I’ve had many readers who have wanted more detail on my idea of how humans and machines will merge. It seems farfetched, but I have news for you all. You are already part machine.
Let me explain.
One of the central goals of my novel Atopia was to tell the story of of humans and machines merging, but told from an inside, first-person perspective through several people undergoing this transition. Through a series of blog posts I am going to describe the thinking behind my own personal view on this process.
This post is going to be on something called ‘proprioperception’.
Proprioperception is the sensation that an object is a part of your body. It is officially a part of the “haptic” sense. The haptic sense is what, in layperson terms, is called the sense of touch, but is actually five distinct senses: tactile (sensation of things touching your skin, including pressure), kinesthetic (position and orientation of your limbs and body), temperature, skin breach (sensation something has cut the skin surface), and proprioperception (the sensation that things are a part of your body).
What sense gives you the feeling that your finger is a part of your body? The answer is through your proprioceptive sense, and it’s not as straightforward as you would think.
For instance, the “rubber hand” illusion (http://www.pc.rhul.ac.uk/sites/lab/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/Tsakiris-Haggard-JEPHPP_2005.pdf )
In this case, stroking a rubber hand (that you are looking at) in the distance at the same time as having someone rub your own hidden hand gives the direct and absolute sensation that the rubber hand is a part of your body. Your mind automatically extends its sense of bodily integrity to “include” the rubber hand as a part of your body. Your proprioceptive sense extending itself.
Another example: if you play tennis, when you swing the racquet, do you think about the racquet hitting the ball? No, the racquet becomes an integral part of your body. As tool-using animals, any tool that we use for long enough becomes a part of us when we use that tool.
But we don’t just use hammers as tools anymore.
Many of the tools we use now are informational tools that exist only in cyberspace, and my argument is that just as the mind extends the sensation of bodily integrity to tools we use in the “real” world, it is also extending the sense of bodily integrity to tools we use every day in the “virtual” world. As we use more and more tools in cyberspace, a certain part of what our mind perceives as “us” is now becoming cyber.
We used to remember phone numbers, but now we use machines to remember them for us. A lot of the information we used to keep in our brains, we now keep in machines, but it still a part is us. We now simply have to remember HOW to find it, not WHAT it is. Our brains have started to adapt to this way of being, to this stimulus. And it is not just our mind, some abstract thing, but our brains have started to physiologically adapt and change their structures to adapt to interfacing with machines in this way. A part of the machines have become a part of us, and we, by extension, are already part machine.
See what I mean?
Facebook has become an integral part of relationship, social interface and memory of past events to many people. Take away Facebook and many people will have the direct sensation of a missing a part of their body. Or, try taking away your cellphone for a day, and see if you don’t have the itch every five minutes to pick it up, see what it happening, to scratch this now missing limb.
This is not illusion, this is our proprioceptive sense making Facebookand these technologies an integral part of our bodies. Removing them triggers the eerie feeling of a missing limb.
So, are you already part machine? Tell me what you think…
More in next posts…