This second post in the MEDEF Summer University series – exploring how familiar objects and concepts may have disappeared or changed beyond recognition in 20 years – focuses on the idea of humans as cyborgs. The question posed was: Is singularity – the idea of fusing man and machine to create augmented super humans – a natural and desirable progression of the technological evolution?
MAN + MACHINE
What will come
– Augmented humans, also called Human 2.0 or Super Humans
What will disappear
– Many disabilities will disappear or will even be transformed into advantages
– Death, if transhumanists get their way
The two types of human augmentation: physical and mental
Physical Augmentation encompasses everything from exoskeletons and prosthetics to simply using glasses. Pacemakers and deep brain stimulation implants, now used to treat Parkinson’s, are other examples of how people are already being augmented by machines.
Many prosthetics are so advanced they will soon give the user abilities beyond what is possible with ‘ordinary’ human limbs. Biologically-inspired engineering is being developed so artificial limbs register their movement in the brain.
Mental augmentation ranges from nootropics, smart drugs and cognitive enhancers used by healthy individuals to the idea of enhancing our mental abilities by fusing our brains with machines and artificial super intelligence.
SIGNALS OF CHANGE
From disability to advantage: “In 10–15 years, Paralympics will be better than Olympics. Better records. Run times. Jumps. All of that. Because Olympics is just a celebration of normal human boring bodies.” Hugh Herr, Scientist at the Centre for Extreme Bionics/MIT Media Lab
Boosting human capabilities: In many cases technological or medical advances are made to help the injured, sick or elderly but are then adopted by the healthy or young to boost their lifestyle or performance. The Guardian 2018
Brain health: Nootropics was a global $2.3Bn business in 2015, and is projected to be worth $11.6 billion by 2024. Research and Markets 2017
Transhumanism: The transhumanism movement has been dramatically growing in size – and most of that growth is from millennials and youth. The Huffpost 2016
SINGULARITY BY 2045
Ray Kurzweil’s vision of singularity is a future of unparalleled human-machine synthesis: “I have set the date 2045 for the ‘Singularity’, which is when we will multiply our effective intelligence a billion fold by merging with the intelligence we have created.” Ray Kurzweil, futurist and Google’s Director of Engineering 2018
Machine Powered Humans: “What’s actually happening is [machines] are powering all of us. They’re making us smarter. They may not yet be inside our bodies but, by the 2030s, we will connect our neocortex, the part of our brain where we do our thinking, to the cloud.” Kurzweil in an interview with SXSW 2017
End of death and beginning of resurrection: Kurzweil has predicted that by the 2030s we should be able to send nanobots into people’s brains to extract memories of loved ones. By combining that information with the information in the deceased’s DNA, it should then be possible to create a convincing virtual version of that person.
Eradicating ageing: “It is their [transhumanists’] belief that we can and should eradicate ageing as a cause of death; that we can and should use technology to augment our bodies and our minds; that we can and should merge with machines, remaking ourselves, finally, in the image of our own higher ideals.” Mark O’Connell author of To Be a Machine
The risks of singularity: Nick Bostrom, the founder of Oxford’s Future of Humanity Institute, believes artificial intelligence as promised by the Singularity would end life as we know it. He states: “There are huge existential threats, these are threats to the very survival of life on Earth, from machine intelligence” In Bostrom’s book Superintelligence he writes that, post-Singularity Earth could end up being: “a society of economic miracles and technological awesomeness, with nobody there to benefit … A Disneyland without children.”
Neuralink: Neurotech are direct interfaces between machines and the brain and nervous system. Elon Musk, founder of Tesla, Space X and Neuralink, claims that we are “already digitally superhuman”. He refers to the augmentation that our digital devices are giving us. However, he also believes that we could overcome our relatively slow interaction through typing, or even speaking, by creating a neural interface – letting our brains communicate directly with our devices.
HUMAI: On the farthest end of innovations in AI, singularity and transhumanism is Humai – a robotics / medical research company focused on extending, enhancing and restoring human life. The idea is to transplant the human brain into a bionic body called Humai.
Superflex + Yves Béhar: Power Clothes are for people with reduced muscular strength. Worn under regular clothes, the power suits will provide discrete strength – akin to an exoskeleton – to help older people and others with reduced muscle strength to manage daily actions – for instance, getting out of a chair, climbing stairs, or standing for long periods.
2045 Avatar Project Milestones: 2045.com
Girl with Robot:
Space Shanghai: Kjaer Global
Abstract Future: Daniel Chen via unsplash
HUMAI: Image by HUMAI via Betalist
Aura Power clothing: Image by Fuseproject
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Anne Lise is a futurist and keynote speaker working across the world
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