Imagine a person who can play tennis like Andy Murray, think like Professor Stephen Hawking and can live to 150 - all in a body that looks and feels like it belongs to a 40-year-old.
With human bioenhancements, this vision of a ‘superhuman’ could become a reality in fewer than a hundred years.
This is according to expert in the social and cultural impacts of technology, Professor Michael Bess, who told MailOnline exactly how he thinks technology will enhance humans in the future.
A powerful generation of 'X-Men'
With human bioenhancements, a ‘superhuman’ could become a reality in fewer than a hundred years, an expert has said. Pictured, Michael Fassbender as Magneto in X-Men Apocalypse. MailOnline
Human bioenhancement technologies fall into three main categories pharmaceuticals, bioelectronics, and genetics.
We are already using all three to some extent.
‘Through the use of pharmaceuticals, we are learning how to control our moods, boost our physical and mental performance, increase our longevity and vitality, Professor Bess said.
‘Through the application of prostheses, implants, and other bioelectronic devices, we are not only healing the blind and the paralyzed, but beginning to reconfigure our bodies, enhance our memories, and generate entirely new ways of interacting with machines.
‘Through genetic interventions, we are not only neutralizing certain diseases long thought incurable, but opening up the very real possibility of taking evolution into our own hands – redesigning the human “platform” of body and mind in a thoroughgoing way.’
Professor Bess is chancellor’s Professor of History at Vanderbilt University and author of the book ‘Make Way for the Super Humans’, an in-depth survey of the evolving science of bio-enhancement.
‘Many people will probably adopt all three of these types of enhancement technologies in order to boost their physical and mental capacities, and they will do so to varying degrees and in all sorts of combinations, leading to a bewilderingly broad array of “superhuman” beings.’
People will be able to connect seamlessly with all manner of computers and robotic machines, he said.
Those who are unable to pay for this kind of technology might have a stark disadvantage, however.
‘I am both excited and frightened at the prospect of such modified humans coming into being,’ Professor Bess said.
Cyborgs, people with both organic and biomechatronic body parts, already exist.
Some of the implants people put in their body have more of an enhancing effect than others.
‘There are certainly a lot of people now who are getting implants of one type or another,’ Kevin Warwick, Professor of Cybernetics at the University of Reading told MailOnline.
‘But in terms of anyone really enhancing their abilities, don't think too much has happened since my neural implant in 2002.’
Professor Warwick is also referred to as ‘Captain Cyborg’ because fourteen years ago a one hundred electrode array was surgically implanted into the median nerve fibres of his left arm.
The chip in his arm allowed sensors to detect his presence and do things like turn on lights and open doors.
Other 'cyborgs' show arguably less plausible effects.
A Spanish artist named Moon Ribas developed and implanted an online seismic sensor in her elbow that allows her to ‘feel earthquakes’.
Every time an earthquake is registered online, her sensor vibrates.
She displays this in a solo dance, during which she stands on a stage and waits until a vibration occurs, then dances. She calls this performance ‘Waiting for Earthquakes’.
But Professor Bess is convinced future enhancements will have a big effect on human abilities, and not just cause a vibration in someone’s arm.
‘Over the coming decades, the sophistication and potency of these technologies will increase dramatically,’ he said.
‘By the year 2100, some humans will probably have modified themselves in truly radical ways that give them capabilities well beyond the high-end range of today’s population.’
And he thinks this might be helpful, to make humans prepared for the event of a ‘robot uprising’.
‘If what we mean by a robot “uprising” is the advent of machines endowed with human-level intelligence, capable of taking initiative on their own and making modifications to their own hardware and software, then I believe we should be very alarmed indeed,’ Professor Bess said.
‘We cannot yet know for sure whether such advanced machines can be created in the first place, because we do not yet clearly understand how human consciousness itself arises in the human body and brain and social context.’
‘But if a day comes when this technical problem is surmounted, I believe such machines could pose a very grave danger to human society, because they will probably be very difficult to control, and their behavior will be very difficult to predict.’
‘Creating machines that are so powerful and hard to control strikes me as a very bad idea.’
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