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2050: A Future where our self will experience no boundaries

A NOT-TO-MISS event to look at the far future and start working to make it happen. Image Credit: IEEE FDC

On October 30th I will be participating in a Workshop on Symbiotic Autonomous Systems in San Diego, CA, and in the following two days, October 31st and November 1st, I will participate in the Technology Time Machine Conference, an exciting event that looks further down the lane. The goal is not to foresee the future, rather to discuss what possible “futures” are becoming possible with today’s technology evolution and what might become possible with tomorrow’s technology evolution to plan our path forward. Hence it is as much about today as it is about tomorrow.

I am thinking on what to discuss in the panel (the far future panel) shaped up by Stuart Dambrot who kindly invited me as one of the speakers.

So far I am planning to discuss the following and the reason for sharing it here and now is to get your feedback so that I can talk not just about what I foresee but also about what you feel about this possible scenario.

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A Future where our self will experience no boundaries

Human history has been characterized by a progressive expansion of boundaries. From the agricultural society where most people lived and died within a 20 miles radious of their place of birth to today’s web of flights encircling the planet making it possible to reach the other side of the Earth in a day.

While technology made this possible, it actually did something even more significant: It changed our perception of time and space. It shrunk the world and densified our communities—and in doing so, changed ourselves and the way we perceive the world.

Are we done? Not at all!

In the next 30 years I believe we will see an even more dramatic change, fostered by technology evolution, that will be more about creating a sense of pervasiveness of our self in the world.

Technologies like augmented reality today are separate from us. We need special goggles, we need a smartphone….but in twenty years’ time augmented reality will be part of our senses, be it through electronic contact lenses first, followed by eye lens, retinal, and brain implants. We will extend our senses, seeing things in the infrared, nano-pulses, ultraviolet, hearing things at high frequencies, seeing the electromagnetic spectrum, feeling presence at a distance….

In a way we will get augmented reality through our own “augmentation”.

More radical technologies, fraught with ethical concerns – like genomic engineering—are basically inevitable. While the “engineering” part is becoming a commodity, the big hurdles today are understanding the effect of genetic manipulation. New approaches based on artificial intelligence will connect the genotype with the phenotype, making “humans a la carte” a reality. Notice that among the understand of the effect I also include the effects on offsprings following such a mutation, offsprings that could be generated through the mixing of a non mutated genome with a mutated one.

Our augmentation will go hand in hand with the “embedding of a soul” in artefacts: our ambient environment and its constituents will become more and more aware, more and more able to interact with us on a peer-to-peer level.

We have basically passed the Turing test, and fake news and fake interactions have become a major (unexpected) side effect of this evolution. Our digital twins will start to have a life of their own—and we might end up living parallel lives, an augmented one in the physical world and several ones in cyberspace. The big problem is that it will be more and more difficult to find a boundary between us, the world of atoms, and cyberspace. This is the amazing change we will experience in the second part of this century: the disappearance of boundaries. The philosophical question “Who am I?” will take a completely different flavor.

Let’s prepare for that.

About Roberto Saracco

Roberto Saracco fell in love with technology and its implications long time ago. His background is in math and computer science. Until April 2017 he led the EIT Digital Italian Node and then was head of the Industrial Doctoral School of EIT Digital up to September 2018. Previously, up to December 2011 he was the Director of the Telecom Italia Future Centre in Venice, looking at the interplay of technology evolution, economics and society. At the turn of the century he led a World Bank-Infodev project to stimulate entrepreneurship in Latin America. He is a senior member of IEEE where he leads the Industry Advisory Board within the Future Directions Committee and co-chairs the Digital Reality Initiative. He teaches a Master course on Technology Forecasting and Market impact at the University of Trento. He has published over 100 papers in journals and magazines and 14 books.