This is a sequel.
As Eli justly remarked, we are already cyborgs.The computer is extending our ability to think and remember. The Internet is extending our ability to communicate and share information. Microscopes, telescopes, night vision etc. are extending our ability to sense.
What is going to change in the future in this respect? Firstly, our technological extensions will become more numerous and powerful. Equally importantly, they will become more synergetic with ourselves. Instead of looking through a telescope, your experience will be that of your eyes being the telescope. Instead of searching in Google using your keyboard, you will do that by merely thinking. Instead of writing things down in Microsoft Outlook, it will just feel like remembering. Instead of doing computations with a calculator, you will do them in your mind without “sweat”. Instead of driving a car, you will become the car (provided you really want to control it instead of just getting from point A to point B; even the later will usually be unnecessary).
Extension of human “IO” will not be limited to information naturally contained in the physical reality. It will include conventionally encoded information: the kind we store in writing, computers etc. today. The synergy of the human use of such information will lead to the Internet becoming a “virtual reality”: something experienced directly rather than through non-transparent intermediates such as keyboards, mice and displays. “Ordinary” reality will become “augmented reality” as additional layers of information will be seamlessly available about “surrounding” physical objects (that is, objects under attention). Imaging looking at a bus and knowing what line it is and what is its trajectory. A possible intermediate form of augmented reality is superposing the additional information layers on the existing senses, e.g. “seeing” a “clickable” line number floating in the air besides the bus.
Physical location of human beings will become much less important. Even now the Internet, cellular phones and video conferences are reducing its importance. In the future this trend will continue much more. The culmination is mind-body separation. One can image huge immobile “brains” banked somewhere, operating bodies in distant physical locations and purely “virtual” realms.
Many activities don’t require engaging the “direct” physical reality but allow working with “conventionally encoded” higher abstraction layers. These include
- “Software” engineering, that is the design of technology operating within these higher abstraction layers
- Theoretical learning and research
- “Virtual” Art
Other activities require interaction with “lower abstraction layers”. These include
- “Hardware” engineering
- Experimental science
- Colonization of space
- “Physical” Art
Eventually the “synergy” of the “virtual IO” (the exchange of “conventionally encoded” information) will make the “Internet” into a shared memory of human kind. It will store actual memories, experiences, thoughts, knowledge etc. which will be downloadable and uploadable. This will result in individuality becoming “fuzzy”, up to the point of almost utter disappearance. The entire population of a given planet will merge into a “multimind”. The multimind will be a continuous array of memories, desires etc. connected by associations as is the mind of an individual today. The mind of a modern individual contains a “stream of consciousness” (“CPU”) continuously traversing the memories (“RAM”), loading them into the short term memory (“cash”), connecting them to IO and transforming them. In an analogical way, the multimind will contain many streams of consciousness processing the shared memory in parallel, each with its own cash and connected to specific IOs at any given moment.
I call this multimind a “Solaris”, to honour Stanislaw Lem. The Solaris is a single entity uniting the whole technosphere, ecosphere and consciousness of an entire planet.
Due to the disappearance of individual, property will lose its meaning. Birth and death will also become obsolete, except for the birth of new Solarises through space colonization.
It is also possible that the Solaris will contain “quasi-individuals”: tightly bound chunks of memories, desires and ideas. Such
quasi-individuals will dynamically form out of the Solaris and dissolve back into it.