Technology Change is Inevitable, Resistance is Futile

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Are we headed into a Star Trek-like future?

If you asked my freshman-year college boyfriend, he would have told you he envisioned a mile-high and mile-wide cube city descending from the sky at some future moment in our lives. He really believed this. He was a little different. He was also a big Star Trek fan. I should know. Many nights when we didn't have homework, I would sit in the huge common area in his dorm watching episodes of Star Trek Next Generation with him and other Physics majors and their nerdy girlfriends (if they had girlfriends). I suppose that made me one of the nerdy girlfriends, too.

On that science fiction television program, dishy actor Patrick Stewart played Jean Luc Picard, the heroic space explorer who encounters the Borg. The Borg, as it so happens, are part humanoid and part machine, and they live in a hive-like fashion on huge cube-shaped space ships that are immensely powerful. The Borg are the Federation's most threatening enemy, for they devour and destroy whatever is in their path, like a swarm of locusts.

 

Jean Luc Picard Played by Patrick Stewart as Locutus of Borg

The Borg are simply a fiction, though an entertaining one. But they are interesting. I personally don't believe in a futurity that includes a mile-wide space cube, but I saw it on TV, and I'd like to address the Borg's most appealing quality amid their/its otherwise sinister character traits.

"Resistance is futile, you will be assimilated."

That's not quite right, I know I will offend some die-hard Trekkers here, but the quality I think we all need to take note of in the Borg is their supreme adaptability. The Borg capture their victims, erase their individuality, assimilate their victims' best technologies, and discard the rest. The Borg are mindless drones, but again, they are supremely adaptable.

 

An Information Tidal Wave

How much information will be available in 2, 6, 12, or 20 years? If technical information doubles every 2 years, see how much more information will exist in 20 years!

1. 2

2. 4

3. 8

4. 16

5. 32

6. 64

7. 128

8. 256

9. 512

10. 1014

11. 2028

12. 4056

13. 8112

14. 16224

15. 32448

16. 64896

17. 129792

18. 259584

19. 519168

20. 1,038,336

Notes on Adaptation...Darwin and Eugenics

My thoughts on adaptaption aren't particularly original. English naturalist Charles Darwin travelled thousands of miles on HMS Beagle to draw his own conclusions on the subject, and decided that those who adapt to their changing environments survive. This theory, called the Theory of Natural Selection, became the foundation of modern evolutionary theory. He wrote hundreds of pages coming to this conclusion.

But unlike Darwin, who lived in the 19th century during a time when information was limited to what a person could read in print and experience in person, we live in a society where technical information doubles every two years (according to the "expert" who created the Shift Happens video on my other technology Hub).

If that fact isn't mind-blowing in and of itself. think of its implications. If information doubles at the same rate for the next 20 years, we will have 1 million times the amount of information we have today. How old will you be in 20 years? I'll be only 55.

Change is happening at lightning speed, and we can't possibly begin to read all of even a small percentage of what is published about countless specialized subjects. Our ability to adapt becomes more important than ever.

__________________________________________________________

UNLIKE DARWIN, WE LIVE IN A SOCIETY WHERE TECHNICAL INFORMATION DOUBLES EVERY TWO YEARS

___________________________________________________________

Adapting and improving the human race through artificial means has been popular since the mid 20th century, when the concept of tinkering with nature took on less of a sinister Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde quality, and improved in the public eye through the popularity of the eugenics craze of the early 20th century. This movement had its supporters in the intelligensia all over the world, but was abused by the Nazis and used to rationalize the Holocaust.

Even so, the Eugenics movement has only increased in popularity and sophistication. Research from The Human Genome Project, which has managed to create a map 20-25,000 genes in human DNA, took 13 years to complete, and had funding from the U.S. government, China, Japan, France, and Germany.

In our forseeable lifetimes, computers will have the ability to process information as faster than we can think, and with indepent reasoning ability.

We ARE Like the Borg, Sort Of

Humans are attempting their own adaptations to technology, with some similarities to the Borg. Think about these adaptations using technological and biological tools:

People in the West are increasingly using vitamins and health food supplements and stronger medications like steroids to increase their physical and mental performance. At first these things were used mainly by health food junkies, but more and more, people use these items to alter or enhance their mental and physical performance, in addition to improving their health. Who can forget those German Olympians who infamously increased their performance with the use of steroids? Other athletes aren't immune, either--the organizers of the Tour de France has recently increased mandatory testing of cyclists in this famous race due to performance enhancing drug abuses.

Prosthetics are another Borg-like adaptation. They have become increasingly sophisticated, too. Robotic arms and legs restore people's ambulation. Artificial hips and knees are so common that lots of people go through two or three in their lifetimes. Now, with the completion of the Human Genome project and the adaptation of biomedical research, synthetic organs like eyes, livers, and hearts aren't very far in the future.

Plastic Surgery and cosmetic dentistry are examples of Borg-like adaptations that used to be available to only a few Hollywood elite. A beautiful white smile that replaces aging and coffee-stained teeth is just one example of an alteration to a person's physical appearance that can be used to enhance a person's chances for success in relationships and business. Cosmetic dentistry is simply Darwin's survival of the fittest hard at work.

And what about the tools we implant in our bodies to improve ourselves? My mother is only 56 and has had 2 pacemakers since she was 40. Her life has arguably been extended for years by this technology.

Then there are the gadgets we use to increase our performance in our day-to-day lives. How many people do you know who keep their cell phones, palm pilots, or fancy multi-function wrist watches on their selves at all times? Kids can now have their IPODs docked into their backpacks. How soon until these items can be directly plugged into their skin?

When I watched Star Trek in the 1990s, I thought it was an amusing diversion. But is it really a portent of things to come?

© Serghei Starus
© Serghei Starus
http://www.ex-astris-scientia.org
http://www.ex-astris-scientia.org

You Will Be Assimilated or...

Will you be replaced by a machine?

If, like the Borg, you can adapt to the tidal wave of information and the rapidly changing technology, you will be assimilated. This doesn't mean that you will lose your humanity, your creativity, or even your soul, but it does mean that you will not find yourself an obsolete relic in a quickly changing world. That is, IF you can adapt, my lovelies. Assimilation could be a good thing if it means avoiding obsolesence.

The Borg adapted the best technologies of its captives. We can, too. For example, who can argue that advances in technology haven't made life better for people with disabilities? New Kurzweil Readers for the blind break down barriers to their success, by enabling them to read printed materials without the assistance of a sighted person. The reader takes a photo of the print item that needs to be read, then uses optical character recognition technology to read the printed text aloud. This specialized tool is one of many technological innovations that assists humans with physical limitations.

Adaptation is the Key

With so many biological and technological breakthroughs happening ridiculously fast, it is imperative that we learn to adapt within our changing society. And more importantly, it means that we have to cultivate adaptability within our own lives and teach our children this important trait.

Does this mean that you HAVE to run out and buy a Bluetooth headset, an IPod, and a Wii game player? I don't think so. Not yet, anyway.

But it does mean that we need to try new things and encourage our kids to try new things. And most importantly, we need to recognize that we live in a time of rapid paradigm shifts. For each technological revolution (and they seem to be happening continuously), we need to realize that our culture's key paradigms are going to rapidly change as well.

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Comments 11 comments

Chef Jeff profile image

Chef Jeff 8 years ago from Universe, Milky Way, Outer Arm, Sol, Earth, Western Hemisphere, North America, Illinois, Chicago.

In the earlier series of Star Trek Lt. Uhura was going to be given a machine body while keeping her mind.  At least in theory that was how it was supposed to work, but there is always a Catch 22.

We are using machines to do much of our thinking for us, and movies of all kinds reflect the fears and excitement as we boldly go where we probably shouldn't aimlessly wander.

That said, I have not doubt that how we are today will look primitive and strange to people alive just a few hundred years from now, (If we survive that long!).  We may look similar to our most recent ancestors, but we look very much different from those just a few thousand years ago, and very much less like our earliest ancestors.

Change is inevitable, so resistance is, indeed, futile, and we (or at least those who come after us) will be assimilated.


wannabwestern profile image

wannabwestern 8 years ago from The Land of Tractors Author

Hi Chef Jeff!

This topic is admittedly outside my area of expertise, but I found it interesting. I like your comment. Personally, I have a hard time believing that a person's mind could be transferred into a machine body in any near future. The idea suggests that our mind merely comprises data and that our brain is a biological storage unit. I think there's more to it than that.


Woody Marx profile image

Woody Marx 8 years ago from Ontario, Canada

I have no doubt that there will in the not-too-distant future, a number of individuals who will be 'enhanced' with technology. After all, what is a hearing-aid if not a technological enhancement to the human body? And there are certainly many people with pace-makers. Certainly within twenty years we will be surrounded by such additions to the human body and all we can do is cross our fingers and hope that they are all for positive, healthy uses and not to put some people at an unfair advantage to those who cannot, for example, access the internet in their heads. Thumbs up for this hub!


wannabwestern profile image

wannabwestern 8 years ago from The Land of Tractors Author

Thanks Woody,

I agree. The image scandals at the Olympics are a prime example of nature no longer being good enough. Already we are bombarded in the media by images that reflect a perfected ideal instead of reality. And think of the poor schleps who are passed over for prime jobs because they don't look good enough! (Or perhaps in the future, they don't have the right hardware). Improvements are marvelous but those "improvements" on health, image, and physique will create some other issues. HMMMmmm. Sounds like another hub to me.


lusty airing profile image

lusty airing 8 years ago from Michigan

I expect that performance-enhancing elective additions to our bodies (memory aids, neural networking, etc.) will come first to the wealthy and then will trickle down. The good news is that the time required for trickle-downs is decreasing. But this will create a situation that really puts the haves and the have-nots at very distant ends of the spectrum. And there will be two classes of people, basically, who don't adopt: Those who can't, and those who choose not to.


wannabwestern profile image

wannabwestern 8 years ago from The Land of Tractors Author

Lusty,

In America, the public school system is already playing out the dynamic you describe. Since public schools are funded from local tax revenues, which are based mainly on property taxes, school districts that bring in higher property tax revenues end up having more discretionary income for technology. Add to that parents who work at high tech companies, and guess who gets the corporate grants? We recently moved to a more high-tech area from a school district that struggled to keep the school buses running. The issue of technology haves and have nots is already happening.


lusty airing profile image

lusty airing 8 years ago from Michigan

Agreed, it's already here. No question about that. My hope is that the trickle-down will be faster as time goes on, due to falling hardware costs, opening intellectual property trends, and changing social needs/desires. Optimism is not a strategy for dealing with change, but it does help keep one from becoming too upset about the state of things to come...


wannabwestern profile image

wannabwestern 8 years ago from The Land of Tractors Author

In the low-tech area where I used to live, most of the people who had grown up in the area stayed there to open construction-related businesses. In a good economy, these small developers did quite well for themselves. But many of them were in the "choose not to adapt" category. Lots of them are now beginning to use the internet as a key part of their business model, but not like the area we moved to. Where we lived was rural and didn't have a good technology infrastructure, either. At the schools, administrators had a sense that we needed adopt technology, but weren't sure what to do with it, so couldn't make a convincing argument to the local population that payed the taxes. We finally got to rid ourselves of dial-up when cable internet access was offered at $15 a month. The middle to high incomers could 'choose' to ramp up their computer usage earlier, but the low incomers struggled to get by and couldn't afford computers and internet.

In my new area, the "have nots" are already experiencing the trickle down effect of being in neighborhoods that have excellent school and library access to computers. High tech employees don't question the advantages of integrating computer use in public schools. Even if people in this area don't have computers at home, they can easily gain access at school or use the internet for free by walking into a well-funded public library that is open until 8 p.m. most nights.

It would seem that moving to the right locale might be a key factor to staying connected to this information elite class. Assimilate yourself and adapt.


Juliet Christie profile image

Juliet Christie 8 years ago from Sandy Bay Jamaica

Over the years man has continued to adapt to the changes of nature and technology. We can all rest assure that we will adopt. we have started to produce high tech babies. If you want to know how your high tech feature on our cell phone works just give it to your 4 year old.


fdoleac profile image

fdoleac 7 years ago from Hollis, New Hampshire

This is the challenge to the real estate industry and is a major problem as the average Realtor is 53 years old and the average buyer is 31. The buyer wants responsive, knowledgeable and tech savvy agents. So far, the industry has not integrated technology into the customer service side of the home buying process.


wannabwestern profile image

wannabwestern 7 years ago from The Land of Tractors Author

I agree with you fdoleac, that is something I've experienced firsthand. We had a 30-something year old realtor when we bought our current house, and she used the internet tools available quite a bit. She was also an excellent negotiator and brought non-tech skills that were still an important part of the process for us.

Your comment seems pertinent to just about any field, though. Many professions have completely transformed over the last 10 or 15 years, and those who haven't adapted are out in the dark.

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