It seems that the next step in human evolution is becoming a part robot.
In a sense, humans are already cyborgs. This means that we are so closely linked to electronic devices all the time that we could largely not maintain the life we live without their help.
However, while today humans may already look like cyborgs to humans of the past, we still have a long way to go before most of us use mechanical implants to expand our capabilities.
Of course, the technology is already helping millions of people around the world to hear again with hearing aid implants and allows amputees to walk and receive sensory data through artificial limbs.
Cyborg technology for the general public is so close that I can taste it … or maybe my cyborg language can taste it.
All that aside, understanding what will follow for human cyborgs will first mean that we need to define exactly what a cyborg is.
What are cyborgs?
Technically speaking, a cyborg is an organic being that uses biomechanical parts integrated into their biological elements.
By this definition, there are already millions of cyborgs today, but that is not really a satisfactory answer.
If we change the definition to include only healthy humans who integrate biomechanics and biological components in order to expand their capabilities beyond normal human limits, there are far, far fewer people who meet these criteria.
For example, an artist by the name of Moon Ribas had a sensor implanted in her elbow which allows her to feel seismic activity.
This decision was by no means necessary. No one needs to physically experience seismic activity that is happening around the world. But you can, thanks to cyborg technology.
According to our refined definition, Ribas is a cyborg. Although her cyborg abilities are trivially useful, perhaps only at cocktails attended by seismologists as a party thing – but she is still a cyborg.
However, the ability to create cyborgs is clearly already there.
Is a world of cyborgs really a good thing?
If we can take any lessons from the world of science fiction, it is that a world of cyborgs has a number of potential negative points.
On the one hand, it would transform human bodies into hackable technological elements. It could also take away what it means to be human.
If we consider that the definition of human is based on how we live the world through our organic senses, then removing or modifying this perspective could make us more like computers and less like humans.
The argument against the expansion of cyborg technology is strong. Elon Musk, along with other tech leaders, has warned against the growth of artificial intelligence, a necessary part of creating sophisticated cyborg technology.
The biggest threat to a human-cyborg future is the areas of privacy and security. While many of us may agree that companies see our browser history, most people should probably be a little more concerned about the ability of others to know our thoughts or to control our physical movements.
Being an engineer myself, I often feel somehow like a machine-making decision based on logic every day, but the world probably wouldn’t be the greatest place if everyone worked like that in all aspects of our life.
One fear is that cyborg AI-driven technology will suppress human empathy and reduce morality to a series of algorithms based on logic and statistics.
These fears aside, in what ways is it likely that cyborg technology will be integrated into daily life in the future?
The ways in which we can become cyborgs.
Wearables are one of the means by which we are already evolving to become cyborgs.
These devices are used to monitor our health and fitness, as well as to provide insight into our daily lives. Although they are currently designed as removable accessories, in the future, health and fitness monitoring could be done via an implant.
Your Apple Watch could do everything it does today if it was covered with a layer of skin, recharging using your body’s energy or holding your wrist on a wireless charger from time to time.
Likewise, cyborg technology will likely emerge as a way to help people avoid danger in the workplace and elsewhere. AI is already quite good at predictive analytics.
Imagine walking on the road and a small voice in your ear says that turning right gives you 25% less chance of getting injured during this walk. When you read this, did you think “I need this” and said “I can never leave the house again” at the same time?
More commonly, cyborg-Esque implants could also help us make payments at the store and serve as a key to unlock our front doors.
The first mass-adopted cyborg technology that we will likely see is a type of implant. It is likely to be static and will not influence what we see or directly how we live life, but it will almost certainly collect endless amounts of data that can give us recommendations and information about our life.
People are already implanting similar chips all over the world. Using NFC or near field communication, these can easily transmit information through the skin.
After chips, we may someday see cyborg technology in the form of pills or nanotechnology devices that can change your DNA to protect you from disease or ailments. CRISPR has already been used to edit the human genome, why not use this technology in an implant controlled by AI?
I can think of a plethora of reasons not to do it, but people will always do it, I promise.
Finally, cyborg technology could even help us control our thoughts. Someday we may be able to manually increase our empathy or refuse our procrastination. Imagine what we could accomplish if we had control over these feelings? But again, would we still be humans at this point?
So to answer the question posed by the title of this article, yes, cyborg technology is the next step in human evolution.
The problem will be ensuring that it is we, not technology, who control the pace and the changes. One thing is certain, cyborg-like technology is unlikely to go away.