Monday, March 17, 2008

Are we nearing scientific Utopia, or Dystopian William Gibson style society?

I have been amazed at the gadgets and scientific advances made in the recent future. We have had any number of gadgets that let us expand our senses, and advances in science that enhance our abilities to repair and rebuild. This is just the beginning. If you combine this with advances in nano technology, we can soon expect many things we do now like cell phone use, computer interaction and interaction with one another to be at light speed (compared to today) and internalised wherever possible. (Picture left from NotCot)

Yes, I foresee hundreds of dudes wandering round with wireless aerials sticking up out of their heads. Much like that dude off star wars who is Lando Calrissian’s office manager - Lobot. Actually, I figure it will all be internal, much like everything else. They will be small clusters of nano sized machines, that collect around specific nerve centres and lobes of the brain depending on their function. For interaction, we’d either find some way of using out central nervous system as an aerial (ala Iain M Banks – Against a Dark Background), or implant long metal coils that run down from our medulla oblongata to our heel on one foot. Maybe we’ll be able to pick up AM radio and tune into the cricket at work!

I don’t think a day goes by that I don’t read of some advance in tech or medicine or science that could be the spark to the next stage of our evolution. And that’s what we need too. I reckon because we have removed most of environmental problems and pressures, we have stagnated our own evolution. We are stuck arguing with morons who cling to outmoded ideas about religion, and held back by greed merchants more concerned with making a buck than furthering their own species. If we took half of what we spend on making war, or half of the amount collected by big financial institutions as interest, and pumped it into biotech and medical research I reckon we could eliminate a lot of the world medical issues. I know – there’s no such thing as a Utopia, and eliminating all the worlds medical issues would only introduce other ones (like population pressure), but a geek can dream drok it! And surely if we didn’t have to worry about our own mortality we could focus a lot of our time on invading, er I mean, exploring neighbouring planets and even solar systems.

So, what advances have I seen that have sparked the old brain juices flowing? Well shitloads really, but just point to a couple, here’s a list (not definitive) of the ones I’ve seen recently :

A good one I’ve seen recently is the six fingered banjo addon for weirdos. Researchers have figured out how digits are formed during the early stages of foetal development and are working on replicating the process. This can lead us to all sorts of Deliverance jokes, but even better than that is the ability to count to 42 on one hand.

Scientists have also figured out another wee bit about brain development with regard certain stimulus. Researchers have empirically shown that parts of your brain are changed at a neurological level by whatever you see. This has good implications for people who may have partial brain dysfunction with regards their sight, being able to have their brains reprogrammed to allow them to see once more. Or reprogrammed into human automatons who could come wash the car and vacuum the house.


Neuroscientists in Florida announced that they had been injecting blood into rat brains. Not exactly a good lead in I know, but when you say its blood of newborn infants umbilical cords, what say you now savage! Ok, still no good. Well the outcome of this gory experiment was rejuvenation of the rats aging brains, restoring neurogenesis (growing new neurons) and reducing the effects of brain aging. Once refined, this sort of technology may help with life longevity and reversing the effects of brain trauma. Like Monty Burns using Bart’s blood in the Simpsons. Ah –the Simpsons. Is there anything they can’t teach us?

And the gadgets – automated voice boxes, bionic limbs and robotic eyes. Soon, Cyberdyne will be online and we will assimilate everyone. Or turn this planet into a post apocalyptic hell. Whatever - better clear the calender for that one.

Its all good. I reckon, 15 years or so from now, we will be all queuing up for longevity treatments and anal probes. Err I mean, implants, to enhance our bodies natural abilities. How long before the anti doping agencies for sports become anti-enhancement bodies? Would you allow someone with enhanced sight, reflexes and arms in the baseball leagues? Would you allow someone with enhanced legs and arms into the Super 14 Rugby teams? I hope these are questions we are considering in the near future.

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