Digital Future – Man and Machine
First we can consider new 3D video games, that use motion sensors as controls. A rapidly increasing number of devices and even cars are voice-activated and controlled. Recent commercials by XBOX explicitly state that “you are the controller“. Movies such as Minority Report demonstrate a potential new crime: the “pre-crime”, or thought crime. This has already become a reality in some police jurisdictions. According to the New York Times sophisticated surveillance and computer algorithms analyze potential crime areas, and police are stationed accordingly.
In the science fiction series The Terminator, there is a universal world-wide computer A.I. system called “Sky-net”; indeed, the global tel-comm and world wide web have made this a reality as well. An infinite series of data flows can be displayed visually in three dimensions. A new brain chip allows monkeys to see AND feel with thoughts alone! We see an increasing trend towards micro-miniaturization, and the emerging field of nanotechnology introduces a paradigm-destroying science.
The newest advance in computer-mind interfaces is augmented reality (A.R.). Whereas pure virtual reality is a totally computer-generated world, A.R. creates an electronic overlay over the real world. Graphics, sounds, haptic (feeling), and even smell, become inter-meshed with the real environment. Currently, cell phones and video games are the main interface with A.R., but there are normal-appearing glasses, like fancy ‘shades’, which will link the user to the electronic web. The military is one of the big investors in A.R. (and A.I.), which is demonstrated by the older heads-up displays (HUD) used by fighter pilots. Check out the Future Force Warrior, part of the U.S. military Future Combat Systems.
IBM, finally, has come right out and said that mind control is the next phase of web/computer interfaces, and that those companies investing in voice-activation are simply on the wrong track.
All technologies and scenarios discussed here raise the issue of just how society will be structured in the (near!) future. The U.S. Air Force has policy papers stating that by 2025, some 80% or more of the entire Air Force will consist of drones! Currently there are large drones, such as the Predator, that launch smaller, dragon-fly sized drones; so even the drones have drones! The Japanese are introducing manufacturing robot-assemblies that will replace thousands of workers. If we are moving towards a completely robotic society, then what is the need for human beings in this society?
Perhaps for the answer to that question we can revisit the TV science fiction series, Caprica. In this series a virtual computer-generated reality and world are created, and people literally leave behind their physical bodies to live in any world of their desire. The question at the end of the series becomes, “Why wait for some mythological heaven, when you can live in the heaven of your choice, right now?” In fact, the elite technocrats are working very diligently on attaining effective immortality by downloading their personality, or soul, into either an AI world, or even clones and androids.
That is the debate over the Singularity; will it be Heaven, or Hell?