What will humans look like in 100
We can agree that science
is a long way from solving the question of exactly how genes and the
environment guide the development of humans.
But there's little question
in my mind that humans can change, and change rapidly in response to
their environment. Look no further than human heights, which respond
dramatically to nutrition. Consider the North Koreans, who not long
ago were about the same height as their South Korean counterparts.
After decades of famine and deprivation in the North, South Koreans
are about 3 inches taller, on average.
How will human biology,
therefore, react to being continually "plugged into" computers?
Here's what I mean. Clearly
a significant portion of the public desires near-constant
connectivity to the Web -- how else to explain the proliferation of
cell phones and Blackerries? Even if you think Ray Kurzweil is a
little batty, I think his
vision of future human/machine interfaces is fairly
close to the truth, even if it's not going to arrive by 2010.
Kurzweil believes computers as we know them today will vanish by
2010 as retinal displays, connected wirelessly to the Internet, take
You can say "I won't do
that." But in an increasingly connected world such displays --
probably beginning with Web-enabled sunglasses or some such -- will
become common-place, and anyone without one will probably feel
increasingly out-of-touch. You would use the technology to do
everything from call a friend, watch 15 minutes of TV to kill some
time, answer a trivia question to ordering take-out. Your employer
will probably eventually come to require such connectivity.
Still doubt it? Take a look
at how much your children like text-messaging and
Internet-messaging. Now imagine such connectivity with videos, sound
and much more. Think kids won't want it?
So how will that change
what it means to be human? The BBC reports on
about the creation of two sub-species of humans. Evolutionary
theorist Oliver Curry of the London School of Economics expects a
genetic upper class and a dim-witted underclass to emerge.
In other words, there would
be the technological haves and have-nots. My response to the
question of what we will become: Who knows?
But anyone who thinks
"being human" won't change as a result of combining man and machine
hasn't been paying attention to soaring human heights over the last
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