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Are we destined to become part robot?

I remember thinking some time ago: ‘there is an app for everything’. And now it seems there is also a wearable for everything. And it’s not just wearables; everything is becoming ‘smarter’ and more convenient. Keys, headphones, music, sex toys. And what’s more exciting, or scarier – depending on how you view it – is that these devices are starting to communicate with one another. I mean, there’s actually a sex doll on the market that can control Amazon’s Alexa.

Companies are going in one of two ways: either ‘co-opetition’ – working alongside one another to create apps that can integrate with a competitor’s; or developing an entirely independent smart system. It begs the question: will our homes and workplace soon rely on the technology produced by a sole company? That’s extremely cool, but also frightening. Imagine the amount of information about us these devices might be able to capture. Imagine the reliance we’ll have on them. It’s already weighty, but it’s only going to become heavier.

So, what next then? What about implantables? Chips inserted under the skin that act as ID, play music, store bank and health details, send reminders and receive messages? A device that has the ability to read your emotions? One that knows what music you feel like listening to? One that can diagnose health-risks, even anticipate heart attacks? Perhaps your keyless entry will know if you’re over the limit and won’t start the car? Maybe it knows when to notify authorities by a raised heartbeat? What about sending text messages by just thinking them? The advances that will follow will be numerous – better hands-free driving, quicker communicating, improved safety.

It all sounds highly convenient and just the sort of thing we like, but it does bring up some interesting questions regarding security. Although most companies go to great lengths to ensure private data is protected, nothing is untouchable.

The recent news on Strava is an interesting example. The GPS tracker that enables runners to track their routes and speed created an online map which detailed the running routes of its users. Unbeknown to soldiers using this application, by recording their routes, Strava was revealing the location of the military bases and potentially leaving them open to attack.

Ensuring data slips like this don’t happen is crucial, not just for an individual’s right to privacy, but also for the sake of international security and public safety. But if everything becomes connected and everything becomes digitalised, how safe can we really ever be?

One day, perhaps, we’ll not be paying for our coffees using a ring on our finger, but using instead a device implanted within it. Let’s not forget why Professor Kevin Warwick is known as ‘Captain Cyborg’. The 1990s saw him implant an RFID transmitter under his own skin. He did this 19 years ago. And about 15 years ago he managed to successfully connect his own nervous system to the Internet. So it would be naive to think this kind of implantable technology is not possible. If we’re all going to end up part cyborg, then let’s make damn well sure that no one has the ability to hack into our bodies.

Author
Bethan Grylls

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