The following essay is written by Coco Dwyer and Ruby Mumford of Star of the Sea College in Brighton, Victoria and is a runner-up in the 2018 UNSW Bragg Writing Prize. Coco and Ruby’s essay is responding to the theme of ‘Technology and Tomorrow’.
Technology is not only all around us, it’s inside us
by Coco Dwyer and Ruby Mumford
The future of technology is not all around us, it’s inside us. In the words of Elon Musk: ‘We are already cyborgs’.
With the use of medicine, glasses, hearing aids and the abundant technology available to all who can afford it, we are expanding the natural capabilities of the human body every day.
Through the exciting world of biohacking and the seemingly inevitable future that is transhumanism, science is reaching new heights. And as this technology embeds itself into our everyday lives and inside our physical bodies, we may be prompted to ask: how long until we are more computer than human?
A growing subculture
Biohacking is a growing subculture that explores the ways in which we can alter our own bodies; not only to repair it, but to enhance it. Biohacking interventions range from aesthetic modification to complex technology being implanted into people’s bodies.
Founder of Cyborg Foundation and the world’s first human cyborg, Neil Harbisson states that ‘life will be much more exciting when we stop creating applications for our mobile phones and start creating applications for our own bodies’.
Neil Harbisson, the world’s first human cyborg
Harbisson was born with a rare and extreme form of colour blindness; he sees the world only in shades of grey, and he has worked with scientists to develop a groundbreaking ‘third eye’. This mechanical eye detects the frequencies of colours and plays each shade as a different frequency, allowing Harbisson to experience colour though sound.
The antenna that is attached to a chip in the back of his scalp has been adapted to detect frequencies that are undetectable to the average human eyes, allowing him to go beyond the human visible light spectrum.
Harbisson can hear the inferred signal from a TV remote and can even tell if there are high UV rays present on a particular day. With the technology that is permanently attached to him, Harbisson’s futuristic ‘third eye’ is legally a part of his body.
He remarks that ‘I don’t feel that I am wearing technology, I feel that I am technology’. This exceptional example of biohacking is pushing the boundaries of integrated technology.
This next stage of human evolution, in which computers and machinery are extensions of our skin and bones, is called transhumanism.
Transhumanism is a movement defined by the idea that humans are in a comparatively early stage of development and with the use of technology we can evolve past our current cellular form. There is much debate about the moral implications of this, but if we advance artificial intelligence and integrate computer systems into the human body, it seems that a whole new potential for some members of the human race might not be too far away.
As the lines between human and machine begin to blur, how long does the human race have left until we become completely unrecognisable? Melbourne-based artist Stelarc, known for having a biocompatible scaffold in the shape of an ear surgically inserted into his arm, begs a similar question when he states that with the use of biohacking and 3D printed organs ‘theoretically, an individual might not die’.
Toying with immortality
Mortality has always been a core part of what it means to be human. With nanobots circulating the bloodstream, chips implanted into the brain, vision that never fails and organs ready to be grown, we may not be seen to be entirely human.
Cambridge University lecturer David Trippett believes that as a result of transhumanism there will be ‘an iteration of Homo sapiens enhanced or augmented, but still fundamentally human’. If we use Trippett’s perspective then we can come to the conclusion that as a transhuman race we will still be human, but the social context of what it means to be human will change, as well as its definition.
The future of biohacking
As humanity continues to forge forward, bringing to life the seemingly impossible every day, is it time to stop to consider the consequences? Or should we continue to push the boundaries of our modern world? The art and science of biohacking is expanding or bridging the gap between humans and computers.
Transhumanism may seem like a sci-fi concept, but as humanity continues on its evolutionary path it will likely become commonplace. Whatever our futures hold, it seems inevitable that technology will not simply evolve around us, but inside us.
Author: STEM Contributor
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