How Augmented Are You?

I guess you could call me a transhumanist as I’ve got a keen interest in any technology that has the ability to augment us humans in some way. For a long time much of the stuff I dreamed or postulated about was firmly fixed in the world of sci-fi and fantasy. However the past couple decades have seen technological changes happening in such a fast pace that, at least in some form, have technologies that boost our attributes beyond what they were capable of naturally. I’d never really thought about it until I started considering how I use technology in my everyday life and just how far technology had advanced some of my abilities.

The best example I can think of this is probably my career. You see whilst I owe much of knowledge in the area of IT to the fact that I’ve been exposed to it for so long the vast majority of my knowledge doesn’t reside in my head, it lies out there in Internet waiting to be called upon. For many of us who’ve reached the upper echelons of the IT world our real ability isn’t the rote memorization of solutions, more it is our ability to search the Internet and the heuristic approach we take to tackling new problems. In that way then the Internet, and really all forms of information storage that preceded it, act as a kind of external memory that we are able to call upon to augment our own when required. In that sense we have already taken the first steps into the world of transhumanism and you’d be surprised at just how far along we are today.

For the everyday person in a developed world I’d say that they’re already augmented in several ways. With Internet penetration exceeding 60%in the developed world there’s a sizable amount of people that have at their beck and call untold seas of information. Additionally many of those same people would cellphones which, in addition to their capability as a memory enhancement device, also vastly increase the ability for someone to communicate with other people. Whilst this isn’t your traditional sci-fi type transhumanist idea it is in fact the beginnings of such a movement. This feeds into the fact that many technologies now seek to integrate more personally with our lives, with some coming to the point of being a necessity.

For all this wishy-washy type transhumanist stuff there is in fact some recent developments that, until quite recently, were completely sci-fi. Take for instance robotic exoskeletons, something which everyone is familiar with since the release of the movie Aliens. At the time it was pure fantasy as such a suit would require an energy source that just couldn’t exist at the time. Whilst we don’t have powerloaders today we do in fact have two devices that are quite closely related to it. The first is the HULC exoskeleton which is capable of carrying itself and an additional 90kgs of equipment, placing no burden on its wearer. The second is the REX robotic exoskeleton which gives back the ability to walk to those who have lost it. Humanity it seems is on the cusp of overcoming nearly all of our limitations, even those that were once in the realm of fantasy.

Take a step back and look at how augmented your life is today. Since you’re reading this blog you’ve already got more information at your finger tips than any of your ancestors had in their entire world. There are more subtle things, like say your dish washer, that enable you to complete many tasks at once. Each one of those is an augmentation to you allowing you to achieve much more than you would’ve been able to in the past. The effects of such augmentations are wide spread and all of them have an accelerating effect. The next decade looks to be bright with innovations that bring human capability to places that are still in the realms of sci-fi and I for one can’t wait to see what it brings.

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  1. I think you are getting a bit far ahead of yourself here. I agree with what you are saying, but with the majority of people having access to computing power and knowledge beyond anything in the history of man… and we watch Master Chef.
    Just because we have this does not mean we use it. Yes the dishwasher means we can do more, that usually means, watch more TV. We have the internet but we mostly use it for watching funny video’s about cats. We have phones which are more powerful than older supercomputers and we use them for facebook.
    With all this, people are still dumb (note of course I exclude myself and most of my friends from the above statements.. ;D! ).

  2. True although I’d still argue that we’re far more capable then we’ve previously been thanks to innovations in technology. Whilst we may use such advances to rather inane ends we’re still augmenting human ability past that was possible. Augmentation doesn’t necessarily mean someone becomes more intelligent or insightful, just that they are able to accomplish things that aren’t possible within the soft fleshy confines of their body.

    The idea does have quite a wide application as the invention of simple tools like a spear could also be described as human augmentation. Still with the transhumanist movement being quite a modern idea it seems to exclude these kinds of primitive augmentations. They do recognise that some of the ideals appear quite frequently as far as the Renaissance.

     

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