What does second-order cybernetics have to do with human enhancement?

What does second-order cybernetics have to do with human enhancement?

Here is an introduction to the talk that Humanity+ Board Member Natasha Vita-More is going to give at H+ Summit @ Harvard, in her own words:

What does second-order cybernetics have to do with human enhancement?

I anticipate human physiology going through a transformative resolution much as astronomy did with the Copernicus Revolution, as physics did with Quantum mechanics, as heredity did with the Principles of Inheritance, and as medicine with the Genome Revolution. The one element which is essential to the transformation of physiology is its self-directed nature.

Years ago, in the 1950-70s, a group of individuals with varied backgrounds were deeply drawn to two distinct areas of scientific study—biology and cognition. One such enthusiast was Norbert Weiner, an engineer and a philosopher, who applied the term “cybernetics” to the growing interest in communications and patterns of behavior. Taking this concept to a more inclusive set of principles, Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson emphasized the element of ecology of variables through second-order cybernetics. Our entire environment and its universe is an independent but interrelated, unified wholesystem, and we as life forms within this system are agents of our own physiological system. Thinking mechanisms, specifically computer generated, are interconnected systems of communications, feedback and observation.

Enhancing physiology relates to new types of human bodies, brains and behaviors, which need better processes for observation and feedback. We need to be aware what is occurring with our cells, organs and internal systems. We need to recognize how to formulate knowledge based on more intelligent and rigorous assimilation of information. We also need to be more conscious of our behaviors in how we communicate with others and how we protect our well-being. Put to the test of problem-solving, the elements form a design ecology of human enhancement.

In short, the odds are that technology will immeasurably extend human life. Until then, we need to stay alive. What ideas, means, and methods are available?

My talk covers the Human Enhancement Project as one place to start. The project began in the late 1990s with designs for transhuman and posthuman prototypes. From 2004 to 2008, it initiated a theory of human enhancement as an adaptive system and linking already available information on scientific, technological and philosophical approaches to human futures. Technology’s array of high-tech systems of robotics, AI, computer-based simulations, biotech and nanotech evidence the potential for augmenting our physiology. Sciences’ cybernetic study of systems and models imparts the awareness that ideas, means, and methods are integrated. From 2008 to the present, it has been looking for answers in dealing with a central issue that while a large percentage of society in the Western world considers certain technological augmentations as normal; an even larger percentage of socio-biopolitics considers technological enhancement as abnormal and even repugnant. This is a predicament.

The Human Enhancement Project delivers a developing sensibility which every citizen scientist might want to know for participating in an enhancement design ecology.

I look forward to seeing you all at the Summit!

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