Estimated reading time: 4 minute(s)
PBS is offering a series of shows on iTunes as a free download, and then asking viewers to vote for the best show, which will then become a regular series on the network. I downloaded the shows yesterday and decided to watch the one called 22nd Century first. I like futuristic stuff, science fiction and whatnot… so, I thought I’d check it out.
The show was about cyborg technology. Tiny computers that enhance people’s organic functions. There was a story about a man who completely lost his hearing, but with a small computer connected to his brain that could interpret the signals still coming to his ears, he learned to hear again! And then another story of people who are “locked in” and can not communicate with the outside world (though they are full cognisant of it), but with the help of tiny computers connected to their brain, they were able to just think a word or letter, and get a computer screen to show what they were thinking. The machine learns (and is programmed) to react to the different signals the brain sends out when the person was “thinking” of that specific word, letter, object… whatever. That one took some more training time, but was pretty amazing.
All of that was well and good, even the guy who wore glasses that had computers in them (and I think they were attached to his brain).. neat stuff. The totally insane part was some of the other folks who were suggesting that since we can tap into our brains like this, the 22nd century will be replete with Cyborgs – people and machines working symbiotically.
Is this a good thing? On an individual basis, why not? Obviously if it was required by others (like a government policy or something) that would be a very, very bad thing. But if you just wanted to enhance your body (though the validity of that statement could certainly be challenged) then go right ahead. However, this technology allows for individual “cyborgs” to be connected to other machines (like a computer network). Again, that’s not that bad… the main question there is who is in control? Is the person and their brain in control, or, does the machine have the capability of taking over? It sounds like sci-fi, but is it possible?
Certainly the possibility of a machine by malfunction, or even worse, by way of programming taking over the mind of a human being is not a desirable outcome of this technology. It’s rather a scary thought. But that was not the worst idea put forth by this 60 minute show.
The WWM (pronounced, “whim”), or, the World Wide Mind. The idea here is that as we have the internet now, which requires that we interface via keyboards and screens and such… we could have instant connection by having a sort of computer network in our brains. We would be “always on” the world wide web… in our mind. We would be able to hear, read, see, even feel what other people are thinking. IT’S THE BORG! 🙂
While there may be a fascinating side to all this, and apparently many feel it is entirely plausible… the down side is just disastrous. It would be so easy to control another person who is “wired” this way. It would be way too easy to invade another person’s “self”. It’s just scary.
The world-wide-mind thing is a mystery to me as well. Why would we WANT to be connected to people in this way? I know we are relational, but why aren’t the built-in ways to relate good enough? 🙂 It seems that any benefit you get from linking to another person this way is FAR outweighed by the negative possibilites that come from such a link. There is no privacy, no … self! Anyone can “access” you any time they want.
Well, I finished the show just hoping this was some wacko’s idea of what the future could be. I’m all for integrating technology. But, we must be very, very careful. Technology is much easier to hack than the great “firewalls” God built into us. Yes, there are problems with those, too. (How could there be any deceit if we all knew what each other was thinking?) But I’ll take the original, thank you very much!
And, I’ll have fun using all of the great stuff we’re going to see in about 5 minutes from the Macworld conference in San Fransisco… 🙂