Nokia Bell Labs Introduces Homo Augmentus

Nokia Bell Labs believes that humanity is in the process of taking another big leap forward in cognition and physiology. This leap, however, won’t be due to evolutionary biology but rather as a direct result of technological enhancement. This era of Homo augmentus isn’t quite as distant as you think. By the time we reach the 6G era 10 years in the future,  the level of hyperconnectivity we’re witnessing today will move beyond simply linking “things” and extend directly to the human body and mind. These new advances in human augmentation will in turn drive unprecedented levels of human and economic productivity.

In a blog post,Michael Eggleston, Data & Devices Group Leader provides more details:

It’s easy to think of human augmentation as an intimate physical technology: a prothesis to replace a limb or a surgical procedure to correct a physical deficiency. But Nokia Bell Labs believes in a Homo augmentus future that reaches far beyond the confines of the human body, giving us control of robots and devices that become remote extensions of ourselves. Augmentation won’t just compensate for disabilities; it will enhance our physiologies and monitor our bodies. Augmentation will no longer be limited to physical tasks; it will increase our cognitive abilities and memory, enhancing our minds as well as our muscles. 

To that end, we can classify augmentations as either external or internal and either cognitive or physical:

  • Internal Cognitive Augmentation: These technologies will enhance our minds. Internal cognitive augmentations will improve our mental focus and expand our memory as well as increase the speed at which we make decisions, learn new tasks and plan our daily lives. This will be accomplished by artificial intelligence intimately coupled to humans through physiological interfaces. For instance, sensor augmentations might record everything you see and hear, while an AI-powered digital assistant would sort through those virtual “memories,” extracting the right information you need at any given moment.
  • External Cognitive Augmentation: These technologies will seek to extend the domain of control of our brain far outside our own bodies. Through physiological interfaces, these enhancements will allow us to perceive the world through external artificial sensors and control remote objects (both physical and digital) as easily as we control our own bodies.
  • Internal Physical Augmentation: These technologies will repair, monitor and enhance the workings of our inner bodies. Eventually this technology may be able to replace any failing internal organ, but the greatest impact will be from the devices that provide continuous monitoring of our physiology. That would allow us to detect diseases and intervene before they become intractable, as well as track and manage epidemics. If we chose, these same devices could not only sense but enhance, pushing our physiology to its very limits, allowing for both super-athletes and super-safe workers.
  • External Physical Augmentation: These technologies are the ones we most often associate with augmentation. Tools and machines that humans have used for centuries will become intimately coupled with the body. From prosthetic limbs to exoskeletons, these technologies could make us faster, stronger and more resilient. It’s unlikely that people would use powered limbs while going about their daily lives, but they would have their uses in industry and special situations.

For the most part, these types of augmentation won’t exist separately in isolation. Only by combining them can we truly augment humanity in the future. Internal cognitive augmentations will allow us to access information and draw on forgotten memories, which in turn we can act on with our external cognitive augmentations. Meanwhile, our internal physical augmentations would work hand in hand with our external physical augmentations, allowing us to perform tasks we would normally be incapable of.

To achieve this state of Homo augmentus, we’ll need to turn to a wide range of technologies, many of which are key areas of research at Nokia Bell Labs. We’ll need new ultra-sensitive sensors and new physiological interfaces for articulating our desires and actions. We’ll need edge cloud computing and AI/machine learning techniques to process and interpret the tremendous amount of information our augmentations generate in real-time. And we’ll need to create new types of networks that allow our augmentations to connect and interact with each other and the outside world.

First off, we aim to perfect the brain-machine interface (BMI). We need to find faster, more efficient and more intimate ways for our minds to relay their intentions to our physical and digital environments, beyond typing on a keyboard, moving a mouse or swiping a touchscreen. The direct neural probe is probably the most extreme example. Probes inserted into the central nervous system would give direct electrochemical access to neurons, allowing human beings to control their augmentations in precisely the way their brains control muscle movement. But it’s unlikely that the average person with full motor function would subject themselves to the surgery required for direct neural interfaces.

You can read the complete post here.

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