Transhumanism: Where to from here?

Spartacus Podcast: "We are through the looking glass, now"

What’s up, everyone? Spartacus, here, for a third Spartacast.

First, a minor clarification. When I stated in the previous Spartacast that no one under sixty should have the vaccine, due to the risk of death from the vaccine very likely exceeding that of the virus itself, it was intended to highlight the insanity of vaccinating small children with Moderna and Pfizer’s mRNA shots. It was not meant to imply the reverse, that people over sixty should have the shot. On the contrary, that’s exactly the geronticide I have been referring to.

The conspirators were exceptionally cruel to the elderly during this crisis. They shoved COVID-19 positive patients into nursing homes during the early phases of the pandemic. Andrew Cuomo has blood on his hands, but he wasn’t charged with a crime for murdering the elderly in the state of New York. He was charged with a misdemeanor for groping. This really highlights the priorities of our criminal justice system when it prosecutes corrupt politicians.

Now that we’ve got that cleared up, I’d like to cover a fairly controversial aspect of all of this in great detail. That is, the transhumanism side of all of this.

I’ll be frank. The human body is a terrible place to host electronics of any kind. It is a corrosive environment. Electrodes shoved into it break down, become fouled, and/or are enclosed in scar tissue. This outlines the first challenge of any serious transhumanist project; the components for any “upgrades” must be biocompatible. They have to be made from chemically inert materials that do not readily oxidize or break down, and they can’t be made from anything toxic to the tissues.

Many common semiconductor materials are highly toxic. High concentrations of nanomaterials, such as cadmium selenide and gallium arsenide quantum dots, can potentially promote cytotoxic effects. In fact, there is a very real concern among some scientists that nanomaterials, such as graphene and carbon nanotubes, may act as highly toxic persistent environmental contaminants, similar to asbestos.

This is why, for years and years, scientists have been searching for alternative materials, like silicon and carbon allotropes with geometry that endows them with unique electrical, thermal, magnetic, or other properties at incredibly small scales, such as single-layer materials, nanotubes, nanowires, quantum dots, and so on. They’ve also discovered conductive polymers, like PEDOT:PSS (or poly(3,4-ethylenedioxythiophene) polystyrene sulfonate), as well as things such as using amyloid fibrils as self-assembling organic semiconductors, or as metal casts to make nanowires in vivo from metals already found inside the body.

Nanoparticles can also be functionalized and made to self-assemble into larger structures by doping them with organic compounds and peptides, taking advantage of receptor-ligand interactions, as well as hydrophilic or hydrophobic forces, and other fundamental interactions.

Living organisms are, ourselves, a perfect template for molecular nanotechnology. Our genes are stored as DNA, encoding thousands of different proteins that work with our somatic cells to perform all of the crucial functions of our bodies and the different types of tissue found in them. From the perspective of bionanotechnology, humans and other animals are basically a type of naturally occurring, self-replicating soft robot, composed of trillions of cells of a couple hundred different types, all clumped together and working in harmony to ensure the survival and propagation of the organism.

Old-school nanotechnology tended to focus on the miniaturization of classical machines. Gears, levers, pumps, turbines, propellers, and so on. What scientists quickly discovered is that this is a very impractical means of building nano-devices. It is much easier to emulate cellular biology, which makes use of fundamental forces.

Protein folding is a perfect example of a mechanical, well-regulated process found in nature that we take for granted. Protein synthesis and folding is happening in our bodies all the time. Our cells contain several types of organelles that facilitate the processing and breakdown of unneeded proteins into their constituent amino acids, as well as their reuse in synthesizing new proteins. DNA provides the template, which is transcribed into messenger RNA, which is synthesized into a protein by being translated by a ribosome. The codon sequence of the protein dictates its final geometry, once it separates from the ribosome.

All these little individual pieces, receptors, ligands, enzymes, membrane-bound proteins, and so on, fit together like LEGO, or K’NEX. They form pathways in the body that represent the relative rates of various chemical reactions, and resemble logic circuitry in their function. Many receptor-ligand interactions can be broken down into conditional statements. If p, then q. If there’s a steroid, then glucocorticoid receptors will be activated. If there’s a cannabinoid, then cannabinoid receptors will be activated. Almost any system in the body can be reasonably analyzed by chaining these conditional statements together, with the caveat that these are not binary, on-off events, but the relative rates of many, many different chemical reactions working in tandem.

In the past few decades, a great deal of analytical and computational work has been put into studying these systems in the body and manipulating them for therapeutic purposes. This work has yielded results. Things like monoclonal antibodies targeting pathological processes in the body, along with other biologic drugs, have emerged in recent decades. Humira launched in 2002, and in 2017, it had over eighteen billion dollars in sales, globally. Biologics are a growing market. Sometimes, our reach exceeds our grasp, like with nucleic acid vaccines for COVID-19, the risks posed by the Spike protein’s toxic motifs, and the risk of immune reactions to cells expressing Spike. However, I digress.

Using bioreactors, it is possible to culture all sorts of advanced biological compounds, even synthetic proteins not found in nature. Scientists are already using data from protein folding simulations to try and generalize how proteins fold. Their hope is that one day, they can plug a value into an AI algorithm, ask it to produce a protein with a specific function, and then have it run through a bunch of simulations and spit out a gene sequence that they can turn into actual nucleic acids, culture in living cells, and test experimentally in the lab. This would be the holy grail of biologics development. It’s also easier said than done.