Beware the Borg Beetle Future of Communications


Image © 2008 – 2009 pyxelated

Rich Tehrani at TMCnet wrote a piece the other day that I haven’t been able to quite get out of my mind.

He tells the story of an experiment in which a microprocessor strapped to the back of a giant beetle allows scientists to more or less control the beetle’s flight the way any kid can control a mini helicopter. Electrodes planted in the beetle’s wing muscles and optic lobes convert the electrical signals from the microprocessor implanted on the beetle’s back to “commands,” which the beetle follows when directed by scientists to take off, land, turn left and right.

Tehrani sees the experiment as paving “the way for the future of communications, where some of us will likely connect our brains directly to computer systems,” and believes we “need to connect brains directly to electronic systems so people can work even more efficiently.”

For him, the downside is that, today, making that connection would require brain surgery that few people are likely willing to undergo.

A case can certainly be made that the history of innovation and technological development has, as Tehrani puts it, augmented and improved human existence. But are man and machine really destined to fuse in some kind of Borg-like future of perfect power and super efficiencey?

Is that kind of future something to anticipate, or is it one to lament?

As with all things, I guess, the path to happiness lies in finding the right balance between developing technology that can augment and improve our lives without destroying that which makes life precious and unique.

I see news of the “Borg Beetle” experiment and immediately distrust the motivations and power of the person at the controls; my instincts tell me that when human beings can abdicate free will in favor of the efficiencies to be gained by connecting our brains with a computer, we will have given up a very important part of what makes us human to begin with.

With one point Tehrani makes, however, I completely concur: “Early adopters will likely be the military.”

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