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C O U R S E 
A Brief History of Humankind
Dr. Yuval Noah Harari, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
C O U R S E   L E C T U R E 
What Do We Want to Want?
Notes taken on March 31, 2015 by Edward Tanguay
today only a fraction of the potentiality of biological engineering, cyborg engineering and the engineering of non-organic life has been realized
yet we are already dealing with the social, political and ethical issues of these changes
lawyers and judges need to rethink issues of privacy and identity
governments need to rethink issues of healthcare and equality
educational institutions need to rethink what fair play and achievement means
pension funds and welfare programs need to readjust to a world where 60 is the new 30
mapping the human genome took 15 years and 3 billion dollars
today you can map your DNA within a few days and at the cost of a few hundred dollars
this opens the way a revolution in medical care, to personalized medicine that matches treatment to your own DNA
your family doctor can tell you with greater certainty than ever before that
you may face high risks of liver cancer but don't need to worry much about heart attacks
a common medicine that helps other people is useless to you and that you can take another medication that is dangerous to most people but will be very helpful to you
if insurance companies are allowed to see your DNA scan, those with high risks based on DNA information would have to pay higher rates
employers may be more interested in your DNA scan than your CV
you may not be hired because you have a gene that correlates with problematic behavior
many governments assert today that all citizens should be given fair medical treatment
all citizens have the right to remain in relatively good health
this is all well and good as long as medicine was concerned with preventing illness and healing the sick
what will happen when medicine becomes more and more preoccupied with enhancing human abilities, giving humans new abilities instead of just healing sickness and illnesses?
throughout history the upper classes always claimed that they are smarter, better, and stronger than the lower classes
but they were usually just deluding themselves
but today, with the help of new scientific medical advances
those with money may actually be able to become smarter and stronger than those with less money
humans will increasingly become inorganic in an increasingly large percentage of their bodies
a point in which even the near future becomes to difficult to predict
term taken from singularity
e.g. the Big Bang
all known natural laws including space and time did not exist
anything that happened before the Big Bang is also meaningless to us
the notion of time had no meaning during the Big Bang so you can't speak meaningfully about the time before the Big Bang
a point of singularity in the past
we like to believe that in the future people like us will travel from planet to planet in fast space ships
we don't like to contemplate that beings with emotions and identities like ours will no longer exist and our place in the universe will be taken by our biologically modified descendents, who look at us the same way we look at Neanderthals
but history teaches again and again that what seems to be inevitable just around the corner often never materializes
when the nuclear age began in the 1940s
when the space age began with Sputnik and Apollo
people began to forecast that people would live on Mars or have unlimited nuclear energy
nobody in the time at Hiroshima and Sputnik managed to forecast the Internet
therefore one should not take predictions as reliable information
what is important is not the exact predictions but the idea that the future will not only include organizational and technical transformations
but much evidence point toward the possibility of fundamental revolutions in human consciousness and human identity
will call into question what human means
when a singularity-type conditions begins to occur when technology becomes unpredictable
less radical forcasts speak in terms of centuries into the future
but from the perspective of the 70,000 years of human history since the last cognitive revolution, a few centuries is a very short time
what is becoming clear is that homo sapiens should start thinking about these matters
the most important question today for human beings in terms of the far-reaching future is, "what do you want to become?"
in what way do we want to enhance humankind?
it is unlikely that our biologically modified and evolved descendants who think on another level of consciousness will have much interest in the religions or ideologies or countries that we find so important today
they may not even have genders like we do
the field of bioethics usually ask not "what do we want to become" but "what is forbidden to do"
is it ethical to genetic experiments on living human beings
is it ethical to genetic experiments on aborted fetuses
is it ethical to genetic experiments on stem cells
is it ethical to clone sheep
is it ethical to clone chimpanzees
is it ethical to clone humans
all of these questions are important
but it is naive to believe that we will be able to stop scientific projects in the coming centuries which will have as their goal to upgrade the abilities of homo sapiens into a different kind of being
these projects will be inextricably meshed together with the human quest to overcome disease and prolong human life which even today almost enjoy complete global acceptance
ask scientists who are studying the human genome or are trying to connect a brain to a computer why they are doing this
the standard answer is that they are doing this in order to cure diseases and prolong human life
yet the implications of breaking the code of the human DNA or creating a mind inside a computer are far more dramatic than curing this or that disease
this argumentation serves to justify almost everything science does
whenever there is ethical doubt, we just remember that we are working to cure disease and prolong human life, and we say, ok, go on
the only thing we can try to do is somehow influence the direction this progress is taking
therefore we need to stop only asking what is ethically forbidden to do, and start asking a far more important and difficult question: what do we want to become?
and since we may soon be able to engineer even our desires, the real question facing human kind today is "what do we want to want?"