Surely, these will be strange days. The 21st century promises to hearken in a new age, one that not only has the potential to revolutionize our lives in dramatic, unprecedented ways, but also has the potential to change what it means to be human.
Evolving into bipeds, developing tools and language, we have enjoyed being at the top of the heap, beating any competitors to retain our place in the game of life. For the past 200,000 years, we have developed from archaic versions of ourselves and have become even more efficient and streamlined, learning how to adapt and change with our environment. The future will be no different. What will be different is the context in which we will be placed. Technological progress is quickly making the once impossible achievable, and it would be a grave error to constrict such advancements to limited realms of society. Indeed, it will be such innovation that will force us to confront our deeply rooted concepts of humanness and force us to examine our place in the universe and our interactions with one another.
Robotic limb prosthetics for the paralyzed or amputated, retinal implants to restore sight in the blind, mind-controlled video games, designer babies, space travel, nanotechnology, all are but a few examples of what is in store for us in the not-so-distant future. Although it may be decades before such technologies are viable and marketable, it is not too soon to encourage Kurzweilian discussions of what such a future can hold and how we will need to meet the demands of our rapidly changing, dynamic environment. In order to overcome the obstacles presented to us in the 21st century, we will be confronted by the limitations of our physical selves. Long-term space travel, defeating senescence, abolishing age old diseases, all have already spurred research into developing answers for such problems. But with this impending bottleneck fast approaching, what is lacking is serious discussion of its implications outside of academic circles. Although science touches every aspect of modern life, there is a chasm between those who discover and create and those who passively benefit. And so…
Human, meet the Future.