Technology and Ethics

Some in the Futurist community are focused on technology and ethics. Gerd Leonhard has been particularly vocal on the topic. I’ve dedicated a section of my keynote to what I believe will be a growing dialog. I use this slide to pose a question to the audience:

Technology and Ethics

The example provided above comes from Ray Kurzweil, famous Futurist, Inventor and author. In an appearance at last years Exponential Finance conference, Kurzweil said this:

“Our thinking will be a hybrid of biological and non-biological thinking. We’re going to gradually merge and enhance ourselves. In my view, that’s the nature of being human – we transcend our limitations. We’ll be able to extend (our limitations) and think in the cloud. We’re going to put gateways to the cloud in our brains.”

In a recent article by Singularity University co-Founder Peter Diamandis, he presents Kurzweil’s actual prediction:

“In the 2030s,” said Ray, “we are going to send nano-robots into the brain (via capillaries) that will provide full immersion virtual reality from within the nervous system and will connect our neocortex to the cloud. Just like how we can wirelessly expand the power of our smartphones 10,000-fold in the cloud today, we’ll be able to expand our neocortex in the cloud.”

In using this example, the question I pose to an audience is this: if you could do what Ray Kurzweil describes, would you?

More recently, Elon Musk (someone who fears the possibilities of AI) had this to say:

“The solution that seems maybe the best one is to have an AI layer. So think, if you have your limbic system, your cortex, and then a digital layer — sort of a third layer, above the cortex — that could work well and symbiotically with you. Just as your cortex works symbiotically with your limbic system, this digital layer would work symbiotically with the rest of you.”

Musk is reacting to the need to mitigate the risk of humanity becoming a pet to super-intelligence. He sees this neural layer enhancing our ability to process and communicate information. Although the Internet and devices grant us superhuman powers in real time, the constraint is input and output. Musk says we are IO bound – particularly output bound.

So I turn to my Blog audience to ask the same question as above. I’d appreciate you taking the poll below, as it will add your voice to the conversation. Also, feel free to provide detailed thoughts on the ethics discussion in the comments section.

18 thoughts on “Technology and Ethics

  1. Just as the mechanical age led to thoughts the brain was a machine, now the computational age brings us the conviction that brains are computers and can be merged with information processing technology – as if that’s what brains are. This observation is not mine, but part of a great article whose link I’ve misplaced. Nevertheless, I agree with this observation; that we create brains in our own image based on the technology era we are working through. We are natural-born cyborgs, yes (Andy Clark), but the move from augmented humanity to merged identity is an evolutionary chasm with no evidence and questionable science.

    This persistent, arrogant ignorance is why I will not trust the descendants of Kurzweil when they approach me with their cranial injection of nanobots.

    But Ok: if, as appears to be the case, we each create our own reality based on perception, augmentation of incomplete inputs, selective acuity, etc., what would it mean to connect the neocortex to the cloud? My perceptions how reflect groupthink? I get a more ‘rational’ view of my world because the “cloud,” (which cannot be hacked, of course) is informing my perspective of basic input?

    What could possibly go wrong?

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Interesting article and have been following the discussions around cyborgs and AI permeating and augmenting the human capabilities. The thought seems real given what Prof Warwick presented during the TCS NA Innovation Forum but IMO, the thought of interrupting nature when it’s not a necessity, will be a big debate and i, personally am not for it. Look at it this way – the current industry challenges where robotics is more prevalent such as in the Manifacturing sector are grappling with the possibility of “how to ensure that the robots or ‘co-bots’ do not do something unwanted given they are made to learn as they work through AI techniques (DNNs, CDNNs, etc).” The same has been mentioned by researcher Laurent Orseau, the developer of AlphaGo, in his co-authored paper “Safely Interruptible Agents” ( – the need for the big red button, to stop any robot or AI assisted machine, is amply clear.
    The use of nano (ro)bots being embedded in human body (or brain) in terminally ill patients itself would be debatable but has a much greater chance of adoption than in normal human beings. It would be a challenge for regulators to deal with such technology, just as in the case of autonomous cars. We’re living in interesting times and it’ll be interesting to see how the technology and the adoption thereof evolves.


  3. I voted No because that would be my default position. I would say no until I felt confident the system as freely abandoned as a cell phone. I love my cell phone, but I can turn it off. And if I wanted to, I could make a life without it. But I worry that these brain augmentation technologies may be always-on, and passing the blood-brain barrier sure sounds that way. That’s just a recipe for surveillance, authoritarianism, terrorism, and loss of self. No thanks! Now, if I could opt in and out at any time – then I would LOVE to do this, but an injection is a deal breaker for me.


  4. We are natural-born not at all..I disagree..we are humans who are unknowingly being driven to become cyborgs..I voted other : yes only if I know where the real control lies and what happens to human I don’t want to experience “loss of self ” as mentioned by Marshal. I should have the full liberty to opt in and out , adopt, ignore and adapt any time…I am disturbed by the thought of technologies that evade human’s basic nature and processes within in the name of extending human first and than think of going to ‘super’ prefix… “incomplete” “manipulated” never gives you pleasure..true?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I correspond this to other levels of human empowerment by technology. For example, the human ability to move from one point to another by air, land and water has benefited immensely from technology. Enhancing human capacity to think and work would have a multiplier effect – yet another phase in human-technological revolution. Good write-up and very inspiring


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