December 17, 2008
Which Transhuman Upgrades Do You Want?

Recently listening to music too loud caused nerves in one of my ears to produce a sort of whistling sound afterward. The sound eventually went away. It occurred to me that while loud music often sounds better our ears are not designed to sustainably handle it. So I know one transhumanist upgrade I want for my body: ear cells (or perhaps some nanomaterial) that can better resist damage from loud sounds.

People who like the X-Men and other superheroes with superpowers have fantasized about all sorts of super enhancements such as super muscular strength. Surely some superheroes have ears that can hear at much lower sound volumes or eyes that can clearly focus on much smaller or more distant objects. But I got to thinking: what practical upgrades do you want for your body for daily life?

I see ears that can let me listen to louder music as something that would enrich my every day life. I do not need to be climbing Mount Everest or fighting a super evil genius to benefit from ears that can safely listen to Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherezade or the Rolling Stones' Exile On Main Street turned up really loud. What other body upgrades would come in handy in a similar manner?

I know a lot of people who would benefit from stronger knee, elbow, and back designs. I know people who can't jog any more or who can't bicycle any more due to knee or back injuries. Some got their injuries in their 20s. These injuries are therefore more the result of exceeding design specifications than from aging. This is what I'm interested in here.

Sure, we need rejuvenation therapies. But once such therapies become available and your body returns to a teenage level of youthfulness. What parts of your fully rejuvenated body would still not let you engage in some pretty commonplace activity to the level you want to do it?

Of course, rejuvenation therapies will also be able to repair ears damaged by loud music, knees damaged in football, or elbows worn out in tennis. But I'd rather avoid the need for frequent repairs and ruggedize some body parts.

So what are your upgrade needs and desires?

Share |      Randall Parker, 2008 December 17 09:54 PM  Transhumans Upgrades

David Govett said at December 17, 2008 10:46 PM:

Tunable vision that allows one to see all or selected parts of the EM spectrum, plus a more functional visual cortex for handling the load.

Randall Parker said at December 17, 2008 10:55 PM:


For what practical purpose? What do you do where you say "It would be so much easier or more pleasurable if I could see this in infrared"?

For the more robust ear cilia we'd get the benefit of more pleasure from music.

Xenophon Hendrix said at December 17, 2008 11:16 PM:

Tougher skin, stronger bones, implanted computer hooked directly into the senses, male multiple orgasm, improved acuity in all the senses, teeth that don't decay, body that automatically wastes excess calories.

How about direct stimulation of the pleasure centers on demand? Or perhaps something that makes things that are good for you actually feel or taste good? Anything that would make a big plate of broccoli and carrots give me as much pleasure as a slab of prime rib would be OK in my books.

Thinking even bigger, why not voluntary control over all emotions? People get angry, upset, impatient, etc. at inappropriate times. Being able to adjust one's reactions would be mighty useful.

adam said at December 18, 2008 12:57 AM:

I think Xenophon is right on, especially with controling our motivational impulses. And since he mentioned sex improvements, I'd like to have a fully sensitive foreskin (blasted parents!) and more sensitive nipples.

Anything that would help me travel faster would be welcome. That would involve leg and cardiovascular improvements. Anything that would make my body run well on less food would be awesome too. I'd spend less time snacking or satisfying my hunger and more time doing other things. An upgrade that got rid of my need for sleep or cut it down drastically would be even better still.

And Xenophon, I love Magician's Merger.

Cold Equation said at December 18, 2008 1:17 AM:

It would be nice to see in infrared because you can see things in IR that you can't see in the visible spectrums. You can see through fog and haze, and warm things look bright. Look up soom infrared photography sometime if you'd like to see for yourself.

OTOH, that would be way down on my list. I would want the ability to go without sleep, and increased cardio endurance. Robert Freitas has something on the web about artificial red blood cells made of diamond that could hold enough oxygen, IIRC, to let you run a marathon while holding your breath (you'd still have to get rid of the CO2 somehow or you'd die of acidosis). Maybe some more working memory and the ability to turn off pain.

averros said at December 18, 2008 3:03 AM:

> How about direct stimulation of the pleasure centers on demand?

Try MDMA someday.

> male multiple orgasm

same + viagra + a willing girl

The reality is, as soon as technology for non-invasive direct stimulation of pleasure centers becomes available, it will be used for recreational purposes, and will be made illegal.

Happycrow said at December 18, 2008 8:40 AM:

Hrm... well, I'm a martial artist, so if it comes on a comic-book superhero, probably I'd enjoy the hell out of it, particularly the relaxation implied by improved flexibility (which helps in avoiding injury).

But seriously? I'd like nano-somethings that will work to pull pollutants and toxins out of the body, and which will counteract local inflammation, and I'd like really smashingly good vision (I've got 20/13 already, and can see some things my friends need binocs for when camping... it's just fun to be able to spot critters more easily). And I'd really like to be able to withstand really high changes in temperature without discomfort, because it's just more fun than packing on extra sweaters.

Happycrow said at December 18, 2008 8:42 AM:

Or, if we're going to shoot for the moon, the ability to tolerate hard vacuum.

In said at December 18, 2008 9:31 AM:

Better attention span and higher pain tolerance.

Fly said at December 18, 2008 11:35 AM:

Mundane stuff: Stem cell upgrades. Start with stem cells from the best humans alive today. Use gene engineering to further improve those cell lines. Accelerate cell turn-over to replace original cells. (Losing some memories and skills in the process.) The result should be a young "me" with mental and physical abilities approaching those of the best humans alive today.

Far out stuff: Assume the biological basis of human memory, consciousness, intelligence, personality, and happiness were known and could be controlled/augmented through biotech or cybertech. I would rationally reconfigure my emotional drives and reward systems, expand/refine my consciousness, improve my working/short-term/long-term memory (i.e., better control of what I remembered and forgot), and include brain interfaces to external computers for enhanced communication, knowledge-base access, and mathematical simulation.

Lono said at December 18, 2008 12:02 PM:

Well a shine job would be a nice start...

But really - tunable vision like David said above would be a big one for me - I'd prefer to have Night Vision and such as an option rather than a standard.

Of course any anti-aging - super healing - immortality upgrades would be a given...

I'm surprised no one has suggested a net implant because I'd kill to have access anywhere discretely - of course I'd also prefer to be able to turn off this feature for an old school vacation from it all.

Most of the other enhancements like super-strength, super speed, flying, etc... I am comfortable leaving to wearable technology - I guess I'm kind of a luddite in that regard.

As far as re-programing yourself - I guess this new show the Dollhouse will show the up and downside of something like that - but in my humble opinion that's kind of pointless to actually make yourself into someone else.

Fly said at December 18, 2008 2:19 PM:

"...but in my humble opinion that's kind of pointless to actually make yourself into someone else"

Are you a different person from the baby you once were? If you had a stroke would you be a different person? If you get drunk are you a different person? Does education make you a different person? If you suddenly acquire a billion dollars are you a different person? What types of changes are growth of the person vs. destruction of the person?

From my perceptive, "I" am strongly connected to my brain and body. If I break my toe, "I" will feel the pain tomorrow...not some stranger. If "I" rejuvenate my hippocampus with enhanced stem cells then "I" will experience improved memory. As long as I'm enhancing my body using engineered human stem cells I'm fairly confident that my internal experience of self will be preserved. That being the case, I wouldn't care what human, animal, bacteria, or engineer supplied the DNA or the cells that improved "my" abilities.

Fly said at December 18, 2008 2:44 PM:

By the way, "I" didn't type "perceptive" in the above paragraph. "I" thought "perspective" which some brain module then mangled while tranlating "my" thoughts into typed words. That module needs an upgrade.

James Bowery said at December 18, 2008 3:28 PM:

I want an upgrade that will let my brain burn all the calories it needs to function at peak performance -- rather than throttling itself back out of fear that a famine might hit at any moment.

mobile said at December 18, 2008 9:22 PM:

I want to hack my olfactory receptors so that I am always smelling vanilla.

kurt9 said at December 18, 2008 10:44 PM:

I would like the ability to live comfortably in increased temperature range and being able to withstand vacuum for up to one hour (more than one hour is probably unlikely). Increased resistance to radiation as well as variable gravity regimes. I definitely desire increased repair and regeneration (i.e. regrowth of severed limbs, etc.) as well. Curing and elimination of aging process goes without saying.

Randall Parker said at December 18, 2008 10:56 PM:


Why do you want to be able to withstand vacuum for an hour? Variable gravity regimes?

Xenophon Hendrix,

How is tougher skin going to help you live your daily life? Think it'll reduce the odds of accidental death?


I'm not asking you which enhancements will help you live on other planets. We aren't going to move to other planets next year or the next decade. I'm asking which enhancements will enrich your life next year.

kurt9 said at December 18, 2008 11:21 PM:


The kind of transhumanist enhancements you are referring to will not be available in the next decade. We're talking a period of several decades (3-4 decades is my guess). I think O'neill style space colonization is plausible in this time frame, especially with synthetic biology or other kind of nanotechnology. Besides, what's the point of living for centuries or millenia as a super-enhanced transhuman if you never leave Earth? Transhumanism is an outgrowth of the L-5 space movement. The idea of living "forever" is to always go to new places and do new things. There is no point to transhumanism and radically extended life-spans without such openness. I don't want to stay here for more than 50-100 years.

Mthson said at December 19, 2008 1:09 AM:

The problem with going to new places is that they all seem informationally the same after a while. Not quite as complex as solving sophisticated problems or achieving a milestone in one's professional life (which benefit everyone).

Brett Bellmore said at December 19, 2008 4:41 AM:

In the near term, I'd like an upgrade to my intestinal flora, so that they'd produce the full spectrum of vitamins, and convert lard into Omega 3 fatty acids. While chelating and passing any heavy metals. And able to be updated to produce any suplements I need, such as SAMe.

Essentially, I see no reason my body shouldn't be able to eat essentially anything, so long as it's got enough calories, and the raw materials to MAKE my nutritional requirements. I want to be able to live on Buffalo wings and nachos, *and be healthy*. And I see no technical reason THAT couldn't be available in a decade or so. Major regulatory obstacles, though.

Further out, I'd like to become one of the "Chessmen of Mars", if you've read that Edgar Rice Burroughs classic: The brain is the only really important part, I'd like mine upgraded and reinforced, provided with a modular interconnect scheme, so that body transplants would be a snap.

A subcutaneous network of diamond fibers, to prevent cuts? Bones that are more like really stiff rubber, that bend instead of break when overstressed? Eliminate aging, and accidents would still limit us to 150-200 years, not to mention that broken bones are incredibly inconvenient when they happen.

philw1776 said at December 19, 2008 9:44 AM:

Around a decade ago Sky & Telescope had a neat article about the max vision enhancement keeping the size of a human eyeball constant that a tech improved vision system could deliver. As an amateur astronomer and older guy whose super vision has deteriorated, that enhancement would be my 1st choice. The stars...

Minor enhancement like the ability to consume single malt scotch w/o wieght gain or geting biffed would be nice.

Xenophon Hendrix said at December 19, 2008 3:48 PM:

"How is tougher skin going to help you live your daily life? Think it'll reduce the odds of accidental death?"

Mostly, I'm always sporting various bangs and wounds that I don't remember inflicting upon myself. I've been that way ever since I was a little kid.

Randall Parker said at December 19, 2008 4:19 PM:


I think we'll get transhuman upgrades before L-5 colonies. Why? Small human enhancements are far easier, cheaper, and simpler to construct and install than space colonies.

I also think that very few people will move to L-5 colonies as compared to the number who will opt for upgrades.

Look at what we have already. People are already getting enhancements implanted such as pacemakers, artificial joints, and artificial vasculature. The quality of these devices improves with materials advances, computer advances, and microfluidics advances. We are going to get implantable mini-chemical plants in the next 10 years. Artificial pancreases and artificial parts that enhance various metabolic functions will happen long before L5 colonies.


I comment you for thinking about practical benefits for your daily life. Yes, implants that can control metabolism to control weight and prevent hang-overs would have benefits for people as they live their lives today.

We aren't going to get spaceships before we get tons of innovations for our bodies that marketers and biotech companies can cook up and sell in a much shorter time span.

I want 20:5 vision. I used to have 20:15 vision and it was very handy. Someone who had 20:5 told me it was even handier.

I also want to be able to control my circadian rhythm. At least one under active development with human trials for this purpose.

Jerry Martinson said at December 19, 2008 10:38 PM:

I think the best enhancement would be brain enhancement in the form of direct brain interfacing to the internet. Consider if the you had computer-style memory and calculation if it could be plugged into your human thinking processes in a useful way instead of having to go through your fingertips and eyes. Being nearly omniscient and able to calculate and search for things much faster than how computers can do it today would be amazing.

Allan said at December 20, 2008 1:17 PM:

First I want something to fix the tinnitus

Next, I want a bigger penis and a cure for baldness.

Then, about some gills so I can breath underwater without have to strap tanks on.

And radiation resistance so I can live in the L5 colony.

That's enough for now.

Jerry Martinson said at December 21, 2008 12:49 AM:

Some of the requests reveal a philosophical dilemma. People often are requesting for changes that give their primitive parts of the brain pleasure. But aren't these base instincts largely vestigial? We distort our lives, sometimes in very stupid ways, by thinking with our d*cks. Shouldn't we seek to eliminate the vestigial pleasure/pain instincts?

Jonathan said at December 22, 2008 1:05 PM:

I want to be trilions of times more intelligent. Then, I will think of some more interesting things to enhance.

Brett.Bellmore said at December 22, 2008 2:01 PM:

"Shouldn't we seek to eliminate the vestigial pleasure/pain instincts?"

Barring an enormous, from the ground up redesign of the entire nervous system, if you did that people would just lie there like inert lumps. You're talking about abolishing the fundamental grounding of all vertebrate motivation.

Randall Parker said at December 22, 2008 9:16 PM:

Just suppose we seek to eliminate the vestigial pleasure/pain instincts. Which pleasure/pain instincts should we retain as no longer vestigial?

aden said at March 22, 2009 3:25 AM:

ther is no actual visual cortex it is only a sencory cortex the translates the signal into "images" if oyu go blind it changes to all oters all at once, you see the vicual cortex can funcion with any sensory organ including skin but none of the others can funtion for vision, thus proving there is no visuial cortex only a secondary cortex that handles images till it is needed by another sence,even when you close your eyes for that instant your visual cortex is altered for all other sences, this is the reason why the blind can funtion better than the deaf,the adio center doesnt multitask it is a single function system this is why vision would be easiest to alter ther is no set baseline for it, only for the eye its self,

dr blue/ aka japeto the puppet master

Dustin said at June 3, 2009 11:28 PM:

I Want an uploadable memory port say i don't know how to disarm a nuke so i download program which teaches my brain to disarm a nuke or fly a stealth fighter what ever the task might be. i would also like to have super tough skeleton. shocks in my in my kness along with hydrolic legs so i can jump higher and take longer falls without being injured. infra red with range finding vision which also records what i see and hooks up to satellites so i can pick up live images any where in the world . sonar hearing like a super game ear which is also hooked up to satelittes to hear conversations any where in the world . and replaceable nuke powered heart.

i guess i can wish
Dustin M Rogers

Clark Anderson Kerns said at September 13, 2010 10:19 AM:

i'd be like captain america with herculean strength, superhuman speed, superhuman dexterity, superhuman hearing, superhuman intelligence, superhuman agility, superhuman accuracy, superhuman reflexes & an enhanced brain potential.

Izumi said at December 5, 2011 6:06 PM:

Hey names Izumi Kido well i was wondering if anyone you are interested in helping me make a full artificial body that looks acts and can feel just like a human then see if we can transfer human consciousness into it I'm not a crack pot i just believe we can do it i just need help if u think it would be cool to try email me at I'm for real i really want try this even if i have to use me as a test subject for the transfer deal.

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