Thursday, February 11, 2016

Humanity 2.0

(not actual tCDS)
The stuff of science fiction, is becoming science fact. Developments in electronics and genetics mean we are on the cusp of changing humans. Not just future generations, but ourselves here and now.

I’ve blogged before about Grinders, those brave or foolish humans that conduct surgery on their own bodies to implant microchips and other devices to augment their interactions with electronic devices. Now there’s a more direct way to join with the machine. You may have seen adverts for electric brain stimulation machines. More correctly, transcranial direct current stimulation (tCDS) has been shown to stimulate neurons in your brain to fire more frequently. You can build your own with plans off the internet, a 9v battery, spongy electrodes and salt water. But if you don’t apply the electrodes correctly, or use it for too long you could just as easily impair brain function.

The next iteration of tCDS machines are becoming cleverer at interpreting brain signals, and very soon the machine could become your wingman. Imagine a wearable computer that doesn’t interrupt you with an incoming email because the high oxygen levels in your brain tells it you’re concentrating on something. So it waits till the levels drop before bothering you. Or maybe it knows you have a deadline to meet and delivers a small jolt of electrical stimulation to boost your concentration when it sees your attention flagging. Other machines might soon be reading the electrical activity of your body, such as smart watches that interpret twitches in your arm muscles to open your email in-box or send an sms.

Along with tCDS advances, we now have CRISPR gene editing. What the acronym stands for won’t enlighten you, but CRISPR is an extremely precise method of deleting or replacing specific gene sequences in your DNA. The control it affords means within the next decade scientists will target and edit out viruses like HIV, as well gene-related diseases like diabetes, and making organ transplants less open to rejection.

With the ability to hack our bodies electronically and genetically. Humanity 2.0 is here to stay.

This article originally appeared in the 'Launch Pad' section of Beyond, my free newsletter for lovers of science and science fiction. Sign up here -

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