Technology and connectivity has rapidly become ingrained in our day-to-day lives. Looking around me on the crowded tube this morning, I would say 90% of my fellow commuters had headphones in listening to MP3s, or hunched over a smartphone flicking through Facebook or playing a game. Admittedly I did have to look up from my own smartphone to see them. There is a growing group that are taking the next step in integrating technology into everyday activities. Ideas previously bandied around in sci-fi films, novels and computer games of only a few years ago are now becoming reality.
A man in Denver has dubbed himself ‘the most connected man on earth’, who uses a huge variety of devices and applications to track and analyse his life. Fitness trackers tell him how many calories he has burned, wearable cameras photograph his entire day, and a posture checker alerts him when he isn’t sitting up straight. He claims that through capturing this data about his life on what he calls his ‘inner-net’ he feels he has become healthier and more productive simply through increasing his self-awareness.
At a more extreme end of this spectrum are ‘biohackers’, who implant themselves with various augmentations. These tech advanced people range from having magnets under fingertips in order feel electromagnetic fields, a compass embedded under the skin that vibrates lightly when you face north, to entire computers that log and transmits data about vital signs to an Android phone. There are a number of websites dedicated to step-by-step guides for these DIY surgeries, like a wikiHow for wannabe cyborgs. While these procedures sound (and probably are) pretty grizzly, followers of Deus Ex and Bioshock games would be familiar with the ideas behind them.
A philosophy based around this augmentation, ‘Transhumanism’, has appeared – the idea that humans can better their existence and improve their abilities through the use of technology. The end goal is to become a ‘Posthuman’ – a kind of robotic version of a Buddhist bodhisattva.
Despite this sounding like the actions and ideas of sci-fi obsessed geeks, this sort of augmentation is all around us today. Hearing conditions are being eradicated with implants on the brain, and robotic prosthetics are replacing lost or non-functioning limbs.
This goes to show that our attitude towards technology is fundamentally changing. Technology is no longer a just tool to help us connect, compute and communicate, but is now a way to overcome our physical human limitations.