Already at the Door
Novosti, by Alexander
Narinyani) — Man has entered a new phase of evolution.
As we enter the gateway to the information technology
world, that world is also entering us.
next decade or two – which means most people alive will
still be here to see for themselves – what we now know as Homo
sapiens will transform into E-Homo sapiens, a new species so
integrated into a new IT environment that, though similar biologically
to its predecessor, it will be totally different qualitatively.
E-Homo sapiens will
not emerge out of nowhere: we who are living today are already
a transitional species, not yet what we will become in a short
time but already completely different from what we were 20
years ago. This is a new stage of civilization, which will
affect every aspect of mankind – our bodies, personalities,
lifestyles, and even our souls.
raised by fans of The Matrix are of course exaggerated, today’s
electronics will very soon give way to bio-, nano-, geno-,
and other ever more sophisticated -tronics we have yet to imagine.
This will go hand in hand with the introduction of "aid
gadgets," from microchips to armies of microrobots, who
will radically re-engineer the human organism. This transformation,
which is already happening today and is very likely to become
evident tomorrow, probably deserves a thorough and well-focused
As most aspects
of the problem are well beyond the scope of this short article,
it will only draw a dim outline of the coming global e-civilization,
hopefully setting the stage for further debate. On the one
hand, E-Homo sapiens will see a new ocean of opportunity in education,
communication, personal growth and physical evolution, and
on the other they will become more and more dependent on the
paternalistic environment – to the point where they are totally
controlled by it.
that will be affected by the advent of this new man – culture,
intellectual activities, politics, war, etc. – are also very
interesting and will doubtless deserve space in a broader E-Homo sapiens
debate, should it begin.
people might compare the loss of computer data with physical
injury. Indeed, the loss of contact information and personal
archives – texts, pictures, music – is seen as the loss of
a meaningful part of one’s self. But the computers we use today
are still primitive, a combination of an advanced typewriter,
communication machine, and game console. What they will evolve
into within a decade will possibly merit the name e-secretary,
doctor, or teacher; then, the loss of data will be almost unbearable.
the IT revolution of tomorrow is already in the making, largely
through the mobile channel. What is now a Personal Digital
Assistant will, with time, converge even more with the computer
to become our e-Partner, if not e-Shadow.
each E-Homo sapiens, if technology continues to progress steadily,
will receive a personal IT-cocoon at birth, which will grow
with the human, help him develop and expand his abilities,
and will be deleted only after his death. An average E-Homo sapiens
will easily be able to obtain, through global search, calculation,
and expert assessment capabilities, a kind of knowledge only
research institutions have access to today.
inside E-Homo sapiens’ body will optimize and streamline the
work of each and every organ and function. The body will become
ideally shaped without all that old-fashioned bodybuilding,
fitness, and such. Medicine will do what so far has seemed
impossible: rehabilitate the permanently disabled, replace
damaged eyes, hands, arms – even hearts. Psychological adjustments
will be equally widespread as people will want to limit natural
aggression, block pain, put themselves in the right frame of
mind for work, etc. In short, computers will have complete
control over every cell of the human body.
This is where
the downside appears. There are, and will be, fears that this
control might turn into manipulation. Worse, manipulation,
in the case of overlapping individual and public interests,
will be as hard to define as ever.
an e-civilization is bound to be anti-utopian: as Homos transform
into E-Homo sapiens, they will become increasingly transparent to
others – and so increasingly susceptible to various influences,
if only "for their own good."
One big toehold
of digital reality in today’s world is cinema: digital effects,
already less expensive and more spectacular than most landscape
shooting, will soon expand into the human sphere, probably
making human actors as exotic in movies as digital dinosaurs
were just a few years ago. Mass culture has every prerequisite
to become the first stage where the human race will begin its
of touch and smell will go digital too, as will the emotional
side of life. People of the future will be able to communicate
with their loved ones – or well-made imitations, at least –
wherever they might be. Less and less real experience will
be required for jobs. Thus, student drivers will be able to
take virtual drives through the heaviest traffic and even experience
accidents – without actually having to recover for months at
a hospital afterwards. In fact, any experiment on live subjects
will be relevant only as long as they have not been so thoroughly
studied as to make possible an exact computer model.
armed with fearsome abbreviations like B2B, ERP and CRM, is
rapidly expanding in the white-collar world towards a fully
transparent global economy, in which business leaders will
know everything about one another and will seek a competitive
edge only in acquiring the earliest and most effective upgrades
to their critical software.
already an obstacle to development, will die to be later reincarnated
as e-bureaucracy – without offices, desks, and stripped of
many decision-making powers. Civil servants will give way to
files and databases.
None of these
topics is alien to us today. However, sometimes putting all
the facts together gives you a completely new picture of the
E-Homo sapiens is
not something to sneeze at. It is already at the door, and
it is, in fact, we who are doing much of the knocking. The
point of this article is to help us hear the knock. Forewarned
Narinyani is the chief executive of the Russian Research Institute
of Artificial Intelligence.