How upgrading humans will become the next billion-dollar industry

How upgrading humans will become the next billion-dollar industry

Published: Apr 3, 2017 1:08 p.m. ET

Fifty years from now, today’s humans will be obsolete, historian Yuval Harari says

By JEREMY OLSHAN Published: Apr 3, 2017 1:08 p.m. ET

Investors searching for the next transformative technology destined to turn a bunch of Ivy League dropouts into billionaires, and half the market into a loose slot machine, need only look in the mirror.

“The greatest industry of the 21st century will probably be to upgrade human beings,” historian Yuval Harari, author of the fascinating new book “Homo Deus,” told MarketWatch.

‘For the first time in history it will be possible to translate economic inequality into biological inequality.’
Yuval Harari

For all of humanity’s scientific, economic and artistic achievements, we have neglected this ultimate self-improvement project, Harari said. Our bodies and brains, after all, still run on the same hardware and software that evolved some 200,000 years ago.

Alphabet’s Google already has a unit devoted to overcoming death, Harari noted. And who can doubt that Apple will want to pick from this new tree of knowledge, as well, or that after conquering self-driving cars Uber, in spite of the antics of its CEO, will want to build an Übermensch?

As new technologies yield humans with much longer battery lives, killer apps and godlike superpowers, within the next six decades, if Harari is right, even the finest human specimens of 2017 will in hindsight seem like flip phones.

There is, of course, a catch. Many of us will remain flip phones, as the technology to upgrade humans to iPhones is likely to be costly, and regulated differently around the world. These advances will likely “lead to greater income inequality than ever before,” Harari said. “For the first time in history it will be possible to translate economic inequality into biological inequality.”

Such a divide could give rise to a new version of “old racist ideologies that some races are naturally superior to others,” Harari said. “Except this time the biological differences will be real, something that is engineered and manufactured.”

At the same time, these superhumans will have less and less to do, Harari, said, because robots and artificial intelligence will perform more and more of the jobs with which obsolete humans used to be tasked.

So what will these future humans do all day? Will we sail aboard an intergalactic cruise ship sitting on our butts while sucking down junk food like the future humans in Pixar’s  feel-good dystopian movie “Wall-E”?

Almost, Harari said.

“The only serious answer I can give is they will play computer games,” Harari said.
“Immersive, 3D virtual-reality games that will be far more fun and more exciting than anything in real life.”

If that sounds straight out of an episode of “Black Mirror,” Harari noted that we have been playing variants on such games for thousands of years. “This is actually not completely new — religion is in a sense a virtual-reality game. There are a set of quite arbitrary laws, you have to gain points, and if you gain enough points in this life you get to go on to the next level.”

Given that choice, it may be preferable to remain a flip phone in a dad bod case.


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