Combining humans and machines has long been the realm of science fiction, but thanks to technology such as neuroscience, nanotechnology, machine learning and 3D printing, it may soon be commonplace.
This is according to Gartner, which has named human augmentation as one of the major trends that will have a “transformational impact” in its 2019 Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies.
Human augmentation typically refers to using technology to make cognitive and physical improvements as an integral part of the human body to enhance capability. The idea of biohacking, or creating a “human 2.0” has existed for a while, but the predictions from Gartner suggest that it may soon move from the fringe to the mainstream.
The future of human augmentation
According to Gartner’s predictions, technology such as biochips, augmented intelligence, emotion AI and immersive workspaces will continue to grow in popularity over the next five to ten years. Biotech, particularly cultured or artificial tissue, is expected to take longer, not maturing for over ten years.
Other technological advancements such as bionics, brain computer interfaces and neurotechnology, as well as artificial intelligence meaning that humans and machines are increasingly working alongside one another, mean that technology could soon be making changes both inside and outside the body.
Technology such as powered exoskeletons are already used to assist with lifting or to aid those with a physical disability, but human augmentation is becoming increasingly invasive. Last month, Elon Musk’s startup Neuralink announced that it was developing technology to help paraplegics use computers controlled via a chip inside the brain.
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On a smaller scale, gene editing techniques such as CRISPR are currently at their early stages and bring with them a multitude of ethical considerations, but with the first human clinical trials beginning this year, could soon become an option for treating medical conditions.
Although the more drastic forms of human augmentation may not be a reality yet, Brian Burke, research vice president at Gartner, believes that embracing the benefits of humans and technology working together is important for businesses:
“Technology innovation has become the key to competitive differentiation. The pace of change in technology continues to accelerate as breakthrough technologies are continually challenging even the most innovative business and technology decision makers to keep up.
“Technology innovation leaders should use the innovation profiles highlighted in the Hype Cycle to assess the potential business opportunities of emerging technologies.”