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Science fiction writers have long paid homage to the idea of cyborgs, the drive to consistently improve using technology rather than to comply with the natural decline of age. It feeds the human desire to reach a state of superiority. When the rest of humanity has finally accepted persons of transgender, they will likely be facing an even more drastic paradigm change. Humans of the future will undergo a new transition when they finally merge with technology to become transhumans, elegant machines that are both organic and inorganic. The transition is beginning even now with three incredible inventions.
The cultural movement of transhumanism opens up a world of possibilities for a future of replaceable organs and simple, internal health maintenance. Cyborgs and transhumans have often been portrayed as violent, unfeeling and alien-like creatures that are meant to be feared due to their unnatural characteristics. The long running series Star Trek has seen many iterations and spin-offs. A prominent antagonist of the franchise is the alien race known as the Borg. The Borg are an antagonistic, totalitarian collective of various alien races that have been forcibly converted, or “assimilated” into a hive-mind, causing them to lose all personal identity. Similarly, the cyborg of The Terminator was a ruthless assassin bent on destroying a woman’s life, her future child and the future of humanity.
The first device to open the door to a future of transhumans is worn by artist, Neil Harbisson, who offers a glaring contrast to the aforementioned fictional media trend in being the first cyborg to be recognized by a governmental entity. Harbisson wears a device that he affectionately calls his “Eyeborg.” The Eyeborg works by using a head-mounted antenna to sense the colors in front of the wearer and translating them into sound waves that the wearer can perceive through bone conduction. In his Technology, Entertainment and Design (TED) talk, Harbisson references his ability to perceive human skin color as sound by saying that, “I thought that humans were black and white, which is completely false. There is no white skins and there is no black skins. Human skins range from very light shades of orange and very, very dark shades of orange. We are never black or white.”
Brain implants to assist the mental faculties of impaired combat veterans are being developed by Boston researchers as a part of President Barack Obama’s BRAIN Initiative. The project, which was announced last year, is set to take five years with a hefty price tag of $30 million. An additional team of developers at the University of California, San Francisco will be receiving another $26 million to work on the transhumanist project of their own. The technology being used in the brain implants is already being used widely in a more simplistic sense. Deep brain stimulators are being used in the brains of patients with Parkinson’s Disease to ease the sometimes crippling tremors associated with the condition.
Google, the household brand that revolutionized the way people search the internet, recently unveiled a high tech contact lens. The lens features an integrated camera off to the side of the lens to prevent the device from obstructing the wearer’s vision. As the wearer’s eye moves, the camera also follows suit. Google’s tech lenses are the next step up from Google Glass. The technology has the possibility to aid the visually impaired in experiencing their world with more detail while granting superhuman-like abilities to the users in possession of working sight. Telescopic vision and infrared/night vision are just two of the possible benefits of wearing the Google lenses.
In science fiction literature featuring the concept of transhumans, microscopic nanobots are often referred to as the “grey goo.” Nanobots have been in development by various research teams throughout the world for years, but an Australian team in particular is focusing on a design that feeds off of the kinetic energy provided by blood flow to power the tiny motors. The nanobots will be capable of reaching areas all throughout the human body, including the brain. These nanobots could have the ability to aid in or perform surgeries from inside the body. Other nanobots in development are being given various objectives such as gathering information about the patient’s health and storing it in a cloud database to be analyzed by a healthcare professional.
The future of humanity looks far more mechanical than ever before. Futurist and Google’s chief of engineering, Ray Kurzweil estimates that man will meld with machines completely to usher in the technological singularity and an age of partially robotic transhumans in 2045. The early stages of the singularity are unfolding today in 2014 with these three incredible devices from around the world.
By Faye Barton