I can’t decide if it’s brilliant or unnerving that technology advances so quickly. In the past thirty years alone we’ve transitioned from computers which fill entire rooms to mobile phones the size of a chocolate bar. Some very smart cookies think computers will actually surpass our own intelligence by 2029. For context, the human race has only been playing around with a little thing we call ‘civilization’ for 3% of its lifetime.
This brings up a question that’s pure click-bait; if we’re advancing at such a breakneck pace, what next? Because I’m trying hard not to make a worn-out reference about Skynet here, we’ll swiftly move on to Dues Ex: Mankind Divided. Set a decade from now, Eidos Montreal’s stealth/action hybrid looks at what happens when augmentations are misused. After terrorists push the world into a state of bionic apartheid, the suitably gruff Adam Jensen is left to make things right. He’s a cooler version of Robocop, basically; a cringe-inducing attack left him ripped to pieces, so his employers put Humpty Dumpty back together again with a few ‘improvements’. These include carbon-fibre arms, in-built sunglasses and super-strength to match.
You might write off this vision of the future as unrealistic. I’m not sure it’s all that implausible, though. While gaining the ability to fly or laser shields might be a stretch, cybernetic and technological upgrades aren’t beyond the realm of possibility. How long will it take for the world’s boffins to create truly bionic arms? As in Deus Ex, that’s a slippery slope. While most of us aren’t likely to be involved with anything drastic (I’m picturing the equivalent of Google Glass’ heads-up display), they’re still a development ripe for abuse. In Mankind Divided’s live-action trailer, we see innocent civilians being ‘hacked’ by forces unknown. It’s a possibility no-one could afford to ignore if we supplemented our grey matter too. Think about the cyber-attacks we face already. Now imagine how wrong things could go if our brains were connected to the web. Taking physical control may be the stuff of science fiction, but stealing information or subconscious conditioning is scarily credible. Third parties might influence how we think, act or vote. That’s an awful lot of power on the table waiting to be mistreated.
It’s a more complicated debate than you’d expect. Fail-safes would surely have to implemented as a result. Are augmented humans eligible to vote if there’s the possibility of their choice being hijacked? What about running for office? Could you guarantee a candidate’s independence if they sported this sort of augmentation? And even were you able to, would the average Joe believe it? You can see why cyborgs are the victims of such prejudice in the Deus Ex universe.
The same trailer also raised a point I hadn’t thought of before. Drugs to ensure your mods aren’t rejected are probably going to become a vital – and lucrative – resource. Whoever’s got control of them therefore controls the market… and you. It’s a dystopian nightmare where corporations have far too much influence.
Perhaps this is a can of worms we’re better leaving unopened.
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