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Jordan Reeves

TED-Ed Community Manager, TED Conferences

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Are we ready to intimately embrace technology that will support our quality of life?

What if we could wear a hand that would help us climb walls? What if we could wear feet that would allow us to walk on water? What if we could wear legs that would help us walk 10x faster regardless of the terrain? These apparatuses would be extensions of our bodies and we'd be just as reliant upon them as our iPhones or earbuds.

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    Oct 8 2011: Of course, we're quick to adapt and forget. Who remembers life before microwaves, televisions, guns? Give it a few generations, and the pre-computer days will seem like medieval times.
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    Oct 6 2011: Check out Rupert Sheldrake. The guy may be on to something.
  • Sep 30 2011: I believe at this point in time we must use our technology very decisively. It has been used all throughout our history more and more, then just recently within the past 100 years it has grown exponentially allong with our population. With great power comes great responsibility. As an anthropologist, we must consider other cultures around the world and how or if they wish to use new technology. As a geologist, we must consider the impact it has on the environment, sustainability, and how we direct our energy in general. As a psychologist and spiritualist, we must consider the impact it has on the human psyche, because certain technologies could steer us into being a material oriented society instead of being a person oriented society. I do not believe we should be physically relient on technology at this point, because we are not far enough along Not to have a back up from natural disasters. If we, as a society starting now, were to go 50 or 75 years with an extremely life changing technology, one that changed every second of our lives, it would be very difficult if not impossible to transition back to before.
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      Oct 3 2011: Very interesting! I wonder if we'd ever feel the need to "transition back to before." I often want to transport myself back to the 1800's or to the court of King Arthur, but I don't know if I'd like to transition my life to that time. I am way too dependent on technology. I'm excited to think about what technologies will help us move into tomorrow.
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    Sep 30 2011: I don't think we have the choice anymore. From the start, from the first ape cracking a match, so to speak, to survive in a colder climate, we've been embracing life-supporting technology. This is our fate.
    There is no tech-free human. You're writing from NY, Daniel, you'd be dead by october if technology didn't provide what your body lacks.
    So we need to let go of the idea that we're losing touch with some garden of Eden. None of this earth is hospitable for anyone naked and deprived from some sort of technology. We're just not designed that way.
    We're the geek of apes, the shrewd weakling. But we'll show them. It's worked so far, for us. Let's keep up the good work and see if we can outlive rodents.
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      Oct 3 2011: You're right! The technologies that we already have allow us to live in places that are generally uninhabitable. However, what do you think about technologies that can allow us to complete super-human tasks? Climbing walls, walking on water, jumping long distances, running super fast, etc. If we had to wear an technological apparatus to accomplish these feats, would we be comfortable with that?
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        Oct 3 2011: This is already going on, this is what I'm saying.
        I love jogging in the woods, but I couldn't do this naked. Or I could, but I'd be constantly watching where I lay my feet, avoiding thorned branches as much as I can, and so forth. I'd be a lot slower.
        If I'm building a rock wall, the use of gloves is a stuppendous way to multiply my strengh and my grip.
        Divers use extra lungs and artificially palmed feet and still enjoy themselves.
        There will always be the joy of diving, jogging or building naked. But it's a different experience. And the use of technology doesn't impare this pleasure. On the contrary, I might even stress.

        There is a lot of suffering among workers with physically demanding jobs. I would love to see them wearing power suits that would spare their backs. This would be an improvement in quality of life.
        It's like saying we should think about whether wearing glasses disconnects us with a natural way of seeing the world. And then wondering if we're ready for the super human task of watching distant galaxies with a telescope.

        We just need all this. It's part of us.
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    Sep 29 2011: We already have: artificial hips and knees, synthetic heart valves, motorized wheelchairs, glasses, computers that speak for those that are locked-in. I don't think any recipient would give up these advances or shun those that come hereafter. If I urgently had some place to be and by wearing legs I could get there 10x faster, I would wear them.
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      Oct 3 2011: You're so right! I'm so thankful that society has embraced the necessity of wheelchairs and walkers. I just wonder how far this embrace is willing to go. What if we had a super suit? Do you think we'd be as willing to accept it into society as we would a wheelchair?
  • Oct 12 2011: __I believe that Sci&Tech are important. I believe that we must allow those (who have the talent or the ability to do so) reasearchers to continue to create. It's Most Important to our Collective Wellbeing that we *Believe In The Process Of Invention*!!
    __Now that's been Said: I do not think we as a People are Ready for such things just yet. Rather than Trying to Control the Development of Neo-Sci&Tech; Let's accept that it IS Comming -- SOON! -- & begin the process of Education.
    >> I do Not mean Teaching the mass populations at Use, Create, or even Understand the Sci&Tech worlds {NoOne can Know what will be Next} _What_We_Must_Teach (& by WE I mean All Those Contemplating such Realities, Every Person Who Is/WillBe Educated = WE!) What WE cannot Deny to _All_People_ .. Is ^HOW^ TO THINK!.. as we become more connected/interrelated; it becomes exponetially easier for the 'Process of Decision Making' to be the exclusive right of Fewer and Fewer Individuals, as the rest of humanity turns over their "thinking" to soundbites, bumperstickers, & "talking heads" on the TV.
    __ A friend of mine working in television media once said to me " We [on local news] absolutly Do Not tell people what to think"... " we tell them _what_to_think_about_ and that," my friend said " is by far the more dangerous of the two." {C.Hess) __
    __ All Conserned Persons Should (IMHO) Devote Much Time, not only to the Contemplation of the Future; But also to Helping Everyone (should they agree or not ) Remain an Individual... And All Conserned Persons Should (IMHO) Devote Even More Time & Effort to be Sure Everyone (even -prehaps especially- those who disagree with US) Remain a THINKING INDIVIDUAL ---> Our Duty as "Intellectual Elite" is to Ensure The Conversation Continue! Above and Beyond All Else, the greatest gift we can give the Future is ... Unfettered Individual Thoughts & Free Unabashed Communication Of Them -- We Must Argue This Point, or we are Doomed!!!!! (IMHO)
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    Oct 9 2011: People desire things that make their lives easier, less stressful, and more productive. You mention the Iphone - if 50+ years ago someone said that you can have the world at the touch of your fingertips people would have thought you were crazy. But in today's modern society , technology has become part of our culture,it defines who we are. Just as people have adapted to technology today, the search, the desire for the new craze of technology is ultimately going to allow people to embrace the idea of wearing a hand that can help us climb walls, wear feet that allow us to walk on water and so on. Basically anything that can help us do the unthinkable is a must for humans.
  • Oct 7 2011: I'm waiting to add a computer to my brain
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    Oct 7 2011: I believe that these are wonderful things, but they are also very flawed. As our technology evolves it seems to be devolving us. We are becoming very reliant on technology though it is a great thing we must find a way to have it without purely relying on it otherwise we will be in a lot of trouble. Also this would increase our rate of energy use even more than it is now which is not very good. I believe that it is extremely crucial that we look for more renewable and continuous ways of harvesting energy.
    • Oct 11 2011: There already are renewable ways of harvesting energy. There is wind power, solar power, tidal power, wave power, electrical power and geothermal power. All are renewable and clean. We don't have them because of the monetary power system. Those in control of gas, coal and oil find no profit in the six I listed. How many more spills, leaks, carbon and radioactive releases into the atmosphere and the air we breathe and water we drink, do we need in order to recognize we don't need coal, oil, gas and nuclear for energy?
      They are destroying our environment. If those who claim this false ownership and control of resources of the earth (it's ludicrous) really cared for the earth and its inhabitants they would have begun the change some time ago. Actions speak louder than political words and political promises. They have never been kept. The power must be taken away from those who don't care. Profit is an addiction and the addiction of money, power and profit causes more degradation to the earth, our lives and everything else than all other forms of substance addiction BUT that kind of addiction is highly rewarded. Look at all the bonuses paid out to those who have almost bankrupted the world for their lousy profit.
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      Oct 11 2011: Nikko! Have you read the studies that show that we are more intelligent as a result of technology? Our heads are actually smaller on average today than they were 100 years ago. Most evolutionists and doctors that study evolutionary patters believe this is because we're mimicking technology. Our brains are becoming much more efficient in the ways that they store information. I think technology is evolving us into a brighter, more efficient race. Not devolving us into dependent drones.
  • Oct 6 2011: Some, if not most people will always fear change. It's clear we've been overcoming our limitations since the invention of the wheel. You know you're technically a cyborg the minute you sit on a bike, or wear glasses? I've been dreaming of "bionic knees" that would enable me to leap tremendous heights ever since i tore my ligament at 14, and have been imagining many other tech enhancements my whole life. The major thing that concerns me, isn't the moral issue of whether the act itself is right or wrong, it's the divisive affect it can have on the classes. Ideally sure, we'd like these enhancements to be free, but new tech is always the most expensive thing period. Now imagine brain implants and body enhancments that expand human capability, to those who can afford it. Suddenly the dividing line is much sharper, the bar becomes much higher, and the idea of equal opportunity may become totally outdated, if the ability to achieve academically becomes purely financial, (in a world where organic processors boost brain power, it'd be a waste of time putting regular humans in a class room with the enhanced, and the enhanced student's curve would be exponential. A super elite class could afford upgrades for their own children, and will the time honored proletariate contributions even be necessary anymore, while here today even the check out clerk position is rapidly under attack, what if "bettering yourself" becomes a purely financial issue? Class division, on an unparalleled scale. I'm not saying i think it will be this way, It's just a scenario i see as dreadfully possible.
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      Oct 11 2011: That's certainly a dismal end to my lofty imaginations of a technological future! Ideally, all of these advances will be equally available. However, you're right. I remember when my family couldn't afford a VHS player. That's certainly not a life-changing purchase, but even in that, we felt a little behind the other families. Thank you kindly for your challenging input. It's certainly food for serious thought...
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    Oct 5 2011: I think acceptance of such equipment will primarily start by adoptation of it by certain professions. To refer to your examples say: Firefighters, beach patrol, law enforcement etc.
    Eventually, slowly integration might expand. But just as most people don't have fire resistant clothing in their car or a life preserver, so most people will not have such a super suite either.
    As cultural acceptance and integration of such a super suite is directly linked to saturation of a product into the market I believe full integration and acceptance into everyones daily life will not occur unless our culture changes quite drastically. And if it does, I think it will be more likely to accomedate the acceptance of gene manipulation in order to enhance our inate abilities. Something like a super suite will always remain a bit like cheating in the eyes of most people.
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      Oct 6 2011: You make a really good point. Making these technologies available to municipalities is intriguing. I also agree that our cultural expectations would change drastically (as they did when women started wearing pants or people first started driving cars or when the first airplane carried a group of passengers from point A to point B).
  • Oct 4 2011: I read your OP, you would like humans to walk on water. Climb walls. I think, humans must come to an understanding. We are human. We are not born to walk on water, climb walls. (tho, humans can actually climb walls!) My fear is, a human, will ultimately mess it all up!! That is my fear! Tech is a wondermous thing, till it gets in the wrong hands. You and I both know, there are some pretty sick tickets out there. A lot of these sick tickets, happen to be Einstein's! Some where along the line, humans have lost their souls and their hearts. Does all that make sense? (crap, i have to learn to stop rambling) With Respect to Ya!!
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      Oct 5 2011: I suppose you could say we're not born to beat cancer, but technology has provided us the ability to combat it's survival. We're not born to fly, but we have all been in an airplane. We are not born to move from place to place at speeds of around 80 mph, but Toyota still makes lots of cars. I think the human spirit and the human heart is alive and well. I don't think we've lost it. I think we're on a pretty good track to a bright future. I try not to dwell on the people who will do bad things with technology (they are rarely successful given the resilience of humankind), but I spend a lot of time thinking about how wonderful the "doers" of our society are.

      Nonetheless, I do respect your fears. I think we have to be careful. I think we're pretty good at that. The checks and balances that are in place have done a pretty good job of keeping us all safe. With that said, there's always room for improvement.

      I'm not talking about an iRobot society just yet. I'm talking about technology that would help us achieve tasks normally undoable without the help of a large amount of technology. What if we could scale the side of a building to escape from fires? What if we could walk on water to escape a sinking ship? Just interesting ideas. Not the detriment to our societal structure, right?
      • Oct 6 2011: My apologies, I did not realize, you were referring to a cancer survivor! However, my concern, humans are not meant to do this. With Respect to ya!
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    Oct 3 2011: I'm not big on cyborg type human interfaces, but having a bank of organs grown from my stem cells ready in case of emergency, would be pretty compelling. The interesting part about organ banks is that we could also grow a full body, equally ready to have our minds downloaded into, a sort of immortality. If Rupert Sheldrake is correct and memory is not stored inside brain cells but outside as a "morphic field", this possibility steps closer to reality.
  • Oct 3 2011: First, I would like to see humans, that is, the average human citizen of the world, have access to all the highest quality means of achieving, maintaining and enjoying good health that all world class professional athletes have. This is long before any kinds of prosthetics or toys. This part of life is at the leading edge of nutrition, health, discoveries, breakthroughs and needs to be there for everyone. We need to undo the immense disproportionate advantages that currently exist.

    Next, humans need technology to do what it was originally intended for. To relieve humans from tedious, risky, boring, dead-end labor so that they can enjoy life. Right now corps use it to put people out of work. For those jobs where humans will still be needed until technology figures out how to automate it, this kind of technology would be wonderful.

    Third, anything technology develops that would aid anyone who has suffered physically, mentally, or had brain-damage, etc. should be able to have it for free. Eventually, everyone should.
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      Oct 5 2011: I love the idea of providing this kind of technology for free.

      I agree that technology shouldn't replace the human work force; it should enhance it. I think technology should help us do things we couldn't normally do.
      • Oct 7 2011: Actually I did mean that technology should replace the human work force. That is what technology has always been about, except in the hands of those who use it only to increase profit, control and submission of the masses. The changes needed in world societies are huge. They are so big that most cannot see over an horizon that doesn't look like the horizon they have always seen. This is really a shame. With more time to enjoy life as more and more becomes technologically automated, humans can embrace human bodies instead of robots. There will always be things for humans to do but that kind of "work force" will not be "a race of laborers" who don't really matter. That's us!

        People always talk about or ask the question, "well, how much does it cost? Who is going to pay for it. Money doesn't grow on trees or where will the money come from? How will it be financed?"

        These are limited and old, old ways of thinking that don't move things forward. What if the cost were, oh, 450.000 people, working together, short hours to build, distribute, help out, do machine and tech checks, or whatever is needed, where everyone contributes to getting things done that everyone benefits from? Immediately others use highly volatile words to label, describe, belittle, demean and minimize such concepts. But no one called the 2004 tsunami socialistic or failed communism when so many jumped in to help. Money didn't do it. People did. What we all work for has to be free to everyone, everywhere. Our earth's resources are limited. They are not infinite. If we are such a higher animal, then why have we allowed ourselves to believe we have to work like one, fighting and bumping up against one another in our struggle to survive? By now we should have taken the struggle out of the equation. There are certainly enough of us to go around making things better, easier, kinder and inclusive of all life. What stands in our way? Get rid of those things, or those people, institutions or departments first.
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          Oct 8 2011: I really enjoyed and agree with this post... Society must find a balance between collectivism and individualism... our world is about balance... we cannot live on extremes.... eventually... whether wed like it or not... technology is going to take over all of the "jobs" necessary to sustain our world... but if we would like to grow not simply sustain ourselves then there will always be jobs for us...
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          Oct 11 2011: What about all the people that really enjoy their work? Wouldn't they rather have a technology that makes their job more enjoyable, maybe even easier?

          I agree that there is a balance! I think technology can help us get there for sure!!
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    Oct 3 2011: Hi Daniel,

    I would like to comment on your question. First I think you have to review the examples you give in relation to your question.
    Are we ready to embrace and even incorporate into our bodies such technology that improves our quality of life... of course... but only if it really improves the quality of life.
    Limbs that enable us to climb walls or walk on water don't really improve the quality of life do they?
    But making a blind man see or giving new legs to a amputee patient or even enhancing someone's hearing when his hearing was quite perfect already, or my favourite enhancing memory storage and retrieval so kids can learn twice as much in half the time... yes that makes a real difference.
    Are we ready for that.. of course. We have hearing aids, proteases, we laser our eyes to improve vision etc.
    The less intrusive the tech, the more people will readily accept and embrace it.
    And yes we will become dependent on it like a person hard of hearing relies on his hearing aid. But why would that be a bad thing?
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      Oct 5 2011: "You're so right! I'm so thankful that society has embraced the necessity of wheelchairs and walkers. I just wonder how far this embrace is willing to go. What if we had a super suit? Do you think we'd be as willing to accept it into society as we would a wheelchair?" From my response to Lynn.

      I agree that those kind of things don't directly solve any problems we have (like loss of vision or hearing. But, I think we having the option to scale a wall in case of emergency or the ability to walk on water as a beach activity is a cool idea. I can see how my quality of life would be improved with these technologies. (I think...)
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    Oct 1 2011: Daniel --

    I prefer intimately embracing human bodies not engineered technologies.

    Andrea
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      Oct 3 2011: So true! If I am giving my mom a hug, I want to hug her (not her super suit). But, what if my mom could wear a suit or an apparatus that allowed her to complete her work tasks more efficiently? As a healthcare professional, what if the technology allowed her to save lives more effectively? What if she wore a set of appendages that allowed her to turn a heavy patient, check the vital stats, and report the findings all at the same time?
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        Oct 3 2011: Daniel --

        Affordable and fairly ubiquitous Radio Frequency (RF) technologies are available for monitoring and reporting vital stats.

        I'd far prefer investing in more staff to help your mom turn the heavy patient than more technology.
        People need work. Your heavy patient needs touch. It is healing. Your mom (as us all) needs exercise. Lifting is exercise. Wearing more limbs is not.

        I challenge you to consider how to create something that leads to:

        1. More human touch
        2. More jobs
        3. More physical health.

        Andrea
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          Oct 5 2011: I love this!! I agree wholeheartedly. My example was weak, no doubt. Your ideas are much better than mine. However, I still think investigating technology that can help us as we inch closer to a world of 9 billion people is not a bad idea. My mother, for one, would never wear more limbs. Haha!
  • Sep 30 2011: NOPE! In this day and and age? I would be very scared of human tech. If a human lost a human part, said human, should depend on his or her soul. NO religion involved, just dependence, on their own tenacity. Okay, here is a scenario, RECALL! and Recall! and recall and recall. (then, i would get a lawyer)!!! With Respect to Ya!
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      Oct 3 2011: I agree, Tishe! Our heart and soul is definitely the most important part of humanity. It's what allows us to survive and thrive. But, what if in addition to our tenacity, we could better our lives by embracing technology. It would, of course, be an option. It would only help to supplement the user. It wouldn't replace the heart and soul of the human.