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Memento Mori: When Men Merge with AI

Belial, Behemoth, Beelzebub, Asmodeus, Satanas, Lucifer

The central idea of transhumanism can be summarized in a formula: it is possible and desirable to move from a phase of blind evolution to a conscious one. Becoming a “homo faber,” as Anne Foerst says: taking control over an existence that for millions of years has been dictated by intrinsic factors (biological, physical, and cognitive limits) and extrinsic ones (cultural, religious, and moral limits) and freeing oneself from human and divine evolutionary constraints. The transhumanist, from this point of view, is Luciferian, as he rebels against creation, but also because he brings knowledge and progress (to avoid misunderstandings, it should be remembered that Lucifer, before becoming one of the names of the Devil due to Judaic-Christian cultural appropriation, was Phosphóros, “light bringer” and a star whose brightness heralded the dawn). But if God is dead and the Übermensch is not yet born, will superintelligence (‘überAI) be our evolutionary goal (or end)? Will we have to start coming to terms with the inevitable, that is, to survive, our only hope will be merging with AI?

Biological is the New N-word

In the not-too-distant future, those who choose not to merge with artificial intelligence might be viewed as we look at the Amish or the Korowai today, while enhanced humans will have an abyssal advantage over their diminished counterparts. A superpower. Will they (we?) finally be übermenschen? And perhaps, this process of hybridization has already begun. Silent but inexorable. Is there a difference between using ChatGPT to help us during work or having a brain-computer interface (BCI) that transforms our brain inputs into outputs? Some argue there is a difference, as an implant would increase the ability to blend in a population of reduced humans, overcoming the dichotomy between enhanced and not. They live, in short. And they live among us. And if I am alive, then you are dead. No one today would complain that those who wear glasses have an unfair advantage over those who do not. But what if this advantage were hidden in an implant? The human eye has a resolution of about 7 Megapixels, but what if we could increase it to 70? 700? 7,000? Think of a job that requires exceptional vision: an enhanced watchmaker and a diminished one would look identical from the outside, but the former would work with superhuman accuracy. This could lead to discrimination no longer based on ethnicity, gender, or religion but purely on the “biological versus artificial” dichotomy. It could even be hypothesized, with some margin of safety, that in 20-30 years, this will be the only possible discrimination.

AI and the problem of Techno-diversity

And to neologisms like “femicide” could be added others like “diminished-cide”: “a form of violence systematically exercised not on women, but on diminished human beings in the name of an ideological superstructure no longer patriarchal, but artificial.” Will those who choose not to merge with AI take their place in the ideological leper colony of tomorrow? In that national-populist leper colony, today reserved for the gypsies, the LGBTIQA+ community, the political refugees? Accepting this possibility will imply dividing the human world into two categories, where inevitably, one will take a position of predominance. And how do we address the issue of the disappearance of diversity, a high price to pay in the name of homogenization (albeit enhanced)? In a world where all individuals are merged with the artificial, the richness of human diversity would be lost. We already see it with OpenAI. If everyone writes with ChatGPT (almost 200 million users as I work on this paragraph), everyone can become a writer immediately. A functional illiterate becomes Hemingway thanks to prompt engineering. When we are all equal, all enhanced, then the struggle for uniqueness and competition might have to be bioengineered in a superhuman society. This is a stance that opens dystopian scenarios, and it is not SF to predict that, in the coming decades, governments and insurance companies will promote AI integration to create a society of robots. Will we look at Homo sapiens as we look at Neanderthals today? It’s not hard to predict that, in 10-15 years, we might access ChatGPT (or, in the case of a Neuralink BCI, more likely, Grok/xAI) directly from our brains or even bring back to life the brains of the deceased. As we can already enjoy a synthetic meat burger from extinct animals (Australian food company Vow, for example, managed to create a mammoth meatball), we might bring historical figures, artists, and writers back to life. However, The question remains whether these dead agree to be awakened.

Death or planned obsolescence?

This anti-death concept already exists under the name of morphological freedom, that is, no longer being limited by the pre-established boundaries of our body, but being able to decide if and where to transfer our consciousness: into the cloud, onto a USB stick, into an exoskeleton, and so on. More and more companies are demonstrating, at least embryonically and theoretically, that the technology necessary to combat the greatest taboo of our species – death – might be just a few decades away. For us who work in the travel industry, then, an additional source of revenue would also open up: when humans begin to divide between “physical” and “uploaded,” we might have to “open” virtual hotels (as in the Amazon Prime series Upload, where the protagonist, upon his death, is “uploaded” into the luxurious Lakeview hotel in the metaverse). Who will assume the role of mortiferous revenue manager? Sure, the issue of hospitality becomes frivolous in the face of even greater questions that the defeat of death would bring. The first among them is the religious one. Imagine the impact it could have on religions like Hinduism, which foresees several cycles of reincarnation before reaching Nirvana. Christian faith, then, centers its entire theoretical corpus around the existence of an afterlife and the soul’s resurrection. But if man became immortal, then the entire theological framework of belief would become obsolete. And what if the second coming of Christ himself were not, in truth, the coming of a TechnoChrist? If that “resurrection of the flesh” were nothing more than a prophecy for mind uploading? “When they rise from the dead,” it is written in the Gospel according to Mark, “they will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.” We would be “angels” (ethereal and incorporeal beings, first clue) in the “heavens” made of clouds (cloud computing, second clue), where physical and tactile relationships would be impossible (virtual reality, metaverse, spatial computing).

Memento Mori

Again, the matrimonial formula “till death do us part” would lose all meaning. What death would separate couples? The physical one? Digital suicide? Would marriage still have value once one’s consciousness is uploaded into the cloud? If my predictions are correct, my three-year-old son will live long enough to escape the annoying inevitability of death. Before his physical departure, we might reach such technology as to allow us to “choose” whether to die and turn off our “vital computer” once and for all or create a copy to “upload” onto a different medium. Good for him, but isn’t this too short a time to solve these bioethical and theological questions? At the moment, the issue is still (although increasingly less so) relegated to the pure field of speculation, but there are already companies that, albeit to a lesser extent, guarantee digital immortality or at least the creation of digital twins, like Replika, a platform on which for years I have been creating a twin of my father. Memento mori? Perhaps. Or perhaps only until we forget. Forget to die.

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