1st May, 2003
No more disability. Brain implants to boost intelligence. Ageing counteracted. The next stage of evolution or a nightmare we can never wake up from? Jim Thomas on ‘converging technology’.
We’re getting used to converging technologies these days. Perhaps you can still call a spade a spade but a phone, for example, is no longer just a phone. It also serves as camera, internet browser, answering machine, text communicator, tracking device, personal diary, calculator and alarm clock; and it’s shrinking.
From personal organisers to scanfax photocopiers, our modern technologies are being snapped together into smaller, lighter, all-in-one configurations that erase old functional boundaries. Driving this convergence is the ability to digitally encode and process data – whether visual, audio or text. By reducing diverse forms of information into a single language of zeroes and ones, technologists have established a basic unity that allows different devices to ‘talk’ to each other via the ubiquitous computer processor.
In his acclaimed novel Snow Crash‚ cyberculture writer Neal Stephenson compares this new digital unity to the biblical symbol of human hubris the Tower of Babel. What made the construction of the Tower of Babel possible was that its builders spoke the same language. As God recognised, because people spoke a single language ‘nothing that they...
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