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Transhumanism: Evolving the Human Body IV

A variety of biometrics technologies are already being used and will keep evolving with the goal of becoming seamless in their application. Image credit: Ashley Hudson

4. Digital biometrics

How many passwords do you have? How tough is it to remember them? And yet you never need to identify yourself when you meet a friend, even when you meet him again after 10 years!

Connectivity of our body with the cyberspace will be a given in the next decade and along with it there will be biometric identification, in different forms, to authenticate who we are. We can identify a person through fingerprints, through iris scan, through face characteristics (ratio among different points in the face), through DNA, through blood vessels distribution and shape,  through heart beats (examples of physical attributes based biometrics), through gait, through voice, through micro movement during writing (examples of behavioural attribute based biometrics), and more!

The crucial point is that all these requirements need to be satisfied at the same time:

  • identification should be certain (no false positive)
  • identification should not be denied (no false negative)
  • identification should occur only when needed
  • identification should be seamless
  • identification should be possible anywhere, at any time
  • identification should be affordable

This remains challenging but it is expected that in the next decade, through multiple biometric identification approaches the problem will be solved once and for all.

Humans 2.0 will be inhabiting a space where they will be identified by the simple fact that they are there. Clearly, this will be most convenient but at the same time privacy issues will come to the stage. Identity information shall remain property of the owner and can only be verified by those who have the right to do so and cannot be shared with third parties.
Seamless biometrics identification may result in a continuous monitoring and localisation of a person. This may tremendously increase personal safety and overall security. On the other hand the Big Brother syndrome will be more than justified, hence the absolute need to preserve privacy and trust.

Soft skin wearable health monitoring system. Credit: University of Tokyo

5. Ubiquitous and continual monitoring

From what just said, it follows that it will become possible to have a ubiquitous and continuous monitoring (subject to the privacy caveat expressed). This monitoring can extend from the identification to many more aspects (and again privacy concerns are at the centerstage). A clear area of application is in the monitoring of health parameter. Ambient, wearable and embedded sensors will be able to keep track of all vital signs and connection to the cyberspace will allow the continuous checking of these parameters by the person digital twin. Health care will shift from “sickcare” to real “healthcare”. Most of the time it will be possible to prevent problems and in those few cases where that will not be possible the red flag will go up immediately and the rescue team will know immediately where to go and what is the problem increasing enormously the probability of successful recovery.

In this area in addition to the privacy concerns there are also “hacking” concerns, malicious attempts to enter the sensory system and the communication it has with the cyberspace.

Because of this, and more generally because of a sense of being “controlled” it is most likely that the adoption will be slow, apart from those persons having a medical problem for whom being continuously monitored will provide a sense of relief.

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 New Initiative Committee and co-chairs the Digital Reality Initiative. He is a member of the IEEE in 2050 Ad Hoc Committee. 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.