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Future Imperative

What if technology were being developed that could enhance your mind or body to extraordinary or even superhuman levels -- and some of these tools were already here? Wouldn't you be curious?

Actually, some are here. But human enhancement is an incredibly broad and compartmentalized field. We’re often unaware of what’s right next door. This site reviews resources and ideas from across the field and makes it easy for readers to find exactly the information they're most interested in.

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The future is coming fast, and it's no longer possible to ignore how rapidly the world is changing. As the old order changes -- or more frequently crumbles altogether -- I offer a perspective on how we can transform ourselves in turn... for the better. Nothing on this site is intended as legal, financial or medical advice. Indeed, much of what I discuss amounts to possibilities rather than certainties, in an ever-changing present and an ever-uncertain future.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Should You Access Your Cyber-Implants Through Your Tongue? And Other Speculations...

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The Washington Post reports on some of the latest military-driven human augmentation research:
In their quest to create the superwarrior of the future, some military researchers aren't focusing on the obvious body parts such as legs or biceps or hearts. They're looking at tongues.

By routing signals from helmet-mounted cameras, sonar and other equipment through the tongue to the brain, they hope to give elite troops superhuman senses similar to those of owls, snakes and fish.

Researchers at Florida's Institute for Human and Machine Cognition envision their work giving Army Rangers 360-degree unobstructed vision at night and allowing Navy SEALs to sense sonar in their heads while maintaining normal vision underwater -- turning science fiction into reality.

The device, known as the "Brain Port," was pioneered more than 30 years ago by Paul Bach-y-Rita, a University of Wisconsin neuroscientist. He began routing images from a camera through electrodes taped to people's backs and later discovered the tongue was a superior transmitter.

Normally I would go over all the potential advancements heralded by the research itself. But today, I think it might be more important simply to point out that this new strain of research is being done, and who is doing it. Why?

Because here we see the military working very seriously to create augmented human troops -- "super-soldiers." And because there are a few potential "tipping points" when it comes to the emergence of widespread human augmentation research -- turning points after which radical human augmentation becomes far more likely. Frankly, a major push by the U.S. military to develop superhuman troops is one of the most obvious. Again, why?

The U.S. military can't really afford to be caught behind the power curve on human enhancement tech on the battlefield. Nor can they really afford for U.S. scientists (in the military-industrial complex or otherwise) to fall behind either. And as this sensory enhancement research joins augmented reality displays, power armor, nootropics and other lines of inquiry being paid for by the Pentagon, we can see that with so much money being used to explore so many different augmentation options, eventually these researchers will hit paydirt.

In fact, they'll probably hit it several times. And because it's really hard to take that kind of technology away from the Pentagon for any reason, political or otherwise, that cat will probably stay out of the bag.

Which means the very fact this research exists may in some ways be more important than what they find. Human augmentation research has now been deemed acceptable by one of the most important funding sources in existance. Whatever the consequences, a continued drive for military breakthroughs will reshape this field.


Bio, Cyber, Soc
Future Imperative

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