Deus Ex-Overtaken By Technology

 

Deus Ex is an action role-playing game (RPG) and first person shooter game. It sold more than a million copies as of 2009 and was named “Best PC Game of All Time.”

 

A prequel Deus Ex: Human Evolution is due to be released this month (August 2011). 

 

You play a coalition anti-terrorist agent in a world slipping further and further into chaos.

 

The time is 2052 and you are in a dystopian society where society has progressed faster technologically than it has evolved spiritually–and people are struggling to cope with technological change and are abusing new technology.

 

The challenges portrayed in the trailer show people using/abusing technological augmentation–the integration of technology with their human bodies–replacing damaged limbs, adding computer chips, and even “upgrading themselves”.

 

There are many issues raised about where we are going as a society with technology:

 

1) Are we playing G-d–when we change ourselves with technology, not because we have too (i.e. because of sickness), but rather because we want to–at what point are we perhaps overstepping theologically, ethically, or otherwise?

 

2) Are we playing with fire–when we start to systematically alter our makeup and change ourselves into some sort of half-human and half-machine entities or creatures are we tempting nature, fate, evolution with what the final outcome of who we become is?  As the end of the trailer warns: “Be human, remain human”–imagine what type of cyborg creatures we may become if we let things go to extremes.

 

3) Technology may never be enough–As we integrate technology into our beings, where does it stop? The minute we stop, others continue and we risk being “less intelligent, less strong, and less capable than the rest of the human race.” In short, are we facing a technological race toward dehumanization and as enhanced machines.

 

4) Drugs and other vices follow–To prevent technology augmentation from being rejected, mankind relies on ever larger and more potent doses of drugs.  We not only risk losing elements of our humanity to technology, but also to drugs and other vices that make us forget the pain of change and rejection (physical and perhaps emotional).

 

Deus Ex literally is Latin for “G-d out of the machine.” Perhaps, future dystopian society starts out by people trying to play G-d, but I think the risk is that it ends with the proverbial devil displacing the best laid intentions. 

 

While technology holds the most amazing of promises from curing disease, solving world hunger, and endless innovations (even including developing the archetype bionic man/women–“We can rebuild him…we have the technology”), without a solid moral compass and frequent check-ins, we run the risk of technology getting away from us and even doing more harm than good.

>This Idea Has Real Legs

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Check out this video of Rex, The Robotic Exoskeleton.

An incredible advance for the disabled in providing better mobility.

Light years ahead of a wheelchair, Rex enables people to stand, walk, climb stairs, and generally lead more normal and healthy lives.

Rex is not meant to supplant the wheelchair (where you can sit), but to augment meant it (with the ability to stand).

“If you are a wheelchair user, can self transfer and use a joystick with your hand, Rex amy offer you a way to stand, move sideways, turn around, go up steps as well as walk on flat hard surfaces including ramps and slopes.” (www.rexbionics.com)

The idea for REX came from the movie Aliens, where Ripley (Sigourney Weaver, the main character) fights the big mother Alien in a “Power Loader” suit. The exoskeleton designed for transporting and stacking large supply crates is used to do some serious damage to the Alien.

Exoskeletons have been explored as battle suits in movies, video games (Halo), and even in the real military as future combat wear.

Nice to see an application of the technology that can kill/maim to also heal/help people. Of course this isn’t the first time military technology has been applied to the consumer market; for example, the Internet itself on which I am writing this blog, was developed by DARPA.

The point is that technology itself is not good or bad, but rather how we use it, is what determines it’s ultimate effect.

According to CNN, Rex invested $10 million and seven years in developing this bionic dream machine made from 4700 parts. FDA approval is being sought, so Rex can be marketed it in the U.S.

It’s not hard to imagine exoskeleton technology being used not only for helping the disabled and fighting future wars, but also for augmenting the everyday workforce as body bionics to work the fields, build our infrastructure, transport goods, and even for us intellectual types, to run between (or out of those) meetings that much faster.

>Bionic Eyes and Enterprise Architecture

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Remember the TV shows The Bionic Man and Woman? These folks had implants that gave them amazing super-human strength, speed, hearing, and vision.

Bionics is a term which refers to flow of ideas from biology to engineering and vice versa…In medicine, Bionics means the replacement or enhancement of organs or other body parts by mechanical versions. Bionic implants differ from mere prostheses by mimicking the original function very closely, or even surpassing it. (Wikipedia)

Believe it or not, bionic eyes are now a reality, at least in a research stage.

MIT Technology Review, 25 January 2008, reports that “researchers have created an electronic contact lens that could be used as a display or medical sensor.”

Although, this bionic eye cannot see miles away like a telescope yet, it was created to see if it would be possible to fulfill two primary purposes:

  1. Augmented reality display—a “display that could superimporse images onto a person’s field of view, while allowing her to see the real world…soldiers could use the technology to see information about their environment, collected from sensors. Or civilians could use the electronic lens as a cell-phone display, to see who is calling and to watch videos during a commute.”
  2. Noninvasive medical monitor—“use the lens as a sensor that could monitor chemical levels in the body and notify the user if they indicate signs of disease…many indicators of health can be monitored from the surface of the eye. The live cells on the eye are in direct contact with blood serum, which contains biomarkers for disease.”

How is the bionic eye made?

It “incorporates metal circuitry and light-emitting diodes (LEDs) into a polymer-based lens…a functional circuit that is biologically compatible with the eye.”

What are some of the challenges in making the bionic eye work in the real world?

  1. Heat—The bionic eye is a functioning circuit and could generate heat that could adversely affect the eye.
  2. Power—How will the contact lens be powered while worn?
  3. Size—To create a visible display, the LEDs will have to shrink in size and in the process not break in the lens-shaping process

From a User-centric EA perspective, bionics is one of those incredible fields where end-users really benefit in everyday functions, in life-altering ways. Bionics opens up possibilities for people with disabilities (due to illness or accident) that are nothing short of miraculous. Imagine people being able to walk, look, hear, and so on not only on par with healthy individuals, but maybe even with an edge. Of course, this could open up all sorts of ethical dilemmas. If we think Olympians taking steroids is an issue, we haven’t seen nothing yet. Bionics is a field that is only just beginning, but it will have enormous implications for process improvement and reengineering based on new incredible capabilities of those that have these implants. Bionics is an example par excellence of technology enabling process (in this case, the very elements of mechanical human processes).