Evolution has been crucial to humanity’s survival from the beginning of time. We have composed many theories that have helped us understand how we have gotten to physically be the way we are today. With the help of evolution, we have arrived to the consensus that our bodies are capable of performing everyday tasks this earth asks us to do since we are biologically capable of performing certain actions animals are incapable of, thus placing us at the top of the animal kingdom. In retrospect, we can trace back and create a timeline of how our bodies have evolved, but can we anticipate our future bodies?
The belief that humans reached this physical appearance through evolution has been present in an effort to understand our origins. Some individuals, however, look forward in an attempt to visualize our future. Homo sapiens have been on this earth for about 200,000 years. It takes approximately 4 million years in order for complete evolution to happen (Cain, 2009). It has not been estimated for sure whether it is time for humans to experience the next step of evolution, however, by analyzing how we use technology and how we can incorporate it into the evolution of our bodies, we can speculate our future physical appearance. Technology and evolution have a direct relationship that allows them to coevolve as time progresses; we can see this ‘technogenesis’ through the science fiction novels writers compile, through biological evolution, and through scientific and technological discoveries available to society in this day and age.
In the works of fiction, many different types of future bodies are portrayed. Science fiction is a genre that allows writers to explore ideas of humanoid bodies. Writers derive from the information present in their current society in order to predict how a body of the future would look in result of technology playing a role in the evolution of the human. Although many ideas offered by these -sciencefiction writers may be a little too far fetched, they still provide us insight into how individuals from different times have been impacted by the advancement of technology. Two notable books that describe how humans could have evolved are Neuromancer and Ebocloud.
Neuromancer is a 1984, cyberpunk subgenre novel written by William Gibson with a lot of examples of enhanced bodies. This novel was significant because it allowed him to make popular the word “cyberspace,” a term that we utilize to reference and/or imagine the internet (2). Neuromancer takes place in the dystopian society of Chiba City in Japan where Case, the protagonist, is a computer hacker who stole from his employer. In order to pay for what he had done, the employer injects him with a mycotoxin that slowly degenerate the insides of his body. As time progresses, he becomes reliant on drugs and develops a mild case of depression, since he is aware that the painful deterioration is slowly shortening his life span. Desperately in need of a cure in order to restore his health from the damage the mycotoxin is causing him, he agrees to do a job for yet another employer who promises to heal him. Along the way he meets augmented bodies that help him through his journey towards health.
Molly is one of the most notable character who is considered to have traits uncommon to regular humans. Her relationship with Case eventually develops into a more romantic one as the story progresses. Case meets Molly when she is in his room to “collect [him] for the man she work for,” which happens to be Armitage, his future employer (16). We learn that she doesn’t possess a normal body when she lets Case know that she is not going to hurt him, but that she is wired to hurt others. The first sign of an advanced body is shown when her “ten double-edged, four centimeter scalpel blades [slide] from their housings beneath [her] burgundy nails” (17). She also possesses enhanced reflex skills and has mirrored lenses that cover her eye sockets. All of these descriptions compile to make an augmented body designed for violent situations. Another character with a very futuristic description is a character named McCoy Pauley, mostly known as Dixie Flatline. Case stumbles upon this character through Armitage. His job is to find Dixie Flatline and steal him but he isn’t a human body. He is actually a human conscious download into an ROM. All of these descriptions portray what William Gibson conceived to be as science fiction.
Another science fiction novel that attempts to explain how technology and evolution go hand in hand is Ebocloud. Rick Moss, an interactive media producer, wrote this novel in 2011 with the sole vision of portraying how humans and technology interact in order to provide a smarter-than-human intelligence and its interaction with humans. In the novel, Ebocloud is a network that links people with similar abilities in order to work together. Characters have “ebocousins” that help each other out whenever one of them is in serious trouble. Through the plot we can see how technology affects humans and how they work together. One specific example is a type of nanotechnology called “digital tattoos” these individuals must have in order to connect their minds to the network (Moss, 2011). These digital tattoos don’t necessarily mind control the individuals, but they do deprive them of some free will. They attempt to control the moods they are experiencing at that time and match them to situations where their current abilities match the difficulty level.
One can see how this idea derived from the existence of social media along the likes of Facebook. Through this type of current social media, individuals give up their personal data just like a digital tattoo would extract it from their person. By agreeing to give up this personal data, they are connecting themselves to the network that is Facebook. But in the case of the novel, they are connecting themselves to Ebocloud. This modern-day example of how technology and humans coevolve includes the elements present in current day society. Unaware of how their personal data will be utilized, they create a profile in order to interact with other people. This portrays how Rick Moss utilized society’s technological advancements of social media in order to portray how the human body can be affected.
Fiction is not the only source where we see these technological advances take place. Biological evolution is also a representation of the relationship technology and humans posses. There are many theories that support our evolution will be strongly influenced by technology. Scientists who work with biotechnology have seen the advantages technology gives the human body. Although we are currently only seeing how we can repair it, others have been looking into ways to use technology to enhance the human condition. In our current society, the digital age prevails in all aspects of life.
Examples of biological evolution can be seen in the works of Katherine Hayles, Nick Bostrom, and Ray Kurzweil. Technogenesis, a term utilized by literary critic Katherine Hayles, suggests, “that the human species is defined by its coevolution with various tools and technologies” (Hayles, 2012). Transhumanism is a term coined by Nick Bostrom, a member of the philosophy faculty in Oxford University. According to him, it is utilized in order to portray how biology can help make the human body better than its current state. Ray Kurzweil, a computer scientist who gives talks on the acceleration of powerful technology, gives insight on how biological advances helped shape way for technological ones. All in all, these are examples of ways scholars have attempted to explain how humans can evolve biologically with the potential help of technology.
Katherine Hayles, a literary critic of Duke University is a strong advocate of how the digital age is changing the ways humans think. In other words, the brain of the human evolves as technology progresses because it has a strong impact on it. Through the research that she’s made focusing on the “coevolution of technological objects and contemporary humans, ” she argues that “our intense engagements with digital media affect us not only through conscious channels but also through unconscious and nonconscious modes, as well” (Hayles, 2012). Because it is developing at a fast rate, the brain is unable to match the speed technology spits out information, so the brain then develops “hyper-attentiveness” (Hayles, 2012). By being hyper attentive to the digital, it is then able to emulate the speed of technology, thus transforming the way we think. Basically, humans and technology have a unique way of interacting, but with subtleness, humans are transforming the way they process information since current society is at a point where digital information is plenty.
In an attempt of “enhancing the human condition,” many advocates believe that “genetic engineering, information technology…anticipated future ones, such as molecular nanotechnology and artificial intelligence” are needed (1). In other words, in order to modify their bodies and get them to work at maximum level, the help of technology is required. Now, the only problem is designing a body that will not only be competent, but also far more evolutionized than the one we currently have. Nick Bostrom is a believer in transhumanism believes that “it promotes an interdisciplinary approach to understanding and evaluating the opportunities for enhancing the human condition and the human organism opened up by the advancement of technology” (1). Past and future technologies have to be evaluated in order to see how a futuristic way of enhancing the body can be developed. Through the use of genetic engineering, new DNA is added to an organism. In the eyes of transhumanist, this type of practice can potentially be used to enhance intelligence and physical abilities. Since transhumanists view nature as a “work-in-progress,” to them, genetically engineering a human is yet another stage to evolving the human body to its adept state (2).
Nanoscience is another subject that aids in biological evolution. Ray Kurzweil believes that in the near half-century, with the help of nanotechnology, humans will be able to download their brains in order to continue to survive. The idea of immortality plays a role, of course. Although the body is not the one surviving, it is the human conscious and the memories. Such technologies can only be available with the help of nanoscience. In his TED talk The Accelerating Power of Technology, he talks about how the growth rate of technology is advancing human evolution. He says that with the help of nanoscience, the body can evolve into a more advanced version. Technology has already gotten to the point where it is possible to cure type one diabetes. Although it hasn’t been tested on humans yet, through the use of nanoengineering, scientists have developed a device that cured type one diabetes in mice. It s only a matter of time until humans can be able to utilize it. He states that there’s no doubt “our biology is suboptimal,” but with “robotic red cells,” we can enhance, for example our underwater breathing. Feasible technology like this can only be achieved if more research in the nanosciences continues to happen. By incorporating this new branch of science into our human development, the next future bodies will be able to perform everyday tasks with less effort and faster results (Kurzweil, The Accelerating Power of Technology”).
With more research and technological advancement in biology, the body could be altered significantly within the next decade, but modern day technology has shown us that the future is already here. With new technology such as Google Glasses and body devices, it is evident that we are coevolving alongside technology. Their relationship is found in the way humans are perceiving the world and how technology is aiding in making their realities more amplified.
Google Glasses for example, have the ability to act as a miniature computer right in front of the user’s eyes. In a fast paced society, they can be helpful to individuals by facilitating their lives. They can keep them stay on task with their fitness goals. If they are biking, walking, or performing any other sort of commuting, these glasses can help with navigation. They can also take pictures, translate words, play music and make calls all in front of the person. With this technology, humans have the advantage that others don’t. Although there are other technologies such as the cell phone, that can perform multiple tasks similar to those of Google Glasses, it is quite different, given that the wearer places them in front of his eyes, and he experiences all of these without the use of his hands (Google Glass, 2014).
Other technologies that have revolutionized the human body are shown in CNN’s Gadgets to Make You Superhuman. In this article David Goldman, aran American economist, introduces wearable gadgets that help alter the human experience. In his words, “many of these gizmos are prototypes, but they paint a portrait of a future in which gadgets hack people — not the other way around” (Goldman, 2014.)
Soundhawk is a wearable audio technology that enhances the ability to hear. It is worn like a traditional hearing aid, but it can help you focus on a specific voice or sound. Another notable gadget is the Ekso body suit. It acts as an exoskeleton that grants the wearer super strength. Although it is marketed towards humans who have suffered traumatic injuries, there exists a possibility that they can be utilized by individuals in order to make them superhuman-like. With gadgets such as these, the human condition has been taken to the next level and made better with the help of technology. This relationship that evolution and technology possess is able to work because of the many scientific discoveries that are being made each and every day (Goldman, 2014).
These examples of future bodies that are described in fiction, anticipated through biological evolution, and portrayed with modern day technology can be seen in my media element. I have utilized examples from these fields in order to convey the bodies that are imagined in fiction writing, biological evolution and today’s gadgets. Each body is unique because they symbolize what could be in the future. Although we have not yet reached a point where a human has been completely enhanced to his/her maximum potential, there are gadgets that can augment the human condition.
The human race is always trying to move forward. By enhancing our abilities, we can become better suited for the future. Although we have not yet reached the next step of evolution, we must note that technology will most definitely aid in our transition towards our next bodies. Technology is advancing at a rate too fast for us to ignore. By using it to enhance our abilities, we are giving it a place in our evolutionary timeline. Soon enough, post-humanity will begin to appear, and a more digitized generation will be walking this earth, leaving their footprint and making their mark in the evolutionary process.
Bostrom, Nick. “Transhumanist Values.” Diss. Oxford U, 2005. Review of Contemporary Philosophy 4 (2005): n. pag. Transhumanist Values. Ethical Issues for the 21st Century, 4 May 2005. Web. 18 Nov. 2014.
Cain, Fraser. “How Long Have Humans Been on Earth?” How Long Have Humans Been on Earth? N.p., 22 Aug. 2009. Web. 19 Nov. 2014.
Gibson, William. Neuromancer. New York: Ace, 1984. Print.
Goldman, David. “Gadgets to Make You a Superhuman.” CNNMoney. Cable News Network, 23 Sept. 2014. Web. 08 Dec. 2014.
“Google Glass.” What It Does –. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Dec. 2014.
Moss, Rick. “Ebocloud – The Novel by Rick Moss.” Ebocloud The Novel by Rick Moss. WordPress, June 2011. Web. 01 Dec. 2014.
“The Accelerating Power of Technology.” Ray Kurzweil:. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Dec. 2014.