Welcome to the age of the trans-human worker

Posted on: August 8, 2017 by Marianne Hewlett

Nothing defines the future of work more than those who will create it, and the latest advances in neurotechnology will radically transform workers themselves. Rethink everything you know about talent, education, and what you can expect from your most able employee. The next few decades will redefine what it means to be human, what it means to ‘know something’ or ‘learn something’. Welcome to the age of the trans-human worker.

Technological advancements continue to enhance our day-to-day working and personal lives, and the future will continue to throw new technologies into the equation. Augmented reality, holographic imaging, the Internet of Things (IoT) and virtual reality will provide huge opportunities for employees to make themselves more productive and efficient in every part of their lives.

Trans-humanism at play today

This isn’t just futuristic technology though, it’s already being experimented with. In June, a man revealed he had implanted a chip from his travelcard under his skin allowing him to use public transport even if he can’t find his wallet. Whilst this is an isolated example, it shows the potential that embracing transhumanism has, to improve access to service and new ideas of convenience.

On a much larger scale, Philips, the Dutch technology giant, has developed home medical systems that use brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) to help patients suffering from neurodegenerative diseases. The technology allows patients to control their home appliances by directly measuring brain activity. In this case, the tiny electrical signals generated by human thoughts such as ‘open my email’, are translated by Phillip’s system into commands, much like a voice controlled system would. This enables someone with limited dexterity and speech to control devices that would otherwise require touch or sound to activate. This underlines the technology’s potential. Nearly anything connected by the IoT – your TV, mobile, car, or bank account could be manipulated by thought. In the future, there is every possibility that a person could summon their car and pay their bills merely by wishing it so. As smart cities, homes and workplaces continue to develop and become the norm, people may question how they ever survived without it.

Philips’ system relies on a non-invasive wearable to capture and transmit commands. This most startling new technology uses microchip implants to deliver incredible results. The most exciting research involves BCIs that are capable of enhancing the human brain. Such ‘neuro-hybridization’ is a step in the direction of the cyborgs of science fiction. Futurists like Raik-Allen at MYOB believe these new ‘trans-humans’ will have brain implants that enhance cognition, memory and motor function.

Potential for the future

As with most ground-breaking technology, it has faced scepticism and fear over its morality and safety. But like with many technologies that face early criticism, eventually the benefits outweigh the concerns. The enhancements in artificial body parts have changed thousands of peoples’ lives and are now widely accepted. Trans-humanism and body/brain enhancement is the next evolution of this, and the healthcare industry will be one of the leading beneficiaries.

Enhancements in technology aren’t going to slow down. Our daily lives will be transformed through the increasing automation of jobs and day-to-day errands. Increased sophistication in artificial intelligence and virtual reality will transform our hobbies, relationships and careers. The benefit of trans-humanism, particularly in the healthcare sector, should be its ability to improve a person’s learning skills, opening up new (career) opportunities and to improve quality of life.

These advances in technology could lead to radically enhanced human abilities. Incorporating technology into the body could give a person the ability to ‘store’ more knowledge, focus for longer, develop new skills and use parts of the brain that are currently not being used. As the technology matures, humans will mature with it and future generations in the 22nd century may look back and question how people coped without it. What we now need is a code of ethics reflecting the challenges and questions raised by transhumanism.

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About Marianne Hewlett
Senior Vice President and member of the Scientific Community
Marianne Hewlett is a Senior Vice President at Atos and a seasoned marketeer and communications expert. Passionate about connecting people, technology and business, she is a member of the Atos Scientific Community where she explores the Future of Work and the impact of technology on individuals, organizations and society. She is a strong ambassador for diversity and inclusivity – and particularly encourages female talent to pursue a career in IT – as she believes a diverse and happy workforce is a key driver for business success. As an ambassador for the company’s global transformation program Wellbeing@work, she explores new technologies and ways of working that address the needs of current and future generations of employees. A storyteller at heart, she writes about the human side of business and technology and posts include insights into the future of work, the science of happiness, and how wellbeing and diversity can drive success.

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