Artificial limbs like these could be only the beginning of man-machine interfaces, the National Intelligence Council predicts. Photo: DoD
3-D printed organs. Brain chips providing superhuman abilities. Megacities, built from scratch. The U.S. intelligence community is taking a look at the world of 2030. And it is very, very sci-fi.
Every four or five years, the futurists at the National Intelligence Council take a stab at forecasting what the globe will be like two decades hence; the idea is to give some long-term, strategic guidance to the folks shaping America’s security and economic policies. (Full disclosure: I was once brought in as a consultant to evaluate one of the NIC’s interim reports.) On Monday, the Council released its newest findings, Global Trends 2030. Many of the prognostications are rather unsurprising: rising tides, a bigger data cloud, an aging population, and, of course, more drones. But tucked into the predictable predictions are some rather eye-opening assertions. Especially in the medical realm.
We’ve seen experimental prosthetics in recent years that are connected to the human neurological system. The Council says the link between man and machine is about to get way more cyborg-like. “As replacement limb technology advances, people may choose to enhance their physical selves as they do with cosmetic surgery today. Future retinal eye implants could enable night vision, and neuro-enhancements could provide superior memory recall or speed of thought,” the Council writes. “Brain-machine interfaces could provide ‘superhuman’ abilities, enhancing strength and speed, as well as providing functions not previously available.”
And if the machines can’t be embedded into the person, the person may embed himself in the robot. “Augmented reality systems can provide enhanced experiences of real-world situations. Combined with advances in robotics, avatars could provide feedback in the form of sensors providing touch and smell as well as aural and visual information to the operator,” the report adds. There’s no word about whether you’ll have to paint yourself blue to enjoy the benefits of this tech.