Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Designers of the Future

Gareth Jones

As we turn our attention more specifically to computers and cyberspace, and even to cyborgs in the future, a number of features emerge as of central importance.

The first is that the use of computers is pervasive. They are now integral components of so much on which our lives depend. We are all touched by them, even when we are blissfully unaware of their presence. Our culture can no longer exist without them.

Second, computers transcend familiar physical limits. The old physical boundaries with which we are all familiar are ceasing to exist in cyberspace. As a result, computers are making a qualitative change to the way we live. Doing away with these boundaries affects our relationships with one another, and therefore our social fabric. This is the essence of what I have referred to as ‘the death of distance,’ since it makes possible new relationships and communities, ones which wouldn’t exist in the absence of computers.

Third, computers affect the way in which we think of ourselves, and even what we regard as real. As we create an increasing array of virtual-reality worlds, the effect is to blur the boundary between people and machines. This is what cyborgs are meant to do, but this is already happening. As computers become increasingly minute and ever faster, this trend will almost inevitably intensify. In other words, we are fast entering the sphere of cyborgs, and we are dimly beginning to realise that cyborgs are actually ordinary people like us. They are not a select group of entities brought into being by technocrats as experimental models of some future race; they are you and me, who appear to be craving for a cyborgian (to create a new term) world.
Developments are gradual and decisions to adopt new procedures are generally taken by the population at large. True, the developments themselves are brought about by scientists and technocrats, but once available are seized upon by ordinary people. They appear to meet some felt need.

From chapter 6 of Designers of the Future – who should make the decisions?, published by Monarch 2005
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