I’m fond of pointing out to people that we are all bionic now. We may not have microchips in our heads, or robot arms that give us the strength to lift cars, but personal technology has become integral to the way we live our lives. Do you still remember phone numbers? Addresses? Together the cloud and my ever-varying collection of devices make up for my appalling lack of memory (most of the time), and near non-existent sense of direction.
More than that though, technology has supercharged my capabilities. It allows me to do more than I could as a purely biological being. I am both more productive, and more creative. I can find information faster, correct errors quicker, and waste less time on administration. Alone I can complete work that may have needed a team in the past: not only because of the increased productivity but because technology has ‘de-skilled’ certain tasks. My business administration is largely handled by software in the cloud.
When considered for the first time, this change creates a lot of fear. Will robots make us redundant? What happens if the technology fails? Are we not reliant on sharing too much of our personal data? None of these questions have been fully answered, and perhaps they cannot be today.
But the evidence seems to suggest that man still has much to offer. And if we can exert control over how our technology is provided, and our data used, I would argue that the rewards outweigh the risks.
Take the example of chess, as highlighted in the brilliant book, The Second Machine Age. It’s a few years since a computer first beat a grandmaster at chess. Supercomputers now dominate human players in one on one competitions. But pair humans and computers together – even when the human are just amateur players, and the computers are just standard laptops? They are unbeatable, by grandmaster or by supercomputer. Bionic is best.
Like it or not, we are only going to be more ‘borg in the future. Personally I don’t think this is a bad thing. I like the idea of an expanded consciousness, enhanced capabilities. For those who worry that we will be a nation of couch potatoes, isolated from human interaction by our screens I say look at the evidence. What are the most common uses of the web? Searches for knowledge and social interactions. Smartphones and social networks are increasingly used to stitch the digital world and the physical together, not separate them.
Now is the time to begin thinking about your future cyborg self and consider what you’re going to do with your expanded capabilities. And to consider what makes the human you, unique? When many tasks and jobs have been handed over to the machines, what will contribute?