The Weekly Writing Challenge wanted folks to paint a picture of what might happen in a story. Just to be a little different, I wanted to pose the question, what might be happening in our story?
Better. It is a tricky word. I think that humans should always strive to improve themselves. The always great, bottledworder mentioned recently that imagination could be a curse. I disagreed, countering that without imagination, we might not strive to travel to other lands or excel. I think we should always dream a bit bigger.
Like a brand new sports car, we constantly race into the horizon. We want to get there first. We want to do it faster and easier than before. We must always improve; we must always keep up and then crush those that would compete with us. We must annihilate all who would try to outdo us. See where the danger lies?
Take sports for example. I have a friend who loves bicycling. She worked in a bike shop, met her husband there, and has several different bikes for several different terrains. She even tried to teach me how to ride a bike, poor woman. Not surprisingly she rooted for Lance Armstrong. That is, until that whole “truth about doping” came about.
Now, if you ask me to support this famous athlete as he raises money for cancer research, then I will join the cheering. If you ask me to respect him for the fact that he could out-bicycle me any day, then I might concede. But I will not applaud a “win” that was garnered due to drug usage. That, to me, is not better. The same could be said for weightlifting.
When do we stop cheering for what humans can accomplish and only root for the “winners” that accomplish their goals with medicinal help? I was taught to admire what an athlete does, not what an athlete can do with supplements. However, that asks what foods and drinks count as supplements. If you can use protein powder or drinks with added electrolytes, then do steroids really differ that much from them? Where do we draw the line? What counts as okay and what counts as cheating?
Let us look outside the circle of gyms and tracks. We are entering a world where the next Stephen Hawking might not be limited by their diseases or disabilities. What if the wonders of brain-computer interface make it possible for great minds to communicate and work on the ideas that are brewing in their heads? Just this month it was announced that brain to brain telepathy is now technologically possible. However, is it better?
I do not want to tell a handicapped person that they cannot have the communication or physical skills that I was born with. If I can go outside, run a mile, and then type with my fingers on the keyboard, what right do I have to tell someone with cerebral palsy that they cannot do the same? Should anyone presume that they deserve more rights when technology can make up the difference in the near future?
There are passive technologies that I can easily dismiss. I do not need Google Glasses. I do not need Samsung Gear. Yes, I can admit that they have their uses. I can even see the appeal. But I do not like pedometers and I think UV detectors are for worry warts. Those are accessories that I can shrug off. Though it once again begs the question, where do we draw the line? What is necessary and what is a spiffy little gizmo?
The military is joining the arena. Earlier this year, Obama announced that they are working on their version of a superhero. (Watch the whole thing if you want the employment details, but the “catchy phrases” are all in the first minute.)
And last week, Arizona State University announced that they were creating a rocket pack to help soldiers run a four minute mile. Who is funding the research? The military.
I am not sure that it is good or bad that the military has access to technology. I am all for escaping conflicts and saving lives. And knowledge is never a bad thing, so let them learn all they want. It is how that knowledge is applied that often concerns me. Still, who am I to tell professionals what they should or should not do with their research?
The enhancements coming out of think tanks and into the marketplace now are only going to get smaller and fancier. “You have Google Glasses? Why not Google Contacts? Oh, that was sooo last year. We have found a way to etch it onto your retina. But you know what, why not let us replace your eyeball so you can have zooming capabilities up to four miles away? Of course, we would like to upgrade your thought process just a little so you can really store those memories in high definition like they were meant to be kept. Oh, and let us toss a little blue tooth into your nervous system and you can send those pictures to all your friends!”
I am a Luddite that loves his Kindle and a nerd that loathes Smart Phones. My litmus test is this one: Can you easily disengage from the technology? Can you remove it, step away from it, or simply take a break from it for a few days? E-mail is addictive enough. Now imagine if that technology was wired into you. (Why carry a credit card or car keys when you can just get a Nanite barcode tattooed to your palm?)
Many of these technologies are going to require changes to the human physiology. If you get new legs with toes you can actually feel, they may cut into your skin at some point to hook you up. If your new bionic arms are able to lift four tons, then there is going to need to be some sort of reinforcement to your spine and legs to carry the load. If your fingers can now type over five hundred words a minute to assure you that edge in the marketplace, can your wrists handle the stress and can your brain handle the over-stimulation? What do all these offerings do to a mind that barely gets enough rest as is?
Every time I hear about a technological marvel “enhancing” humans, I go to Firefly. That scene still disturbs me.
You cannot fix people. You cannot make a person better. People are pretty miraculous the way they are. Everyone has their flaws, their quirks, we just have some that are noticeable and some that are different. I wonder how many changes we can make to our bodies before we become cyborgs, and in the not so distant future, more enhancements than humans. But again, how much should I say to prevent others from trying to be “normal”? What will that word even mean in forty years? Will our definition of “human” have to change to keep up with it?
I think humans have our issues, but I wonder how many of those can be fixed with systematic upgrades to our operating systems.