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Human-Machine Civilization and Question of Our Origins

If nature is tampered with, the whole issue of the existence of the creator would come into question. Many would claim that human mind has finally been liberated. But can such a claim be valid?

By Dr Aslam Abdullah

From the midst of the modern civilization is emerging yet another set of ideas that would probably exhaust all possible means to reportedly make human beings smarter to the extent of promoting a new scientific world known as human-machine culture.

By year 2015, as predicted by Ray Kurzwell, one of 18 thinkers chosen by the US National Academy of Engineering to identify the great technological challenges facing humanity in the 21st century, “we will have intelligent nanobots go into our brains through the capillaries and interact directly with our biological neurons.” These nanobots, he concluded, would make us smarter, remember things better and automatically go into full emergent virtual reality environments through the nervous system.”

We are on the brink of advances that, many argue, will change the face of the world, in a dramatic fashion, unknown and unseen by anything in the past. We thought the computer was the smartest invention we ever had. The emerging new changes will make every scientific discovery up till now seem primitive.

The idea of placing tiny robots implanted in our brains to give us more intelligence will indeed change the way we think, act and respond, some argue.

However, in the realistic terms, those who will design the software for such a robotic implantation, would essentially control the definition of everything that goes with the word “smart”. The software engineers will determine based on the guidelines given to them by consumer driven multinational-controlled capitalism, how to interfere with human nature in terms of proposing courses of actions that would serve their interests.

Under this new so-called nanobot technology, we would be virtual slaves to those who will manufacture the best software, something that the rulers of the world were unable to do in the past. We witnessed in our long recorded history several attempts to subjugate human will to the dictates of the most powerful people at the helms of affairs, yet none could even come close to controlling human thinking and actions as this nanobot inventors intend to do.

This will create the ability to make us eat drink and do what we are told by robotic implanting. We could be thinking the way we are programmed. But how will that be done?

According to the Quran we believe that human beings are created by the divine with part of the created energy infused in us (Quran; 32:9, 15:29, 38:72, 21:91, 66:12). We believe that God is the one who creates, invents, and designs (40:64,59:24, 64:3). We believe that He is the one who has created us with the faculty of rationality that gives us options to choose between various alternatives available in all aspects of life (3:191). We also believe that in a world that is yet to come, we will be questioned for all our actions in this world as well as in the world hereafter (2:210).

In a nanobot controlled and driven world, rationality would be determined by the investors in the device, alternative actions will be drafted by programmers, and choices will be pushed by competing entrepreneurs and so on so forth.

If nature is tampered with devices, the whole issue of the existence of the creator would come into question. Many, who have already written an obituary of God, would triumphantly blow the trumpet of their victory claiming that human mind has finally been liberated with the biggest and longest superstition it carried for millenniums. But could they really make such a claim and would such a claim be valid?

This brings us back to the question posed earlier: How will this be done? Well, software interacting with our brain cells, may be used to block our diverse thinking capabilities. Even though those cells may still be there, yet their effectiveness may by destroyed or altered as a result of this calculated intervention.

Regardless of what and how it happens, the fact is that those who are working on these technologies are doing so within the framework of mental capacities they are endowed with by God that is the ultimate creator, a creator who created balance in everything including ourselves. The creator reminds us in His revealed wisdom that “He will constantly show us signs in our universe and in ourselves till we come to conclusion through manifest reality that the He is the ultimate truth” (Quran 38:53).

Science has helped us identify, locate and discover signs of God in this universe in our quest to understand the divine creation. Science, through its method of controlled experimentation, has allowed us to conquer our own ignorance in various fields and would continue to do so. Science has made us more efficient and not necessarily smarter. Despite all the discoveries and advancements, we are still subject to our biases in defining our world within a range of limited knowledge that we have.

We are still searching for some direction in our lives, a direction that would help us ensure that the inconsistencies that we have shown in our behavior and attitude in our relations with each other and the universe, are overcome. We still find ourselves at a loss to understand that despite the monumental progress that we have achieved, why do people in our world kill the fellow human beings at a rate of one person every 45 seconds?

Why does there occur a rape every ten-seconds in our world? Why do more than one billion people sleep hungry every night despite the fact that world has enough food to feed the next several generations? Why are there still wars for national supremacy?

Why do people commit suicide at the rate of one every 5 minutes? Why do we have so much injustices built in our social structures despite all the unprecedented achievements that we have made over centuries? Why does the notion of racial, ethnic and cultural superiority still dominate our way of thinking?

To be smart means that that we address these issues on the basis of free choice that we all have been endowed with, we on the basis of ideas that we are exposed to. To be smart means that we discover ourselves on our own rather than through some devices that may serve the purpose of those who have always sought to control us for their interests. If the emerging scientific realities help us achieve our independence, we should be the first one to adopt and accept them.

However, if they are meant to deprive us of our freedoms and rationality based on our origin, we must be skeptical not about their discoveries or inventions, but about their usefulness to us. We know that things are not static. Change is inbuilt in our universe in terms of learning about new divine signs every day. How to channel this change for our own good and the good of human beings based on an understanding of the self and the universe beyond time and space, is the task that we all face and this task will remain unaccomplished without the divine guidance.

*Dr Aslam Abdullah is a noted Islamic scholar and Editor of Muslim Observer published from Farmington, MI, United States. 

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