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The Real Intelligent Designers

By James Pinkerton

...But here's something coming that's real, replicatable, and thus inarguable. Let's call it SID, for Scientific Intelligent Design -- that is, designed here on earth by mortal, tangible human beings. There'll be no need to take SID on faith, because it'll be visible -- in your face, even.

Broadly speaking, scientists are following three distinct paths toward human SID, which we can summarize as "hardware" (prosthetics and robotics), "software" (artificial intelligence, augmented reality, virtual reality), and "wetware" (cloning).

In most cases, the scientists involved aren't thinking grand thoughts about human evolution. Instead, they are thinking about helping the elderly and others regain motor functions, or about improving computational power, or about curing many wasting, chronic illnesses. In that sense, they are ironically akin to the "proverbial blind watchmaker" of nature; they are not consciously participating in anything so grand as evolution.

But a few scientists are "sighted watchmakers." They are, for better or for worse, visionaries. And there's nothing incidental or accidental about their advocacy of "transhumanism." In the words of one such scientist, Seth Shostak of the SETI Institute, "We will invent our successors."

But whatever the motivations, from all directions, SID is coming. In hardware, it's coming. In software, it's coming. And in wetware -- including the hot-button issue of stem cells from fetal tissue -- it's coming.

For as long as there are free minds and free markets, these innovations are going to keep on coming. Why? Because to envision things, to build things, to create systems of things -- that's deeply satisfying to many people, and so they keep on doing it, despite all the difficulties and dangers they might face.

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