Have you ever heard of “Isthmus of Panama”? It is the narrow strip of land that we call Panama today, which connects the continents of North and South America. Thirty million years ago, this piece of land was under water, separating the two continents. South America, like Australia today was populated with Marsupial mammals, while North America was populated with Placental mammals. For those of you who are not so familiar with these biological terms; Marsupial mammals are animals such as Kangaroos and Koalas who complete their development in a pouch while Placental mammals, as a fetus grows by a placenta connecting the embryo and mother’s circulatory system; much like how humans are born. Placental mammals invest more time and energy than marsupials in this early stage of growth. Thus, when the Isthmus of Panama rose, the Placental mammals with slightly more effective metabolism displaced and eliminated almost all Marsupial mammals in Southern America.
Technology has amplified the growth of many fields and it has allowed us to survive the earth, and become the superior species. For the most part the progress we’ve made has been constructive. But, the developments beginning from the 20 th century are motivated by destruction. Most technologies we use today have been developed for military purposes, which have now boiled down to civilian market. What keeps us in check with development of those WMDs is the earth itself; or the scarcity of raw materials. But we don’t back down, do we? Now we can mine the asteroid belt for those minerals. The 21st century developments are much more interesting. Genetics, Nano-Technology and Robotics. These fields are different from the developments of any other year. These technologies rely on knowledge alone. With that, the ability of nature to control our destructive phase is quite limited. Murphy’s law states that “Anything that can go wrong; will go wrong”. We invented antibiotics, and it has given rise to the biggest problem of humanity so far; antibiotic resistant bacteria. We used DDT to combat Malaria, and the mosquitoes became DDT resistant. So, what’s next? Genetics, Nano-Technology and Robotics is the backbone of creating sentient machines.
It’s easier to imagine a future where we make robots to do our bidding; do manufacturing, do critical jobs, while we rest. I’m sure people in the 90’s thought about flying cars in 2020. Technology has a funny way of getting adopted in mysterious ways. Has the thought ever occurred to you that we, ourselves may be the robots? How, you ask. It started with the prosthetics. Today’s prosthetic market holds about roughly USD 8.2 billion. Research and development on these prosthetics involve using robotics to create arms, limbs and other organs that responds to brain waves, and work naturally as intended. Currently, prosthetics are for the disabled. But, why can’t it be used to enhancements, provided that the technology gets there? Eyes that can see at night, hearts that don’t get clogged, kidneys that don’t fail, lungs that purify all kinds of air? On the other hand, we have genetic engineering; which for years have been used on agriculture to create food variations. Genetic Engineering can be adopted to prevent hereditary diseases, genetic defects in humans, and to supplement reproduction.
It looks to be only a matter of time before humans will pay to better themselves. Who wouldn’t pay to be near immortal? But, when everything is said and done, are we man or machine? What we talk about here is a superior physical form, which would redefine humanity. With science, everything is related. When we upgrade our physical form, that makes us consume more energy. This reminds us of the Kardashev Scale, and how we may progress on it. For the development, we may actually have to lose ourselves. So, all good right? Well, not quite.
While we value progress of technology on a global scale, that technology is not managed in that same scale. We have private orporations managing projects that impact an entire world. The top 1% of the population runs the world. What happened to the Red Indians? What happened to Native Americans? Unmanaged technology wiped them all out. When the technology is finally here for humans to be immortal, who decides the price of the procedure? Who decides who should be immortal? Will the leading countries be the Europeans while the rest of the world become Red Indians? Let’s remind ourselves what happened when the Isthmus of Panama surfaced, and a slightly superior species invaded the land. We don’t have to go that far to realize that, even-though we consider these developments in global scales, they do happen in developed countries. The research and development and the creation of these awesome technologies taken place in a selected number of countries. Not so long ago, when Great Britain had superiority over a field, they conquered one-third of the whole known world. When Japan had that sort of power, they did the same. Germany did almost the same as well. And what did the US do when they weaponized Uranium?
The distribution of technology among countries in the world is pretty similar to how different currencies are used around the world. Why can’t the whole world use a single currency? In a sense, technology is never going to function the same across the globe, nor will be accessible equally. Make a guess, who will be wiped out next when a population in the world is enhanced? We may not be a part of that future. “The Future Doesn’t Need Us.” This emphasizes the need of using a global management system to monitor and control the progress of technology, and use the global knowledge to speed up the progress. Did the USA develop faster before or after the Civil War? The divisions, secret projects are only good to maintain status, and have no real contribution to constructive development. How this progress should be managed, and who would play key roles are anyone’s guess.
Exposition Magazine Issue 15
Department of Industrial Management
University of Kelaniya