The concept of augmenting humans mechanically is nothing new, as a species we have been adapting to physical or environmental change by using technology for millennia. The first recorded example of prosthesis was back in ancient Egypt (almost 3000 years ago) in 950-710 BC. A big toe. But really, that’s just maintaining the anatomical status quo. What’s really got me thinking this week is taking what we already have and fundamentally improving it.
Again, the concept of humans 2.0 is nothing new, science fiction is littered with ominous tales of splicing humans with machines, often creating a bio-mechanical anti-hero in the process. Luke Skywalker in Star Wars, Final Space (a very good animated sci-fi series on Netflix), Detective Spooner in I, Robot, Tony Stark in Iron Man, Alex Murphy (Robocop), Six Million Dollar man... the list goes on and on.
But how could you achieve the same results or even better results without changing the source material at all. What we’ve talked about so far centres around systemic structural change, essentially enhancing a human by adding a physical item. What I want to consider is the possibility of enhancing a human, optimising a person, by introducing an operating system that takes the base source code and makes it faster, more streamlined, more efficient.
A concept dealt with beautifully by the film Upgrade (written and directed by the brilliant Leigh Whannell). The film follows a man who is implanted with a chip that allows him to control his body after a mugging leaves him paralysed. The AI chip (called STEM) is plugged straight into the protagonists spinal cord essentially optimising him as a person, giving improved speed, strength and decision making ability. The connectivity of the device means the character also has access to the databank of information available online too. A pretty sweet upgrade right? WRONG. (SPOILER ALERT) As you can probably imagine the AI has a more insidious game plan and his sinister ways soon come to the surface.
It seems that science fiction has been pre-warning humans as a species about the danger of artificially enhancing what genetics have given us, but I’m interested to know what you think? Would you take an upgrade and what would like to see improved? Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org