Will We Soon Merge With the Machines We Create?

"Fully functional limb replacements, enhanced eyesight, and hearing augmentations will be widely avalable." Potential developments: "Global Trends 2030. 

Today’s youth can barely comprehend the world their parents grew up in; a world without Google searches, personal computers, smart-phones or for that matter the internet.  A question often shared by parents is that their child has asked, “What did people do to find information for school in your days?” Might the question our children’s children will ask be, “What was life like without robots?” and their children’s children may ask, “When will I get to trade in my body like you and mom have?”  Yes, the industrial revolution will next be focused on making us not only compatible with robots but also making us into robots…well, at least cyborgs. 

I read a recent article in The Guardian” on October 10, 2017 titled, “Call for athletes to be fitted with microchips in fight against drug cheats” in which Mike Miller of the “World Olympians Association” is quoted as making the case for employing microchips to monitor if athletes are employing banned substances. He’s quoted, “Some people say we shouldn’t do this to people,” Miller said. “Well, we’re a nation of dog lovers, we’re prepared to chip our dogs and it doesn’t seem to harm them, so why aren’t we prepared to chip ourselves?” Okay, a microchip may not seem like a first step to becoming a mix between yourself and a Terminator but perhaps, once microchipping becomes more popular, it could get us more accustomed to inserting technology into our bodies.  

In my science fiction thriller, “The Destiny of Our Past” (Amazon link: http://amzn.to/2nrU3Ng ) the society is based on a genetic hierarchy enhanced through biotechnology. All people are microchipped and use the device in ordering meals or to pay bills. However, the government can tell your every movement as well as whom you are with.  Privacy has been traded for convenience.  And convenience can lead us down a very interesting path. 

Let’s explore how convenience may take us in the direction of merging our biology with robotic technologies. Here are the six possible stages…

Stage 1:  Yes, we are in Stage 1 in regards to robotics.  Remember the scene in Terminator 1 where Arnold is chasing Sarah Conner in the factory and encounters a primitive assembly-arm robotic device.  It is as if he is looking back at a primitive ancestor.  For the most part we are still at this level.  Our robots are more hydraulic, can be used to assemble items, and are mainly programmed to do simple tasks.  They have at this point replaced many factory workers who used to pick up doors and bolt them onto a car, or some similar task, but we are most likely at the end of this stage.

Stage 2: We are seeing this more at the experimental level now, but it will come in soon.  To get more versatility we will have to have better mobile energy packs and more flexibility – already we are seeing material that is less like the gears on your car and more like muscle tissue being developed.  Add to this at least rudimentary problem-solving skills and here is where you will see robots resembling the ones in “I,Robot” working with people.   Naturally these machines will be far stronger than humans and will do heavy construction tasks.  Humans will still be necessary for more precision work.

Stage 3:  Here is where artificial intelligence advances and production of human-like robots begins.  At this point we will see robots taking over more service-oriented jobs.  People generally want to see human faces when they enter an establishment.  When robots begin to look more like us, blink their eyes, speak like us, we will emotionally adapt to synthetic servants.  These will be used to take care of the kids or cater to people who have more carnal wishes in mind.  Pornography has fueled much of the developments in computer graphics and people’s desire for human substitutes or additional companions will undoubtedly accelerate the development of robots that will look more, feel more, and act more and more, like humans.

Stage 4:  By this point just about any job will be handled by robots, and artificial intelligence will have advanced to the stage that you have robots more akin to the fictional “Westworld.” Here is when robots will replace fashion models, nurses, doctors, teachers and pretty much all professionals. In fact, our military may by this point be entirely robotic.  Naturally this may tip the balance of power from population to the ability to manufacture stronger and more intelligent soldiers and pilots.

Stage 5:  We invented machines to enhance our ability to produce more items in our economy.  Once we reach stage 5 people may still want to feel equal to their replacements.  This is when people will electively choose augmentation, be it replacing healthy limbs, organs or neural tissue with superior synthetic alternatives.  By this time we may see a guaranteed wage that will be financed by taxes on items built by robots but bought by people.  Here we may also see eugenics play a major role in humanity as the birthrate will collapse due to the “living wage,” as it will be called, will not afford you the big house in the suburbs with a yard, dog and two cars.  As many males will turn to synthetic alternatives to real women, and most people will live in small urban apartments, we may see a form of polyamory where women merely find one male to network with, sharing his reproductive services with several other women, or merely turn to fertility clinics for donations to have their one child. The latter will help people divorce romance from reproduction and encourage the application of advanced biotechnology to give mothers perfection in their offspring.  Governments will encourage these social developments because large numbers of people will be unnecessary for the economy. Of course by this time we may see advances in virtual reality programs that allow the single people (primarily males) to spend their spare time in worlds where their imaginations are the limit.  

Stage 6:  By this time computers will do all our inventing, all our planning; and all our work will be accomplished by robots that look, and act, just like us.  Here too is where people take the next step to replace humanity itself.  Some scientists have speculated that our first encounter with an alien species will be with robots as other civilizations will have gone through the evolution I have described.  Sure, people may be born fully human but once they reach adulthood the idea of staying 100% organic may lose its appeal as peers become superior through trading in limbs, organs or entire bodies for synthetic replacement.  And what if people find a way to download the brain into a synthetic version?  The entire body might then be disposable. 

So will there be hold-outs who refuse to alter themselves; futuristic hippies? I am sure there will be, but the benefits of integrating into a society where you no longer have to work or train for an occupation, and still get money, though at a price, will be enticing to most.  And the idea of re-creating yourself may have an almost irresistible appeal. However, would one feel the same way for their wife or husband if all that existed of the person that you originally met was some brain tissue encased in an artificial cranium with maybe some reproductive cells frozen for possible use at a later date?  Before the end of this century we may find out.

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