Sunday, 14 November 2010

Is technology overtaking us?

Technology is changing the way we live, anyone can see. This is not a rant against advancement; definitely one reason for me starting a blog is because I feel increasingly that I don't want to be left behind by modernity! Facebook, Twitter, iPhones have all become an integral part of our daily lives, with all their advantages and disadvantages rolled into one. But all the same, I am convinced that even if we want to, we cannot escape the advancing of technology any more than we can stop it.

However, that is not what I meant by this title.

I'm talking about technology that will soon overtake our very capacity as human beings. Perhaps it begins with self-service machines at Tesco - which I love incidentally - but which symbolise the decreasing need for personnel or human interaction.

Last week I was at a conference in the European Parliament on “Bio-engineering”, subtitle: "Creating Perfect Life". An ambitious title, no doubt, but it was designed to be provocative. There were various discussions, one being "Biology becoming technology" and another "Technology becoming biology”.

Words like ‘human cyborgs’, and ‘drones’ flew around the room leaving me feeling disorientated. Perhaps it didn’t help that I had watched the entire Star Wars series earlier this month (images of the clone wars going through my head). But this was not science fiction; it is already becoming scientific reality.

Did you know...?

·         The US have already deployed unmanned combat vehicles to Afghanistan, meaning, effectively, that a person can sit in Texas with a computer screen and a joy stick, and can control an aeroplane that is shoot people thousands of miles away. They are now thinking of developing autonomous vehicles.
·         Scientists are currently carrying out a project to design a super computer that is an exact replica of the human brain.
·         Human embryos have already been cloned up to 100 cells (more or less 3 days old).

The European Parliament was listening to scientific experts to open debate on how these developments should be regulated and what ethics apply.

One expert concluded by saying that it is doubtful anyone can stop science advancing: bio-technology is inevitable. What is therefore essential is to prepare ourselves for what ethical stance we should take.

I wonder how my (hypothetical) great-grandchildren will compete in job interviews against a fully autonomous robot whose brain power functions at several hundred times the speed of a human...