In order to make the most of transhumanist technologies, one must be aware of their risks, to anticipate and avoid them.

Any technology has its share of benefits and risks: fire can help cook food, but can also cause a inferno. The technologies of the future are no exception to this rule. In order to make the most of these technologies, it is necessary to study and anticipate the risks to avoid unwanted consequences as much as possible .

First, there is the risk of misuse of technology: as we become more and more « connected », it becomes easier to spy on us and breach our privacy. In the case of augmentation technologies (prostheses, implants …), it would even be possible to control or influence us remotely. It is therefore essential to « take ownership » of these technologies, so as not to be totally vulnerable to multinationals or governments with authoritarian tendencies. This has led for example to the efforts of La Quadrature du Net, a nonprofit which defends internet rights and freedoms.

But there is also a risk of losing control: what would happen if we were surpassed by our own technologies? Here we enter the category of existential risks: risks that could jeopardize the survival of all humanity.

Recently therefore, particular attention has been paid to the risks of artificial intelligence (AI). Indeed, if an AI reaches a degree of intelligence comparable that of humans, it becomes able to improve itself. There is therefore a risk of « intelligence explosion » and loss of control. One can then ask: how do we make sure that the progress in AI remains beneficial to humanity? This is one of the primary concerns of the highly transhumanist Future of Humanity Institute in Oxford.

Contrary to what is often suggested, being transhumanist does not mean adopting a blithe optimism about technological innovations. While apprehension must never lead us to shut the door on progress (otherwise, we would still be in caves, hunting with wooden spears!), on the other hand, we mustn’t stick our heads in the sand, and should be fully aware of possible risks, if we wants to avoid pitfalls and optimize benefits from these technologies.

Translation: Ranjan Ahuja