Opinion: This is your brain online

Brian Reimer

Brian Reimer

Brian Reimer is a senior anthropology major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].

It is interesting to think that my generation is likely the first that will have the ability to enhance our bodies with digital technology. Put differently, the millennial generation will be the first that will have the ability to guide its own personal evolution.

An analysis of emerging technologies points to a vision of the near future that mirrors science fiction and brings up multiple possible ethical, existential and epistemological considerations. Technology is growing faster and becoming more socially relevant than ever before, and my generation is facing a strange future in stride.

The proliferation of digital technology in the past decade has had a broad and transformative effect on society and culture. Nowhere is this more apparent than the rapid adoption of social media and texting as the primary means for communication among the age 18-35 demographic. I feel that a lot of people — myself included — could likely go about their daily routine by not speaking a word face-to-face with someone and instead using digital technologies.

The millennial generation, unlike any other, feels a certain solidarity and social connectedness with people around the world by using the Internet. We are constantly connected to each other through electronic means, resulting in a feeling of ambient intimacy with countless people. My generation has grown up with the ability to instantly interact with billions of people online, and as a result, we have encountered a broad set of cultural and personal experiences that would not be possible otherwise.

The millennials could be considered indigenous to cyberspace; however, our relationship with the Net is still theoretically limited. First, we used multi-thousand-dollar computers with 32 MB of RAM and sluggish dial-up Internet. Then, the recent advent of smartphones put high-speed Internet in the hands of people everywhere. Now, Google’s Project Glass and similar wearable computing devices are set to blur the line between the Internet and reality.

Consider that accessing the Internet with your mind by means of a brain implant is an emerging theoretical technology, sitting right on the bleeding edge. As humans develop a closer and more intimate relationship with their digital devices, I think that integrating with our devices will come naturally.

The world that we are building today will have a lasting impact on our species and global culture. For me, there’s no doubt that people will biologically integrate with computers, and artificial intelligence will reach or exceed the capacities of human cognition and intelligence.

In the 21st century, philosophers and anthropologists will be required to redefine the meaning of “human being.” Then, politicians and ethicists must redefine “human rights” and to whom (or what) they should be extended. The coming century will likely require many far-reaching philosophical and social rearrangements.