ENP162 Blog 4 – The Future Human

What is the future human? What can we tell from the present that indicates what the future human will be then? Prosthetics? Exoskeletons? Or perhaps even cognitive enhancing neural chips?

In human factors, we are concerned about human interactions with such futuristic devices, to better design and integrate human living with wearables and other machine systems. In the art gallery, we saw portrayals of the future (now the present) from past artists. In history, many envisioned flying cars to be part of the future. Now, many envision “true” artificial intelligence (fully generic) to be part of the future. and for robotics to play a much more prominent role in our workforce.

We tend to focus a lot on the progression of technology, with it being ubiquitous, and featuring prominently in everyday life. Another reason is technology is largely pleasant, and opining on it is filled with impersonal conflicts, if any. Politics and social structure is not as often argued upon, and these were featured heavily in the art gallery pieces.

Moving back to human-machine systems design, the internet of things is gaining a lot of traction and will likely be prominent in the development of devices in the future. What does this mean for wearables? More information, more vulnerability, more interactivity. Right now, our phone can solve multiple functions, a calculator, note-taking device, a calendar just as examples. It is likely that other devices would grow to be similar, in an attempt to edge out competition. Controllers of these large systems via the internet, to increase functionality, through use of Alexa for example, will become more prominent. An interesting point is that resource use will be less of an issue because of this. Here is a link to a TEDx talk on dematerialization: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uEQDLUdMb5M.

More importantly, humans will be able to achieve more with less time. As designers, it is important to think of what functions we can add to the affordances of the human, treating the human as an environment we can interact with.The cognitive capabilities of the human become an increasingly vital variable to account for, reason being as we grow more ambitious in providing extra information and functions, we increase the risk of mentally overloading the user.

On environments, these will change with the future as well. Professor Intrilligator brought up the science-fiction-esque idea of supporting humans for months to years in space flight in class. In the nearer future, work environments will also change. Future work environments will increasingly become automated, leading to social issues such as work availability, and safety issues such as potential of automation failure. Designing interactions with automation, as mentioned in a previous blog, such that the human is comfortable for extended periods of time is a critical piece to designing for the future.

The art gallery featured pieces which questioned: what makes you you? Is the you with additional enhancements/replacements still you? In my opinion, the question is a good thought exercise. A simpler analogy involving sports fans: what makes a club the club you support? If all the players were transferred, will your support stay with the club? If we were to push things further, as explored in many science fiction movies: if another person has your experiences and your memory, is he/she not you? The answer to these questions is simple in my opinion, its our decision to make regarding what matters to us. I believe what makes a person a person lies in their identity, priorities and value system. Even if all parts of me were to be changed, that should not.matter.


2 thoughts on “ENP162 Blog 4 – The Future Human

  1. Your ending sentence is a strong statement! “Even if all parts of me were to be changed, that should not matter.” You bring up notions of identify, and what makes a person a person lies in their identity – but aren’t aspects of our identity tied to what we physically look like? Our racial identities? I’m wondering how technology is going to impact that. Are we one day going to have to deal with identity issues in regards to questions like “how much of my physical racial identity do I give up?”

  2. Your perspective is very interesting. I think it’s very important to understand how we will change as people and how we perceive what makes a person a human being as we will slowly start to see more technology integrated into our lives and possibly our minds. Riva brought up a great point about how we might actually identify ourselves. How much will technology influence the way we think about ourselves? Might we become human machines instead of humans interacting with machines?

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