Friday, September 05, 2008

Resistance is Futile

The man walking through the airport was obviously mentally ill. He nodded frequently and talked aloud to himself. It took a few glances to realize he had an earbud and mike set, and was talking on his cell phone nestled in his shirt pocket. It was years ago, of course, for now, talking on hands-free cell phones is quite common. It was the first time I had seen such a thing, and it made an impression.

Since then of course, technology has exploded in ways we'd never thought possible years ago, and talking to someone a world away while walking through an airport is commonplace. Still, I wonder how much technology a mind can take?

In Discover Magazine this month, there is an article called "Rise of the Cyborgs", describing the most recent research work to merge humans and machines. While I applaud the efforts to help the disabled and "locked-in" humans, I wonder at the impact on unimpaired humans,
"provid[ing] the brain with speedy access to unlimited memory, unlimited calculation ability, and instant wireless communication ability, we will produce a human with unsurpassable intelligence."

You know, already I can't go to the bathroom without someone banging on the door. "What'r'ya doing in there???" Guess, genius. Now I picture I'll be in the shower when suddenly, my head starts ringing. There will be no escape. You can't say your phone battery was dead, or you forgot it - it's implanted in your brain. You can't say you were busy, for of course all you have to do is say "answer" to activate it. You will be accessible 24/7 to anyone with a cell. You can't throw the phone down in frustration without causing brain damage. It just doesn't sound good to me.

Obviously, the devices are being designed by men. Read this:

"We have created a profound new paradigm for the enact its will without the limitations of the biological machinery that we call a body. 'My children probably will see the day when they can sit physically on a beautiful beach in Brazil but at the same time control a rover on Mars, experience Mars...Their bodies will be here, but their brains will be free.'"

Okay, my first (okay, second) thought is that if anyone is lucky enough to make it to a Brazilian beach, why ever would she want to tune it out to pretend she's on Mars? Obviously, she is not a hard working Kentucky homeschool mom. Obviously. Secondly (okay, it was my first thought) is that it is difficult enough to give a monologue to hold a conversation with your husband without his free mind going someplace else or imagining you are someone you are not. You catch my drift?

So while I'm all for advancing technology, I have to wonder if all of it is for the good. The automobile had it's detractors, and perhaps I'm just as skeptical and misinformed as they were. Perhaps it is my age showing, for it is getting more and more difficult to keep up with the blazing change of everything known. Of course, once I get my implants (for my memory, silly, I really don't need any other kind), I'll not have to worry about my aging mind. I will have "unsurpassable intelligence".

That makes me wonder yet again. Can we take Kentuckian beer drinking Bubbas and give them unsurpassable intelligence? And what ever would they do with it? That's a scary thought. If you started out pretty smart, would you then be smarter with implants than Bubba with implants? Would those that could afford implants take over the world and dominate those who can't?

What do you think? Will cyborgs improve the human race or be the end of it?


whitetr6 said...

Part of the inhumanity of the computer is that, once it is competently programmed and working smoothly, it is completely honest.
-Isaac Asimov

I was noticing the other day just how poor my handwriting is. Remember how the nuns used to teach, even force proper handwriting from us?

Now I rarely pick up a pen, except to maybe sign a credit card receipt. My signature has stayed consistent, but if I take notes in a meeting these days, it looks like someone has whacked my elbow every few seconds while I write.

Maybe that's why Microsoft One Note is my favorite Office application. If you learn it, it's one of the best research tools I've ever seen.

Yet a valuable skill - even art form - that of elegant handwriting is disappearing fast. Maybe I should just start practicing an hour a day again. Can I still buy that notebook paper with the dotted lines and the model letters displayed at the top for my emulation?

Packsaddle said...

Speaking as a guy of the male gender, let me just say this:

you had me at "implants".

Arby said...

"Can we take Kentuckian beer drinking bubbas and give them unsurpassable intelligence?"

I can't decide if this is an oxymoron or a recipe for the world's coolest all-in-one demolition derby car/distillery.

Either way, it has all the markings of a gerat country and western song!

Junosmom said...

whitetr6: Yes, I remember those penmanship lessons. Who knew we were learning an soon-to-be obsolete art form?

Pack: Another one to add to the tags of each post: sexy hooker shoes, big breasts, implants. I can see my "hits" skyrocketing.

Arby: They'd probably use the intelligence find a way to pipe UofL versus UK football and basketball games directly into their brains with a self-built sexy android serving them beer and chips.

pita-woman said...

Ooh, it's giving me a headache just trying to wrap my mind around the concept. I think I'll go watch my froglets eat some bugs.


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