We’re all getting an upgrade, whether we like it or not.
In a few years, every moment of our lives will be recorded, analyzed, and shared. We’ll take the sum of human knowledge for granted. We’ll wear tiny computers masquerading as fashion accessories. The merging of humans and technology is unavoidable, and the end result will be a new species able to hack its own cognition and edit its own biology.
This new species—call it Human 2.0—is the most important subject of the century. But it’s still hiding in academia and science fiction. We hope to change that.
Human 2.0 is a person, imbued with superpowers that let him learn, play, and love in new ways. It’s also a society, rethinking how to vote, govern, prosecute, cure, and comfort. It’s as much about upgrades to our bodies—seeing around corners, navigating flawlessly, hearing things miles away—as it is about adding our thoughts to the hive mind of human consensus.
We don’t recognize our smartphones as ancestors of the jack on the back of Neo’s head. Yet they connect us to a world of layers, both real and virtual, that we share with those around us. With every click we’ve gained another ability, added another layer, or shared with another network. Each time we do so, we incur new social obligations, battery requirements, and physical dependencies. Every tap lets another genie out of the digital bottle, never to return.
Unlike biological evolution, which is regulated by the rate of mutation, reproduction, and the pressures of natural selection, Human 2.0 can happen as fast as we can invent it. Kevin Kelly points out that the Internet is only five thousand days old. Imagine the next five thousand.
While the wedding photographs of this human-machine shotgun marriage are on every newsstand, from Wired to Discover to Popular Science, the divorce papers are filed under science fiction. Human 2.0 is at best lazy (Wall-E), at worst, extinct (The Matrix, The Terminator). Films like Strange Days and Brainstorm explore the impact of shared consciousness, but seldom provoke broad discussion. Meanwhile, organizations like the Singularity Institute—which works to prepare us for the coming of artificial intelligence—are few and far between. We don’t see the small, inexorable steps that take us there. We’re sleepwalking down a path, without asking where it leads, because Human 2.0 sneaks up on us one iPhone app, one social network, one online poll at a time.
When we are our technology, the digital divide becomes an uncrossable chasm. On one side stand strange bedfellows: hippies, survivalists, and fundamentalists. On the other gather the scientists, humanists, nerds, and hipsters. Conservatives don’t know it yet, but what they really hate is the posthumans.
This is the future of our species. It can make us Gods, or wipe us out. The giant leap to the posthuman happens one small step at a time, and we want to track those footprints. We hope you’ll join us.