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A future to consider

“The human spirit must prevail over technology” – Einstein

When last did you take stock of just how your life is consumed, influenced and shaped by technology?

I know that you think you know.

Do you really know?

Gerd Leonhard, a Swiss futurist states that our devices, increasingly referred to as our external brain, are quickly morphing from knowing me, to representing me, to being me.

So what do the experts believe the next phase of life on Earth could look like?

Neo-Humanity

Let’s just say that this is an entirely new form of human, however, the definition is provided by leading researchers, scientists and futurologists from the 2045 Initiative.

These global teams have predicted that there is strong reason to believe that in the middle of the 21st century, humanity will undergo a powerful transformation comparable in its significance to the appearance of life on Earth. There are numerous interesting reasons given for this and you can read the background and context on 2045.com, however, as a result of these events, in the best-case scenario, this will give rise to a new form of society which is referred to as neo-humanity.

Others refer to this period as the era of technium, the next species, one where man and machine have become so interwoven that one can no longer refer to it as human. Definitely not human as we know it today.

Neo-humanity is expected to provide new meaning to peoples lives; new values and goals, changing the physical nature of man, making humans immortal, free and liberated from the boundaries of time and space.

Now one cannot be certain whether this is a case of “be careful of what you wish for”. Man’s search for the immortal transcends generations, and who does not want to live forever? Personally, I sense a whisper, deep inside warning, to be aware of all things referred to as only “sugar and spice”.

Either way, the view is that all previous development undergone by humanity may end up having been only preparation for this unprecedented evolutionary leap – the merging of man and machine, and claims of solving all of the challenges man has had to struggle with for millions of years.

Where is the trick question?

Nothing in life is all light. Shadow is always lurking around. The question is whether we will notice.

Some initial neo-humanity goals and tasks:
  • Conquering age and dying universally
  • Being capable of free, boundless movement in space
  • Providing everyone with the opportunity to acquire multiple bodies or carriers
  • The ability to operate across multiple realities

Ok, I know this all sounds like it comes straight from a new box office hit, however, slow down for a minute and let’s take a look around us.

Our current reality

Connectivity is the new oxygen. Music is mobile. Movies are mobile. Banking is mobile. Dating is mobile. Wearables are the new normal. Yes, you have one, that “FitBit” or your Garmin watch linked to your app and medical aid. You are connected, it’s merely not internal at this point.

Data is the new oil of the digital age.

New York City already has more electric vehicle charging stations than gas stations. Human genome sequencing costs have already dropped from $10 million in 2008 to $800 today. Man and machine are increasingly merging by means of new interfaces such as augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), implants and brain-computer interfaces (BCI) and body parts engineered by nanotechnology and synthetic biology.

When things such as nanobots or communications implants in our brains become possible, who will decide what is human?

Most people are using Siri or Alexa, Google Maps, all forms of Intelligent Digital Assistants (IDA’s) – devices constantly listening to us.

How many of your children find going anywhere, such as the beach, a real struggle since there is no WiFi?

Google knows more about your partner and children than you do.

How many of you think of “offline” as the new luxury?

It is predicted that resorts offering a “disconnected” experience in the future will become some of the most expensive vacations spots on planet Earth. Experiences that only the super-rich will be able to afford. The rest will be doomed to the invasion and control of permanent connectivity.

How probable is a neo-humanity future?

Oxford academic Nick Borstrom believes it will not be long before the super intelligence of AI systems will learn faster and out-think humans in almost every regard. The view is that a single computer will surpass the processing power of all human brains combined by 2050. There are already discussions taking place around the very controversial topic of ectogenesis, the idea of growing a baby outside a woman’s body in an artificial womb. This is expected to be a reality within the next 15 years.

Children barely need to know how to write anymore and it’s not far off that computers will listen and transcribe everything we say to them. Today few people bother investing in real relationships anymore, and soon they will be able to have relationships and sex with digital equivalents using augmented reality, virtual reality and robots.

Who needs to learn new languages any longer? Our translation apps will fill any gaps with speed and efficiency impossible to humans.

Technology has always been created to improve human wellbeing. It seems, however, that soon technology will be used to improve humans themselves. What happens when being merely human is no longer enough to ensure that you are hired, when being augmented is a standard requirement to ensure you are employable?

Some futurists believe that on a scale of 1 to 100 of what digitisation could be, we are only at 5 and we are already close to spiralling out of control.

Will disconnecting in the future cost you? Will your medical aid premium increase if you disconnect and your food intake and urine measures cannot be sent to your medical aid? Will your payment device, which is linked to your medical aid, not process the payment of an item you should not be eating given your specific medical condition? Will you be able to travel or be employed in the future if you are not vaccinated or augmented? Will you have the right not to be fired because you are not as efficient as your augmented counterpart?

Think about this

The future does not just happen to us, it is created by us, every day, and we will be held responsible for the decisions we make at this very moment. We need to find a balanced way forward which allows us to embrace technology without us becoming technology.

Technology should remain a tool in our lives and not become the purpose in and of itself.

Will machines have empathy, compassion and consciousness? We need to remember that a simulated reality is not reality itself, or is it?

How much de-humanising will be encouraged and embraced before it is too late to realise that we have lost the essence of being human?

Will we eventually prefer relationships with machines than with people? How far are we from this?

Gerd asks the following question: “Will we be content with having conversations with our digital assistants, eating 3D printed food, travelling instantly to virtual worlds, ordering on-demand, personalised services delivered to our smart homes by drones or via the cloud, and literally being serviced by robots”?

Our challenge, dear reader, is to find that delicate balance, the one essential to retaining our humanity before it becomes too late.

Will we?

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