This Time Next Year, You Could Be Posthuman

Illustration for article titled This Time Next Year, You Could Be Posthuman

Pundits from Bill McKibben to Susan Greenfield have written scare manifestos about the horrors of a posthuman future where everybody has souped-up DNA and can change their sexes like changing clothes. But here at io9, we are all about the posthuman future: we want to download data directly into our brains, grow a new set of arms (and then take them off again), get cybernetic implants that let us feel electro-magnetic fields, and house nano-colonies in our guts that keep us cancer-free. Plus, we want to have emotional relationships with robots that go beyond hurling our cell phones across the room and crooning to our spastic Linux boxes. If you want to be posthuman too, or transhuman or cyborgian, you'll be waiting a long time. But we've got five things you can put on your to-do list today to make all of us more posthuman by this time next year.


To-Do List for Futurists: Become Posthuman

1. Today: Download the Rosetta@home program, and let your computer crunch data on protein shapes while you're not using it. Like the SETI@home program, Rosetta@home is designed to harness the power of thousands of PCs to take the data that scientists have gathered about how proteins in our bodies are shaped, and churn quickly through that data to figure out how we could design new proteins that might fight disease or turn us into posthuman, flying, megabrainiacs who don't need to sleep.

2. This week: Read all about what posthumans and transhumans want in James Hughes' fantastic book Citizen Cyborg.

3. This month: Volunteer to participate in neurological experiments at your local university. No, we don't want you to get the zapper, we just want you to volunteer to sit inside an MRI brain imaging machine and do various tasks so that neuroscientists can learn more about which parts of your brain are responsible for which activities. The more we understand the neurology of the brain, the better we'll be at preventing its degeneration through age or disease. And maybe we can get closer to those awesome Google brain implants. Most labs and universities have helpful websites that explain who can volunteer and how.


4. This month: Get a high-tech implant. Want to feel electro-magnetic waves? Get a magnet implanted in your finger. Want to be machine-readable? Get an RFID implanted under your skin. You can save all kinds of useful data on that RFID, but just be sure you keep it encrypted!

5. This year: Get your genome sequenced and donate the data to a public research institution. Companies like Knome and 23andMe will do it for some cash, and then you can take the data they get and give it to the International HapMap, an open database of genomic information used by researchers all over the world. The more data they amass about human genetic diversity, the sooner you can get a drug tailored specifically for you to cure your cancer, or make your legs move at super-speed.



if you're in the US, you might get to participate in a medical experiment involving your genetic markers and other data without your knowledge or consent. but it's okay, because the company doing the work will make money.


[begin quote]

Perlegen Sciences, Inc. has made a deal with an unidentified electronic medical records company to give it exclusive rights to the clinical information on 4 million U.S. patients, to develop genetic markers to predict how the patients will respond to medical treatments.

Unbeknownst to the patients, their records will be turned over to this private company and mined, and for those who are then identified for DNA testing, samples of their genetic material will be obtained by Perlegen by going through patients' doctors, via HIPAA, not the patients. All of this will all be done without the knowledge or permission of patients.

[end quote]