More machine than man

ACN discusses the topic of transhumanism and what it could mean for business.

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More machine than man Alexander Sophoclis Pieri, editor of Arabian computer news.
By  Alexander Pieri Published  February 23, 2017

At the recent World Government Summit in Dubai, SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk was invited onstage to share his insights on current IT trends and his predictions for the future of humanity.

The South African billionaire, who was also in Dubai to promote the launch of Tesla in the UAE, touched upon a wide-range of topics, which included the importance of universal basic income, full autonomy within the automotive industry, and the challenges surrounding artificial intelligence (AI).

On the latter, Musk argued that as AI will to grow more formidable and will soon reach a point where it would outpace humanity. He added that in order to avoid becoming redundant, humanity needs to advance its intellect by merging with technology, an idea that surely sparked the interest of proponents of transhumanism.

To those not familiar with the term, transhumanism refers to a global intellectual movement dedicated to transforming the human condition, through sophisticated technologies that enhance both human intellect and physical capacities.

Over the last 60 years, interest in the transhumanism has grown at a steady pace, drawing numerous supporters from all walks of life. The movement has been greatly popularised in science fiction literature, particularly within the cyberpunk genre, as well as other forms of media.

In film, the themes of transhumanism have been touched upon in recognisable classics likes 2001: A Space Odyssey and Blade Runner, as well as big blockbusters franchises, such as the Robocop and Star Wars film series.

The last decade has seen substantial progress across a number of technological disciplines related to transhumanism. One in particular lies with the field of prosthetics, where recent advances have enabled amputees to manipulate artificial limbs via electrical signals to the brain.

Then there are the more sensational stories, such as the case of Rob Spence, a Canadian filmmaker who replaced his eyeball, which was previously disabled from a childhood accident, with a bionic camera.

As one might expect, the movement has also spurred a number of debates and public controversy, particularly around discussions on the loss of human identity and the socioeconomic impact.

Take for example the business environment. Not everyone would be keen on taking on implants, or replacing their limbs with artificial ones, or even embedding a processor into their brain as a means to analyse and process data faster.

But what happens when it becomes a ‘must have' in the job description?

Would prospective candidates need to invest in sophisticated technologies to be even considered for the role, or would the initial cost be covered by the company as part of the on-boarding process?

There is also the debate of whether or not the entirety of the workforce needs such technological improvements, or if it's only with select individuals.

It would make sense for an IT professional to be equipped with advanced technologies, but how about the company's CEO or CFO? Should someone with access to critical data carry such a vulnerability for hackers to target, right in their own skull?

There is also the danger that such technologies could cause a divide across society, between those that can afford such ‘augmentations' and those that cannot.

As it has always been, technology is a risk to the status quo, but also an enabler of opportunity.

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