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Beyond Human, Part 3. As we steadily merge with our technology, the focus is on devices that enhance our senses and minds and knit us together in new ways.
Members of a lab at the University of Toronto have been pioneering the computerized life style. They wear their own personalized systems, full time, computer: camera, optical display, all connected to the world wide web. The most sophisticated rig is worn by the head of this unique lab, Steve Mann.
All you can see is a pair of sunglasses. But his computer is tucked into his pocket, the frame fitted with a miniature camera. His screen is projected directly onto his retina.
For Mann and his band of student-cyborgs, the larger question is not simply one of technology, but sociology. They have a utopian hope–that their inventions can foster new ways for people to connect, a new vocabularly of shared experiences.
I think it is quite, quite different and quite interesting because people make this world of their own. Gives, it is a very existential principle of being able to create one’s own world mastery over one’s own destiny, and kind of a little bit of a little bit getting back to the idea of a little bit of a self created world.
If Steve Mann is concerned about preserving a sense of community, it’s because he sees whats coming: a wave that’s about to break over our society, digital wave that will shift the flow of information onto vast wireless networks with benefits and perils for the individual.
It’s the old song and dance for a new way of doing business, a new way of living. Just how pervasive will it be? Computers. Wireless communicators. They’re no longer just technology, but fashion accessories.
Everything from databases to diagnostic chips are being marketed as this year’s hot items for the fashion forward. Soon you too will be able to wear the internet, like a shirt or a necklace.
Carry around vital information on a pendant. Check out the web on your glasses. Call up information on anything, or anyone, you want, whenever you need it.
But if we embrace this cautiously then we’ll have nothing more threatening than a return to the old village that our ancestors lived in…in which they knew everybody. They knew everybody’s reputation. Only now instead of 1000 people in the surrounding area, which our brains and eyes can handle, our augmented brains and eyes will be able to know the reputations of anyone we meet in a world of ten billion fellow citizens.
Recent studies estimate that in the coming decade our environment will be fitted with thousands of wireless devices for every human: security cameras, microphones, traffic and environmental sensors, each with a microprocessor brain.
They’ll form a planetary web. Billions of monitors managing the flow of people and resources, delivering enormous quantites of data to anyone who wishes to tap in.
Will this web become intelligent in its own right? And what will it mean for us as individuals?
The cyborg revolution is not turning out the way we once thought.
As we steadily merge with our technological inventions, the focus is not superbodies or replacement parts, the ability to survive in space. Instead, the focus is our expanding relationship with the computer, the invention of devices that enhance our senses and minds, and knit us together in ways we’ve never imagined.
Right now we are witnessing an event that is of evolutionary…of an evolutionary significance that is equivalent to that when single celled organisms join together to form multi-celled organisms, to create all of the animals and plants on the earth today, that we are aggregating into a super organism that is glued together by all of our technology and it can be seen most organically in the in the internet which almost has a life of its own.
Well this is just the beginning, imagine where this is going to be a hundred years from now. A thousand years from now – this is a length of time that is just an instant in terms of evolutionary time, and yet it will be enough to radically transform everything about life and it is no surprise that the powers of this super organism are now feeding back and are reshaping who we are, and changing our very selves.
As we step out into the future, our wearables in place, our chips implanted within us, the possibilities of a cyborg life spread out before us.
A great river of information will flow all around us. Will we choose to tap into this vast stream of data and shared experience? Will this new world swallow us up, stripping us of autonomy and privacy? Or will it free us in ways we can’t imagine? The cyborg future is still being written.