Ever considered how comfortable we are with our electronic gadgets?
And, dare I say it, dependent upon them?
I don’t know your situation too well so I will take myself as an example.
My smartphone is my lifeline to the world. My touchpoint to my ‘digital self’ (and writing about this digital self is a separate article all together).
My phone expands my capabilities – with it I am able to record memories (or should I say data?) in the form of images and words, to communicate with others, to navigate, to track my food intake, to entertain myself with media (etc)
It’s a surrogate brain. My calendar is an example – I am not particularly good at remembering where I need to be at any time and so have outsourced most of that function (without fail) to my calendar.
You (and me) would probably suck as a hunter gatherer
If you compared your brain to that of a hunter gatherer of 30,000 years ago you might notice that your memory faculties are different, or that your attention span wasn’t quite as long as it needs to be.
Because the body is an adaptive system, and it is adapting to technology. Or put another way, technology is rewiring how our bodies operate.
Which leads me to the next point…
How many steps are we from having of all that wonderful smartphone functionality directly attached to us? Interfaced into your brain, perhaps? I don’t know – for that ask a technologist or a futurist.
Or ask a man called Kevin Warwick – dubbed the ‘World’s First Cyborg’. Kevin, currently Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Research at Coventry University, has got things off to a strong start – with personal modifications that include an RFID chip in his arm (see Project Cyborg for more of the what he’s been upto).
On a slightly more low tech note, some of my closest friends have silicon implants under their skin (not under the breasts, but on the arms – creating a series of ridges). This practice is part of the ‘Body Modification’ subculture.
But what is natural? Clothing? The skins of animals? You could argue that ’technology’ is anything beyond your naked flesh – be it that fancy Apple gadget or the sharp stick you pick up to fend off a wild animal. All of it is stuff that augments our natural human abilities. Body/technological augmentation is perhaps a matter of degree and perspective.
How much is too much? Your call. Where do we draw the line between hip replacement and cortex chips? Do we even draw that line?
If I offered to install a mobile phone into your arm, would you say yes…?
If someone offered to wire my mobile phone into my arm, and interface it with my body (and they gave me some assurance of the process not causing any harm) – I’d say yes. I see no reason not to. For a start I’d never fear losing it again ^_^
Perhaps I am unusual. Perhaps not everybody (of our generation) would be too keen on the idea. I’d understand why. Maybe you hold the flesh sacred for religious reasons. Maybe you’re just scared of metal stuff jammed into your skin (though you may already have a piercing or two..?)
But, as time goes on, the older generations die off and societal norms change (as they inevitably must). I don’t see people resisting for long. After all, kids are growing up with tablets in their hands and Facebook accounts reserved for them by diligent parents…
So, if this were an idealogical war between flesh and ’not flesh’, I’m going to argue that the machines have reached a turning point.
Consciousness, genes and reverse engineering your nature
If this wasn’t quite weird enough for you I’d like to push the boat out a little further.
There’s a parallel from consciousness and genes that we might be able to draw here.
Put simply: Genes ‘gave life’, life lead to consciousness, consciousness (eventually) lead to gene manipulation and the creation of life. Or, put simply, conciousness developed from life, and turned the tables on life.
Now think about consciousness and technology…
Consciousness lead to the creation of technology, which may lead to the creation of consciousness. Or, put simply, technology develops from consciousness and may perhaps turn the tables on consciousness
Or, perhaps this is stretching it :3
But what do we now…?
You don’t have to do anything. But, perhaps bear this in mind when you’re on public transport watching near everybody staring into their phones. Or when you give a tablet to your kid to keep them entertained during a moment of parental frustration :3
Maybe it won’t be Skynet or that computer from Wargames computer nuking everybody. Maybe the machine takeover will be bloodless, and so subtle that we don’t even notice it happen.