You’re Already a 21st Century Cyborg

You’re Already a 21st Century Cyborg

The human brain is amazing.

With an estimated 90 billion neurons, your brain is constantly connecting, growing, and evolving. Its trillions of active synapses (each with their own unique biochemical mileu) track memories, feelings, emotions — everything that makes you you. For what looks on the outside to be merely a sack of moist, pink goo, our brains prove that we are more than just the sum of our parts.

That said, a lot people (me included) believe that your brain could be better.

Because at one point or another, we’ve all felt limited by our minds. We’ve all felt the pain of forgetting, of cognitive fatigue, and of emotional overload. We’ve all felt, first hand, the constraints of our primitive brain — instincts we wish we didn’t have but possess no power to overcome. Sex. Thirst. Hunger.

Desire isn’t inherently bad… but desire for things that ultimately make our modern lives worse is.

Shackled within our own biology, many of us have longed to be better, to extend our intelligence, and to uplift our lives. Most, spurred by science fiction, believe that future technology holds the key. That our path to human enhancement lies fifty, one-hundred, or two-hundred years from now.

However, despite what preconceptions you may have about the rate of human scientific progress, I would venture as far to say that you’re already more than just you. And that you’re taking it for granted.

Consider: we’re already twice the humans we were just thirty or forty years ago (productivity-wise). Perhaps even more. A single Excel spreadsheet, for example, may very well have the same functional capacity as a veritable fleet of accountants back in the 1960s.

Likewise, your computer (and by extension, your brain) is now part of a global information network. A problem that may have previously taken days to solve on your own can now be Googled in seconds. We’re now constantly leveraging the collective human knowledge base — the Internet — to inform our decisions, find out where we’re going, and interact with businesses and organizations.

Which leads me to an interesting point: really, if you think about it, all technology extends human function.

The first irrigation systems, for example, extended our capacity for environmental control and crop stability. They multiplied our ability to farm.

Likewise, the invention of the wheel extended our capacity for movement, and thus our autonomy. It multiplied our ability to move.

Technology development is thus really the process of increasing human capability— of expanding and multiplying our core operating system’s functionality to be able to do things more effectively.

It’s strange — people have always relegated the notion of “human enhancement” to science fiction or speculation… but the truth is, it’s already here. For example, your phone.

Here’s something to think about: the only difference between the oft-mentioned “neural implant” and a modern cellular phone is a latency of several seconds. If even that. Sure, your phone isn’t technically a part of you like a neural implant would be (yet) but that’s just semantics.

Every human-internet interaction starts with a thought. You having said thought leads to your motor cortex executing the appropriate muscle movements that transfer that information to the cloud, usually by way of a small keyboard. Then, your visual system renders the output of that operation (the contents of your phone screen) back to your main cognitive hot-seat, the prefrontal cortex.

This loop certainly takes slightly longer to complete than a neural implant would, but it is fundamentally the same process. And most of us do this dozens of times a day (at the very minimum), with younger generations being more and more reliant on the Internet as a source of information and connections. They happily offload work from their brain to the cloud…

And this multiplies their ability to think.

So before you despair over being born too soon to see the real fruits of human technological advancement — of neural implants, revolutionary starships, and cognitive enhancements — understand that you are, in fact, already more than human.