Imagine 20 years ago, before the Internet invaded our lives, how hard it would have been to predict what your children and grandchildren would be facing.
Yes, and imagine 20 years ago, or even 10, reading a column like the one quoted above. In it, Susan Greenfield writes about individuality, alludes to human brain augmentation, and questions the meaning of identity. She is, by the way, a professor of pharmacology at Oxford, director of the Royal Institution of Great Britain, and author of Tomorrow's People: How 21st-Century Technology Is Changing the Way We Think and Feel.
In recent years, items like these have become commonplace. Books titled Radical Evolution: The Promise and Peril of Enhancing Our Minds, Our Bodies--and What It Means to Be Human, Citizen Cyborg: Why Democratic Societies Must Respond to the Redesigned Human of the Future, and More Than Human: Embracing the Promise of Biological Enhancement appear in bookstores and libraries everywhere.
Why? Because the future is now. It is all around us as part of our lives, and we are part of it. Change occurs today faster than ever, and although some may suffer from Future Shock, most make the transition from yesterday to tomorrow unaware of how great a step they have taken. I call this phenomenon "Unconscious Confirmation," the tacit acceptance of new technologies, abilities, and ways of life through passive assent.
Of course, not everyone is willing to agree that the future is now. The rise of religious fundamentalism in both East and West can be seen, at least partially, as a response to accelerating societal transformations.
CRN contends that development of distributed general-purpose molecular manufacturing systems will result in an even steeper curve of change. The shift looks so abrupt that we commonly refer to it as "The Step" (whether the step is up or down will depend on decisions that are made within the next several years). It might be called a discontinuity, except that some form of society, it is hoped, will still be functioning afterwards.
This kind of talk sounds apocalyptic to many people, and some say that CRN would be wise to tone it down a little (see comments). We believe it is essential, however, to be forthright, even if that puts us at risk of being branded as fanatics or alarmists. Because the stakes are so high, we're willing to weather criticism.
By the way, for an extreme example of avoiding criticism by toning down projections, take a look at this absurd timetable for future human evolution. A million years until Homo sapiens is significantly changed? I don't think so.