Is it necessary for humanity to evolve into cyborgs to survive? The moral and ethical question is one open to debate, and will probably continue for years to come. Technological advancement has brought this dilemma, among others, however the advancement and revolution of the digital age is not without its miracles and blessings either.
Grindhouse Wetware is one biotech company on the technological forefront. Founded in 2012, they developed what can only be described as innovative technology to fit within the human body, arguably advancing human capabilities – be it for medical or personal scope, or as they put it, “augmenting humanity using safe, affordable, open source technology.”
During an interview with Ryan O’Shea, the spokesman and advisor for biotech company Grindhouse Wetware, and CEO Justin Worst, a graduate from Syracuse University in History and Anthropology, they explained this new ‘movement’ and what draws people into ‘biohacking’ their bodies.
The ethical divide of race and religion continues to plague the 21st century. With growing contention between blacks. whites, Christians, Muslims, Democrats and Republicans, I asked Wetware’s take on the ethical implications of creating a subset of humans that would possibly contribute evermore to this dividing hatred.
“Body autonomy” drives Wetware’s goals. Their focus lies in what they hope is a personal decision for the individual, O’Shea states.
But would the cyborg lead to an eventual superior race?
“I believe [in] transparency and democratization of this technology. We need to make sure this is available for everyone regardless of financial or status geography, and does not exacerbate existing class or racial divides,” says O’Shea.
For the Wetware creators, it is imperative the individual retains the right to make the decision autonomously, rather than its technology be enforced. It’s a common thread throughout the interview.
O’Shea, who is also a “futuristic speaker and television producer” from Pennsylvania of acclaimed podcast “Future Grind,” sees an introduction of “cyborg” qualities as a “breakdown of what even defines a ‘Species’,” a step they consider positive for “directed evolution.”
There are some lofty goals to be found in Wetware’s ambitions, and they readily admit to it. Over-population issues to renewable energy supplies; “mind uploading” and living with no physical form, are but a few issues they hope to address.
When asked about cyborgs spurring a population crisis, however, and becoming a superior race with issues like choosing who lives and dies, O’Shea counters that equality may eventually reign, and sustainability would become a by-product of this quest.
The “use of resources is often related to our biological needs for calories, shelter, transportation, etc,” says O’Shea. He hints at the possibility of overcoming this by making humanity more efficient with the use of advanced science. “Getting more extreme, perhaps a cybernetic organism wouldn’t even need traditional food to survive, eliminating the needs for farming, hunting, or crops. It’s also possible that by eliminating the need for biological bodies through something like mind uploading, humans could live forever with no physical form.”
But the fine line between evolution and interference, is arguable. Does this explain medical practitioners’ reluctance to participate in Wetware’s ventures?
Essentially the medical profession is locked out of the arena, for now, according to Worst. Surgeons aren’t enlisted to perform procedures because of the stringent regulations and restrictions they are bound by in the medical profession. For this reason, Wetware have to “rely on reputable body modification artists who are well trained.”
O’Shea adds that although medically trained doctors would be very welcomed by Wetware, the overarching consideration is that the medical industry is only concerned with helping those who are sick. “They seem largely uninterested in overcoming biological limitations or making a healthy human even more capable.”
Although the implants placed under the skin are coated with a protective Paralyne C and silicone, and proper sterilization procedures are followed, it’s still a risky business. Admitting rejection and complications can occur, O’Shea says they are rare.
CEO Worst adds his own biohacking experience, discussing the psychological effects from his implanted Northstar, a device in his hand that uses LEDs; when an early design flaw saw the device stop working. “While the device was safe to leave in my body, I still felt like a part of me had stopped working, and when I received a new device I felt whole again,” Worst said during the interview.
Despite current thoughts on biohacking, the subject sprouts enough contentious interest on either side. Good, bad or indifferent to the subject, people do rely on the familiar. It’s human nature’s very essence.
But O’Shea takes the criticism with a grain of salt. “There is always a fear of new technologies or fads,” he says. “The fact of the matter is that humans have been directing their own evolution for thousands of years, and certainly hundreds. If you diet or exercise or drink caffeine for the stimulant effects or use medicines or drugs, congratulations, you’re a biohacker. Welcome to the club.”