In the new report, the NIC describes how implants, prosthetics, and powered exoskeletons will become regular fixtures of human life — what could result in substantial improvements to innate human capacities. By 2030, the authors predict, prosthetics should reach the point where they’re just as good — or even better — than organic limbs. By this stage, the military will increasingly rely on exoskeletons to help soldiers carry heavy loads. Servicemen will also be administered psychostimulants to help them remain active for longer periods.
Many of these same technologies will also be used by the elderly, both as a way to maintain more youthful levels of strength and energy, and as a part of their life extension strategies.
Brain implants will also allow for advanced neural interface devices — what will bridge the gap between minds and machines. These technologies will allow for brain-controlled prosthetics, some of which may be able to provide “superhuman” abilities like enhanced strength, speed — and completely new functionality altogether.
Other mods will include retinal eye implants to enable night vision and other previously inaccessible light spectrums. Advanced neuropharmaceuticals will allow for vastly improved working memory, attention, and speed of thought.
“Augmented reality systems can provide enhanced experiences of real-world situations,” the report notes, “Combined with advances in robotics, avatars could provide feedback in the form of sensors providing touch and smell as well as aural and visual information to the operator.”
But as with any technological development, there is a caveat:
But as the report notes, many of these technologies will only be available to those who are able to afford them. The authors warn that it could result in a two-tiered society comprising enhanced and nonenhanced persons, a dynamic that would likely require government oversight and regulation.
Smartly, the report also cautions that these technologies will need to be secure. Developers will be increasingly challenged to prevent hackers from interfering with these devices.
Lastly, other technologies and scientific disciplines will have to keep pace to make much of this work. For example, longer-lasting batteries will improve the practicality of exoskeletons. Progress in the neurosciences will be critical for the development of future brain-machine interfaces. And advances in flexible biocompatible electronics will enable improved integration with cybernetic implants.
Read the entire report here.