‘Digital Humans’ and the Development of Cyborg Technologies

Friday, 20 July 2018: 09:09
Oral Presentation
David PEETZ, Employment Relations & Human Resources, Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia
Cyborg work is ‘the performance of work or holding of skills that is related to cybernetic devices in a human’—that is, technologies that become embedded within the body itself, linked to the ear, the brain, or other parts of the body. Examples are technologies that enable individuals to think or process information substantially faster, perceive matters substantially more efficiently, or work more quickly. Humans and machines, to some extent, merge to become ‘digital humans’. Unlike some aspects of technological predictions, which at the moment seem indeterminate (will artificial intelligence create as many jobs as it destroys? will it enable machines to achieve consciousness?), the process of moving towards ‘digital humans’ appears inexorable, the only barriers being technical and not insuperable. So this may seem (and perhaps is) a long way in the future, but ‘a long way’ here might be less than a century, well within the time frame considered relevant for climate change policy. We presently witness the initial signs of cyborg technology being developed that could have a fundamental effect on people’s relationship with technology and with each other (one of the earliest high-tech examples is the Cochlear implant). Organisations such as Neuralink are taking this technology to the next stage. Eventually, people might merge with machines (in the very long run, measured in say millennia, this is highly likely) and individuals will mostly comprise machines with only a minority of biological parts. But in the meantime, the more interesting questions concern what happens when people integrate parts of machines into their bodies that massively increase their capabilities as individuals. The first, longer, part of this paper examines developments to date and in the expected future. The second part considers potential consequences from a sociological perspective.