As areas of technological progress go, human body modification is one of the most exciting — yet one of the most unpredictable in terms of potential impact. The benefits are undeniable. Losing a limb will no longer be a stigma — far from it. Mass production of artificial organs, from hearts to eyes, that completely replace and even surpass the originals will ensure a life that is both productive and long.
Body augmentation is sure to go beyond its purely medical application. It will be hard to resist the temptation to become stronger, prettier, or more suited for the work you do literally overnight — even if that means parting company with some lesser biological material. Jaws will drop when you enter the Body Shop and walk out transformed, or treat yourself to a new sensory organ that totally alters your perception of the world.
But will the augmented ones still be “real people”? How will these cyborgs be perceived by more conservative segments of society? Will we have mixed families, schools, hospitals, and sports teams? Or will humankind become stratified by type and number of augmentations, creating a new kind of class system? Will the rapidly progressing technologies prove vulnerable to external attack, turning the new titans into obedient puppets in the hands of biohackers? And will our electronic intestines become surveillance fodder for powerful corporations or the state?
And that’s even before we get to brain augmentation. Implants instead of smartphones will enable you to order pizza or chat with a colleague using the power of your thoughts, or create a memory store for your entire conscious life with guaranteed security and easy search and scrolling. Now you’ll remember where you put your keys not only the morning after, but two decades later. Nerve cells will become enhanced. And finally, somewhere in the distant future, humans will achieve immortality of consciousness — either with our minds stored in a machine or with the brain replaced by nanorobots.
But as ever, the greater the opportunities, the greater the risks. Concerns about personal data leaks will be supplanted by worries about thought privacy. Forget phishing sites; tomorrow’s hackers will lure victims into a fully immersive phishing reality, erase their memories, and construct botnets out of people.