SHAPIRO: One of the ideas that stood out to me from your book is that there is no clear line that separates healing from upgrading. So for example, plastic surgery may have begun as a tool to repair people, and it quickly became a tool to improve people. And you suggest that physical improvements of other kinds will likely follow the same path. Give me an example.--Marshal Zeringue
HARARI: I think in general, medicine in the 21st century will switch from healing the sick to upgrading the healthy. This is true not only of plastic surgery and improvements to the body but also improvements to our cognitive abilities - for example, memory. If you find ways to repair the memory damaged by Alzheimers disease or dementia and so forth, it is very likely that the same methods could be used to upgrade the memory of completely healthy people.
And if you find ways to connect brains and computers, you can rely on memories in immense databases outside your own brain. We are starting to do it in a way with our smartphones and computers, but what we may see in coming decades is humans actually merging completely with their smartphones and computers.
SHAPIRO: As you imagine this world in the not-too-distant future where people have the option of upgrading their bodies and upgrading their minds, what happens to people who don't exercise that option, who decide to stay natural?
HARARI: The real problem is not those who choose to stay natural but the fact that I think very few people at least in the beginning will have that choice at all. It's likely that all the upgrades, at least at first, will cost a lot and will be available only to a small elite.
So for the first time in human history, we might see economic inequality being translated into biological inequality. And once such a gap opens...[read on]