H+ Digital Series: Prospect or Paranoia?

Last year season one of H+: The Digital Series was released on Youtube, two episodes a week, and became a huge success. It not only touched on topics which were growing in the collective purview of humanity, but told a story as well which predicted a fatal conflict between man and machine. How should we respond to such a prediction?

H+ bases itself in the near-future where an Irish biotechnology company, Hplus Nano Teoranta, engineers a nanoscaled implant called H+. As a result, a third of the world embraces Transhumanity by connecting their brain to 24/7 online access via the implant. Something goes wrong, however, and anyone with an H+ implant begins collapsing and, subsequently, dying. The world bears witness to a cyber-terrorist attack as anyone with an implant are delivered a software virus by an unknown force.

Fortunately, a group of implantees find themselves lucky as they are trapped in a parking lot which carries no signal for their H+ implant to receive the fatal virus. Instead they’re protected by the one man who knows what’s going on – a Kenneth Lubahn (starring David Clayton Rogers) who helped design the H+ implant – and who is on a mission to not only wipe out the virus, but to change the world again with an upgrade far more superior to H+. To reach there, however, he must gain the trust of his compatriots as they traverse to Alaska, all while dodging a Neo-Luddite group, led by a man crippled due to an unsuccessful nanite operation (starring Sean Gunn), who are set out to destroy “God’s Hand” – a secret facility which contains the entire history of all of man’s scientific achievements.

H+ tells a story of several conflicts: one between man and his creation; another between man and man; and finally one between man and nature. These are conflicts in which we witness and partake in even today as the growing prospect of a Transhuman world increasingly reveals itself. With great technological achievements and scientific discoveries, there are equally great risks which may come as a result. They are risks that divide people – those who believe the risks are too great to venture, and those who believe they can be mitigated to ensure progress marches on.

For those of us who are actively involved in Transhumanism, our goals are similar to the goals of H+’s Irish biotechnology company Hplus Nano Teoranta: to effectively redefine the human condition via science and technology. With that comes many risks, but are risks in which we all actively seek out to mitigate as best as possible. Unfortunately there are many who believe we’re simply on a fool’s chase for techno-utopia, and instead believe technology, in general, should be abolished and that man should embrace a primitivist lifestyle.

As a matter of fact, on Saturday at Stanford University, Transhuman Zoltan Istvan debated Anarcho-Primitivist John Zerzan, as the debate was being hosted by the Stanford Transhumanist Association. It’s a debate that speaks clearly in the clashing worldviews of what’s in store for humanity’s future. For Zoltan, he believes that Transhumanism will become humanity’s next evolutionary steps forward, resulting in the uplifting of humanity’s ongoing problems – socio-economic, medical, geological, etc. Whereas Zerzan believes that Transhumanism will be the death of us and could very well go the way of H+’s plot.

How our future will unfold as we draw nearer to Transhumanity is yet to be determined, but perhaps the plotline to H+ is one we should consider – not as either a prospect or some Neo-Luddite’s paranoia, but as a risk in which we should discuss and make plans to alleviate if and when it presents itself. After all, the series is very well told and very well produced. It reaches into peoples’ imagination and pulls them towards an idea of what the future could hold for us, of what could hold for Transhumanism.

As a result, we should tread carefully as we promote Transhuman ideals and technologies. To not only consider the risks and make plans to mitigate them, but to also effectively address the concerns of people who look to films and shows like H+ as reference guides to what’s in store for us all. Great shows, like H+, are eventually etched into the very fabric of our innovations, similar to how shows like Star Trek have been for the last two decades.

If anything, I highly recommend watching H+: The Digital Series, so as to learn as much as possible from it – both the dangers it introduces, and equally its technological marvels.

About B.J. Murphy

B.J. Murphy is Editor in Chief for Cyberlife, a Writer for the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies, and the Editor/Social Media Manager of SeriousWonder.com.

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