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Our Cyborg Evolution - Scott Adams' Blog

Our Cyborg Evolution

I’ve written before that our smartphones will someday be seen as the first substantial step in our evolution to cyborgs (part human, part machines). Some will argue that contact lenses and hearing aids were the first step, but those are sideways changes, allowing humans see and hear normally. A true step on the cyborg evolution involves artificial parts that make us better, or give us greater powers. I’ve been wondering what the next steps will be.

I predict that health monitoring will be the next substantial phase of cyborg evolution. I think we’ll have embedded chips to continuously monitor our blood for sugar levels, cholesterol, vitamins, minerals, salt, specific diseases, and more. I think we’ll also have monitors on our bodies to tell us when our brains are at their peak levels (for thinking tasks) and when our bodies are most energetic (for exercise). Perhaps our monitors will tell us when to eat and what to eat. Monitors might tell us when we are hydrated, when we have enough fiber in our diets, and when we need more sleep. You can imagine a long list of what the monitors might tell us. The embedded monitors might be powered by your body chemistry and communicate with your smartphone when it’s near.

Coincidentally, Gizmag.com sent me an automatic email about a device that looks like the first step along the path.

If your first reaction to our next cyborg phase is no big deal because you already know how to eat right and exercise, I think you’re wrong. Humans aren’t wired to easily distinguish between tired, thirsty, and hungry. Sometimes you think you’re tired, only to bounce back after a snack or a beverage. And no one knows when they are getting the right nutritional levels.

We’ve trained ourselves to ignore sleep deprivation, and we kid ourselves about how well we eat, and how much. We also find it easy to skip exercise. And obviously we don’t continuously monitor our blood for diseases.

I think the health benefits, and the mood benefits, of nailing a healthy lifestyle are huge. People would be happier, more productive, and more creative. Healthy living literally makes you smarter, too.

You might argue that the hard part of healthy living is getting past the inconvenience. Fast food is, well, faster, and sometimes tastier, than healthy food. Not exercising is easier than exercising. Sleep is a luxury we don’t always have. But I think the technology could help you in the motivation department too.

Humans like structure. We like knowing what to do. That in itself is motivating. There’s a big difference between the vague knowledge that exercise is good and the specific guidance that you need 20 minutes of cardio before bedtime. And if your exercise reminder goes off while you’re with friends or family, it creates an acceptable excuse, and perhaps even some peer pressure to work out.

Consider also that the health reminders are cumulative. A reminder to drink some water because you’re dehydrated will cause you to have more energy and thus make it more likely you will be in the mood for exercise. Likewise, a reminder to go to bed early will give you more energy to exercise the next day. Health-wise, doing anything right makes it easier to do other things right.

Now suppose your monitors not only tell you what types of food you need, but in conjunction with your smartphone, and  a profile of your eating preferences, and GPS service, makes specific shopping and cooking recommendations. Your smartphone might even cue up a local restaurant that delivers, and display a suggested menu. Your phone might even place the order online and pay the bill electronically. Eating right could someday become as easy as pressing “OKAY” on your phone and waiting for the food to arrive.

Looking even further ahead, your brain, or some digital version of it, will be living in a robotic body such as this, unless the robots rise up and kill us first. Judging from this particular robot video, I’d say it’s a 50-50 sort of thing.

Update: Reader Kapoing points us to this handy list of monitors already available.