There seems to be a built in negative filter for most people when it comes to the concept of humans being dependent, or “addicted” to technology. They assume that anytime people are unnaturally attached to a device, there must be a form of psychosis involved. Surely this stems from a deep-seated belief that anything that was not naturally grown inside our body is by definition – artificially augmenting ourselves. Admittedly this is a slippery slope. We have deemed using steroids or HGH an unfair advantage in building ones body for athletics. Yet we are OK with laser eye surgery in order to improve eyesight – in some cases to better than 20/20.
We seem to be generally OK with a little Botox shot to lose some wrinkles. Even a minor rhinoplasty to smooth out a bumpy nose. Breast augmentation is OK if there is a specific need, but too much and you are just showing off. In South America, plastic surgery is becoming almost pedestrian in it’s frequency. So augmenting our bodies has been gaining in acceptance in some ways, and specifically banned in others. Trust me, we have not even begun to wrestle with body augmenting issues at this point.
I believe we will go through three eras with devices. The first will be the mobile era, and that is where we are today. We carry mobile technology that connects us to our contacts, and information in nearly real time. When we forget our mobile device, we now feel somewhat cut off from the world, and for some people this is panicking, while others can live with it for a short time – even relish it. Of course as always, we have the fringe who refuse to use a mobile device because it will somehow lower their humanity level. I find this very unenlightened, but hey, I do technology for a living.
The second era will be the wearable era. This will bring us technology that is built into our clothes, jewelry, watches, glasses, etc. By imbedding technology this closely to our bodies, we will be less likely to forget it, and have an increasing ability to integrate it into our daily lives. It will become less apparent that we are interfacing with it, which will result in more subtle abilities to gather, post, or digest information on the fly. Our clothes will charge batteries, or simply be the batteries in some cases. Watches will interface with glasses to give us heads up displays of critical alerts or streams of information. The list of possibilities is exciting!
The third era will be the implantable era. The logical next step of course, where we imbed devices and the interfaces into our bodies. This will include everything from brain computer interfaces, to interface tattoos. This will cause a world where there is even a large digital divide between those who are wired, and those who refuse and simply will be crippled in their ability to leverage technology.
This brings us back to the question of augmentation and how we really feel about changing our bodies, and the addiction to those changes. I suspect that most people will LOVE having technology imbedded so that they will have faster and more permanent access to all the benefits technology brings us. I could list all the other ways we will imbed tech going forward, but lets leave that for another blog because the point here is that I think this progression should show us that we really have no business looking down on the teenager that spazzes when they are away from their mobile device.
Nor should we tell ourselves that the “addiction” to technology is a horrible thing. It is more true to say that we highly value the connections and benefits that technology give us, so we seek to not be disconnected from it, and frankly, that is OK. As presented, we will soon seek to imbed technology into our bodies so that it is always just a thought away. We will stop debating if our “addiction” to technology is good or bad. We will simply seek to find the balance between connecting digitally, and connecting physically. I do believe we need both in our lives by the way