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Augmented humans... my thoughts of the future

Let me transport you... to the future. The year is 2150. Children are chasing each other around the school field, easily running 100 metres in less than ten seconds, thanks to the genetic modification their parents paid to have whilst they were still in the womb. Super efficient haeomaglobin, larger capacity lungs, and hearts mean that these children have superpowers which in the past would have the Olympic committee testing for steroids and testosterone abuse. 

However, at the nearby athletics stadium, the adults have yet to break the nine-second barrier. Why? Because the same Olympic committee has deemed that any augmentation, even those made pre-birth, disqualifies you from competing. Which means gold medal-winning boxers are regularly beaten up by children.

Soon though, there won’t be anyone left to compete in the regular Olympics – as it's not just pre-birth augmentation that has been perfected. Humans have also perfected artificial organs. They are so ubiquitous that you can buy them from vending machines that are on every street corner. Press A1 for a packet of cigarettes, A2 – some luxury cigars and A3 – for a new pair of lungs.

Everyone is forced to undergo extensive surgery in order to augment themselves and keep up with the robots taking over their jobs. Firefighters have infra-red eyes for night vision... as do burglars... mechanics have spanners for fingers and certain TV chat show hosts are getting a much-needed sense of humour transplant.

Bored of learning French?  Don’t worry – in the same way flip phones mimicked Star Trek communicators, we can now understand any language simply by inserting a robo-babel fish in your ear, just like in the HitchHikers Guide to the Galaxy. Although it’s still impossible to understand any of the character motivations in Hollyoaks. Or what politicians are talking about.

Extra arms, metal, wheels instead of feet – all are now commonplace. Rather than get a piercing, rebellious teenagers now strive to look as normal as possible. And accusing someone of having big ears or is no longer considered rude. Who knew that Prince Charles would be the cutting edge of body fashion?

Given their multiple daily interactions with humans, vending machines now double up as robo-doctors, able to diagnose most problems. Such as obesity caused by an over-prevalence of vending machines. 

After smushing your nose against the glass for the fifteenth time that day to guess what’s inside, it politely suggests you may need a new set of eyes. So you head to your nearest eyebooth and, after choosing from a menu of different eye colours – azure blue, mango green or smug yellow, it sprays anesthetic into your eyes and turns out the lights. So you can’t see what’s about to happen next. Thrash metal songs drown out the slurps and squidges of your retinas being extracted before new robo-lenses are superglued to your optic nerve. To calibrate them you then simply blink at all the photos in that Daily Mail that show women in a positive and empowering light. Hint, it’s still none of them. You then merrily head off to enjoy your brand new eyes, before promptly tripping over your shoelaces as you were too busy staring at a man's hairline you're convinced is a wig. As you dust yourself down your robo-eyes point out you’re looking very jaundiced and not, as you previously thought, permanently covered in hot-dog mustard. So your head back to the vending machine where it takes a pinprick of blood and does some analysis. Turns out all those years of drinking Vendo-Cola has wrecked your liver. But no worries, there’s a two for one offer at a nearby supermarket. 30 minutes and a sticky plaster under your ribs later, you're are the proud owner of shiny new robo-liver. You walk past a queue of people having their tickers replaced at a charity shop, so you join in. It’s the British Heart Foundation. Need better-smelling arms? The Body Shop has a great new range in. Slowly, organ by organ, limb by limb, you become a cyborg. Until one day your brain finally fails. Is this the end? No, Raspberry Pis are now perfectly capable, so you pick one up online, upload your knowledge and memories via USB 6.0 and visit a hairdresser for a quick trim and brain swap.

Hang on I hear you say – I have very good hearing thanks to my robo-ears – what about the real you? Your essence of being! Won’t that be lost?

No.

Ever since scientists discovered it was located in a small mole behind the left ear you’ve been backing your soul up to the cloud on a daily basis. Which means, in a way, a part of you is already in digital heaven. Even if the rest of your so-called body is still stuck in meatspace.  All this variety, modification, and customisation mean that there is no longer any such thing as a ‘normal’ person... meaning engineers around the world can finally fulfill their twin dreams – of being accepted into society AND having a USB port up each nostril.

Hear more of my whimsical views on The DesignSpark Podcast!

#3: Can I Get an Upgrade?

I am an inventor, engineer, writer and presenter. Other stuff: Royal Academy of Engineering Visiting Professor of Engineering: Creativity and Communication at Brunel University London; Founder of the Guild of Makers (www.guildofmakers.org); Fellow of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers and have a PhD in bubbles; Judge on BBC Robot Wars.

16 Sep 2019, 10:33