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May 7, 2013

Roland Benedikter in The European:

Touch-Screen-TechnologyMartin Heidegger wasn’t the only one who believed that we are approaching a boundary of reciprocal man-machine relationships; a boundary which will ultimately put our conceptions of man and machine into question. Some of today’s leading thinkers – Colin McGill, Adam Keiper, Nick Bostrom, Kevin Warwick, Steven Pinker, and Bill Joy – have been fascinated by it as well. So what is all the fuss about?

Technological changes have turned discussions about human self-perception from a peripheral topic into a substantive one. Our conditio humana, that which we have thus far embraced as the essence of human identity, is being put into question. For example, neurotechnologies of the newest generation aim to increase human freedom by transcending established boundaries of human capability. They do so by entering into our own flesh and blood: Brain implants have made it possible to link man and machine at the neural level and have produced simple patterns of neural-technological interaction. Some advocates harbor the ultimate hope of constructing a system of interactivity on a global level: It promises universal agency without the need to even get up from our chair.

Already, some of those technologies have reached the stage of mass adoption. Sensors can be implanted under our skin to measure blood pressure and hormone levels. Military scientists experiment with technologies that can increase soldiers’ performance and stress resistance or simply replace human warriors with drones.

While we can measure the degree to which technologies transcend physical and physiological boundaries, we can merely speculate about the ethical consequences of these developments and about their effect on human self-perception. The merging of human consciousness and technology changes not only the latter, but also the former. And the question is whether technology will become more human in the long run, or whether humans will become more technical. [More]

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