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Imagine Beyond: Superhuman or Lost Human
Remember when you were a kid, running around with your friends, imagining having superpowers and fighting the bad guys? Eventually you outgrew it and are now having a regular human job, but a lot of scientists are driven by their imaginations and are working on technologies to augment ourselves into superhumans.
Human augmentation can aid produce better prosthetics or reduce genetic disorders, and could create a better life for a lot of people – but it also raises the question of where to draw the line: Where does a human stop being human and start becoming a machine?
We humans have been augmenting our bodies for thousands of years. And we have come a long way from wooden legs to microprocessor prosthetics. It is not just about giving people the opportunity to be independent, after losing an arm or a leg – it is giving back the quality of life everybody deserves. In the future robotic limbs could be integrated into the human body, boosting our biological capabilities. Similar to an upgrade: Human 2.0.
Technology Has its Price
State-of-the-art technology and design have their price. You get what you can pay for. If you cannot afford it you are not getting it. Nowadays it may be that you cannot afford to get a modern and perfectly fitted microprocessor prosthetics. In the future it may lead to parallel universes in one world. An example of this dystopian view is the Netflix series Altered Carbon: The wealthiest people can afford to choose every type of body they want or what kind of augmentation they want to integrate in those bodies, while the rest of humanity has to take what is given to them – like the 8 year old girl which was "resleeved" into the body of a middle aged woman.
When Does Humanity Stop?
Humanity may had millions of years to evolve, but can we still stay human, if we are filled with technology? Imagine if you could preserve yourself, the way you think, the way you talk, what you like or dislike and be able to live forever in different synthetic bodies. Would it still be you, or just a copy of who you used to be– an artificial intelligence which got fed with the data of you and how you process information? If someone has his genetics transformed so that they could process information faster and remember things better than anyone around him, are they still the same person they were before? Will genetically engineered people be a normality, and regular born humans discriminated, like in the movie Gattaca?
For now, we cannot say if our future will be more a utopia or dystopia. For all we know scientists are creating technology to improve our lives day by day, which makes me optimistic about how our society will be tomorrow.
Meet Mike Jones who lost his leg in a motor accident but with the help of an artificial limb, he felt as if he had his leg back again. Scientists across the world are working hard on robotic limbs that can be integrated into our human bodies in a way that they become better than our biological limbs. Leaving us with the question... will we be able to become super humans at some point?
Imagine Beyond is a new web series about human augmentation. We are at an exciting stage of evolution. What was science-fiction is now becoming fact and it is happening faster than most of us expected. Missed the first episode? Check it out here.
Human augmentation is not a new phenomenon. We have been augmenting ourselves for thousands of years. As artist, composer Brian Eno explains: 'The spear is an augmented arm. The hammer is an augmented fist.' However, we are now at an exciting stage of evolution. What was science-fiction is now becoming fact and it is happening faster than most of us expected. But what is human augmentation? How will technology change our minds and bodies? And why does it matter?
Our new series Imagine Beyond takes on these questions to show how human augmentation can shape the world as we know it. But first, let's understand what human augmentation actually is.
What is Human Augmentation?
"The field of human augmentation (sometimes referred to as "Human 2.0") focuses on creating cognitive and physical improvements as an integral part of the human body. An example is using active control systems to create limb prosthetics with characteristics that can exceed the highest natural human performance." (gartner.com)
How Ethical is Human Augmentation?
Still, if we think of human augmentation, we imagine cyborgs and maybe even Daleks. But it is so much more. You might remember the movie Transcendence, where Will Caster's consciousness is uploaded onto a computer, and thus turning himself into artificial intelligence. It didn't take long before the first ethical questions popped up: Is this AI really Will? Is it dangerous for an AI to be able to think like a human and not just for the purpose it has been programmed for? Is it okay to take over the bodies of other people for doing greater good?
Human Augmentation: Too Science Fiction?
You might think that this is way too science fiction, but researchers are already working on transcending our minds into computers which could lead to us learning faster, not being tied to one location or even body. Just imagine the possibilities. Scenarios such as in Netflix' Altered Carbon do not seem that far-fetched anymore; we could cheat illness and death because we would be more than "just" our DNA. We are in the middle of the next step of our human evolution and I am excited about what is to come.
In our new web series Imagine Beyond we at Tomorrow Unlocked want to show you where we stand today and how our human self may be augmented in the future, making our life easier and also better.