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How long will the humble ‘app’ remain relevant?
Some say, not long. In fact, we’re fusing our bodies with technology at an accelerating rate, and this is where we’re heading as a species.
Some companies are even touting the possibility of immortally through technology. What would be the implications of such a development? What would be your reaction to it?
We only need to look at the examples how humans are merging with technology today to realise the future, in many ways, has already arrived. This trend is called ‘Transhumanisim’ (or ‘h+’ for short) and it’s one of the most thought provoking, beneficial, and frightening trends around.
Ready to become a cyborg? Good, we’re going to live forever.
Back in 2012 The National Intelligence Council predicted that transhuman technologies would be used for:
1. Human augmentation — to assist work, the military and the elderly
2. Prosthetics — that integrate with the body
3. Brain-machines — to enhance strength, speed and provide “superhuman” capabilities.
Fast-forward four years, and they’re on the mark…
Companies are actually taking this one step further and are working towards being the “first” in a special transhuman niche or transhuman breakthrough. Many believe that through technology, we will be able to live forever.
If you’re thinking that this is pure science fiction (and many of you will), then you may want to think again. Take Humai for example. They are the latest company to hit the headlines claiming they’ll help you reach immortality. There’s also the fascinating ‘2045 Initiative’ that’s headed up by Russian Billionaire, Dmitry Itskov. The 2045 Initiative aims to create…
…technologies enabling the transfer of a individual’s personality to a more advanced non-biological carrier, and extending life, including to the point of immortality
As a concept alone this is highly controversial as it forces a strong reaction in all of us. This is because it speaks to the deep-seated notions of what it really means to be ‘human’.
That’s mildly unsettling, so what’s happening with ‘Transhumanisim’ today?
Let’s take a look at five ‘transhumanist’ developments that have occurred in past few years to gauge where we are.
1: Epicenter — ‘Chipping Humans’ with RFID
Putting aside the potential cancer, security, surgery and ‘mark of the beast’ risks, this on the surface appears helpful — but are we that lazy that we can’t strap on a watch for these features? It certainly challenges ones perception of ‘wearable’ technologies!
2. RIC — First prosthetic leg controlled by brainwaves
As you can see here there’s some way to go to create a ‘super human’ capability, but this technology is as beneficial as it is exciting. Nerve endings are extended to the patients hamstrings, and then sensors relay nerve signals to a computer onboard the prosthetic. Incredible.
3. Argus II Retinal Prosthesis System — Helping the blind see again
Helping the blind to ‘restore some functional vision’. Provides electrical stimulation of the retina to induce visual perception in blind individuals. A mini camera on the patient’s glasses records the view, which is translated into instructions for the retina implant. The implant produces electrical signals, which the brain perceives as light.
4. DARPA– First mind-controlled limb attached to skeleton
Decades of research and $120 million dollars of military funding later, this man can now control his prosthetic hand with his thoughts. Using twin consumer-grade MYO armbands and an advanced robotics hand, Jonny showcases a wide range of movement that mimics a human hand.
5. Neil Harbisson — Brain implant allowing to ‘hear’ colour
A true showcase of humans integrating technology into the body, Neil’s story is quite incredible. Working with a team of engineers and doctors, Neil had an implant placed inside his skull that allows him to ‘hear colour’. The device reads color waves and converts them to vibrations. Those vibrations occur inside his skull, where they are expressed to him as sound. Different colors give off different waves, and in turn, Neil can interpret different sounds as being different colours.
This is but a small taste of what’s out there and what’s to come. From reading dreams, to underground biohackers, to connecting computers directly to our brains with nano-mesh — 2016 will no doubt bring more thought provoking developments in technology.
We are rapidly moving towards a world where it’s not only the impaired that will be integrating technology with his or her bodies for gain — it could be anyone with enough money. There is a fear amongst some that this could lead to the gap between rich and poor widening even further, where only the elite can afford to be disease free and potentially live forever.
No matter what way you look at the trend of transhumanisim, it’s an ethical minefield that’s worth keeping abreast of. Who knows, you might get the opportunity live forever. Well, if you’d like to that is…
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