As I alluded to in a previous post, I posit that it might not be long before the progress of our technological usage reaches a threshold. Whenever I spout off about this topic, I tend to get funny looks, but I encourage everyone to bear with me.
Think about our relationship with technology in just the past fifty years. If I may be poetic, we’ve progressed from computers filling buildings and only able to run the most basic operations to carrying around smartphones equipped with processors many orders of magnitude more capable than the Apollo XI Command Module’s on-board computers. We’ve witnessed the rise of the Arpanet, the Internet, Web 2.0 (a term I still kinda dislike), and real-time photo-realistic graphics rendering. More information can stream across global distances faster each day. And with Moore’s Law, this capacity doubles every 18 months to 2 years.
As far as our behavior goes, we are the most digital-socially integrated group of humans ever, and that too shows no likelihood of abating. We constantly devise new ways to use technology to keep in contact with our circle of friends, monitor our world and create new digital worlds to escape into. So, I ask – absolutely, 100%, I kid you not – seriously: How long until we become a race of cyborgs?
Just to be absolutely clear: I do NOT mean this.
It’s not a big leap. In fact, with the above trends factored in, what used to be a big chasm is rapidly shrinking into what is soon to be a mere crack in the sidewalk. If we continue carrying more powerful and capable technology around with us, increasing our reliance on digital maintenance of our knowledge base, and going where we can with nanotechnology, it can’t be long. Our generation might be cautious but convincible, and generations older probably won’t adopt, but what about those yet to come? There will come a point when I won’t be content with physically interacting with a device when I know a more accurate, more efficient route exists directly with my brain. It’s started with increasingly portable yet capable laptops and phones. The next step will be wearable but separate tech that makes these functions more permanently accessible. After that will be technology that passively observes our nervous system operation to intuit our will into physical manifestations. ( Actually, this device might already do that.) After we’ve contented ourselves with using trained subconscious eye movement to access and display information on a HUD before our eyes, what else could be the next step?
Integration isn’t going to happen overnight. In fact, a lot of these steps have already been taken in crude ways to assist those with injuries or disabilities manage some life functions through alternative means. As we continue to chart these technologies and guide them into more effective use, it will pass the mark of parity with the biological and on to technological superiority. At that point, elective adoption of these technologies will increase and humans will gradually alter themselves for the simple objective benefits afforded.
I won’t commit the classic folly and assign a specific timeframe for when I think this will come to pass, but I will offer that I sincerely believe it will be well within my lifetime. When we reach this threshold, what reason will we have as a culture to ignore it and say we will go no further?
4 thoughts on “For Good Measure: Integrating fully”
One of my greatest joys at the end of the day is that I get to turn off all those electronic pieces of technology (not the lights, of course), turn off the TV, pick up a book, and read. Then I get to make my own version of the picture "painted" for me by the author. If I become a cyborg, how do I turn myself off so I can read?
Good question. I guess the best way that would be facilitated – and guessing at the reception this integration will get makes this a must-have feature – would be an off switch. Even if we have a great array of technological enhancements, it would be important to include a way for the upgrades to power down and return us to a fully organic being.At least for the first generation or so. After that, all bets are off.
I think the technology will someday be there. I do not think that our culture or society will allow us to accept this way of life. We are the most self-centered and individualistic society in the world and history. Conformity is not in our nature. I think that once the technology is there and no one uses it, it will disappear again.
I don't think it is a necessity that cybernetics includes Borg-like cultural/identity homogenization. I don't think anyone would ever give themselves over to having their brain restructured – at least not the parts responsible for identity and personality. I'm thinking primarily of upgrading sub-optimal biological function (mal-formed hearts, non-functional eyes/optic nerves, etc). Voluntary enhancement might happen later, sure. And I cant say that I wouldn't trade my genetically pre-disposed to early failure heart for a stable cybernetic version. I don't think any brain function aside from the most basic read/write is at stake.