. Poor human. The only event in which it still plays a prominent role is global warming, in its final tragedy, the Anthropocene. Other than that, he was left with a supporting role.

In the midst of signs everywhere, the term “transhumanism” gains new momentum, just like that, without a hyphen or anything. The word, in English, became known in the middle of the XNUMXth century, but now it takes on a more eye-catching role. It has hardened enthusiasts – those who see technology as a shortcut to perfecting our bodies and spirits, in a “reform of nature” that will ultimately work. The noun “transhumanism” appears in any meeting of experts on the internet, the digital world, machine learning and transmigration of souls in clouds of heavy metals.

It is an “ideology”, they say. I would say that we are talking about a totalizing fantasy, whose corollary is very simple: the anthropos, first remade into a cyborg, with a pacemaker, memory chip, trabecular titanium femur and hearing aid, will be succeeded by beings programmed on the basis of genetic engineering. Then, the chromosomal mutation will be as trivial as a cup of coffee at the bakery. Many people like the scenery.

Fifteen years ago, precisely in 2008, in one of the conference cycles organized by Adauto Novaes, I gave a talk on this subject (“That of which the human is a disposable instrument: theoretical sensations”).

At the time, the small signs were not yet everywhere, and my speech sounded even more catastrophist than this article. Fifteen years ago, I said: “The new technological revolution will be cancer tamed.” Today it is irrefutable: biological evolution will become manageable and, within a short period of time, the new generations of rich people will have physical and cognitive attributes superior to those of other social classes. The class difference will become not a “competitive difference”, but an evolutionary difference. That is, of course, if everything goes well, and if there are still remnants of what we once were in the bodies that will exist after us.

Immortality, obviously, is part of the near horizon. Ray Kurzweil, former engineer at Google who gained notoriety for his flashy predictions, declared in March that immortality will be achieved within eight years, thanks to research combining robotics, genetics and nanotechnology. And for what? Since always, what distinguishes humans from the gods is the unparalleled trump card of mortality. The moment we overcome it, the species, or what remains of it, will have left behind nothing less than its human condition.

The news, therefore, although it seduces us like the sudden appearance of an inaccessible mystery, is horrifying. The news is bad. Just imagine who the characters will be, with 120-year-old ID cards, walking around in eighteen-year-old bodies. These will vote forever and religiously finance the deepfakes which the TSE would now like to inhibit. Yes, natural selection is merciless, but artificial selection will be perverse.

* Eugene Bucci He is a professor at the School of Communications and Arts at USP. Author, among other books, of Uncertainty, an essay: how we think about the idea that disorients us (and orients the digital world) (authentic).

Originally published in the newspaper The State of S. Paul.


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