The Oxford Martin School Blog
Are you ready for this new age in human development?
24 Apr 2012 1 comment(s)
When you get a pop up on your screen telling you that the privacy settings have changed, what do you do? Press accept, in the rush to get to your web page? Yes? Big mistake. As we enter the Hybrid Age, the importance of taking personal responsibility for our own privacy will be vital.
Parag and Ayesha Khanna, Directors of the Hybrid Reality Institute, described this new Hybrid Age in their recent presentation, Hybrid reality: the emerging human-technology co-evolution. We have always used technological advances to name the stages of human development – from the Stone Age, through Agrarian and Industrial Ages, and now leaving behind the Information Age, we are entering the Hybrid Age, an age characterised by the co-evolution of humans with technology. The Khannas were here to explain why this is such an important era in humanity’s history and what direction it is taking us.
Driverless cars, increasing use of robots in the classroom and in the operating theatre, virtual rock stars, and smart cities with networked infrastructure that lets your car talk to your home to tell it that you’ll be back in five minutes…. Sounds a bit like the stuff of science fiction? According to the Khannas, the above examples are already happening. Our Hybrid Age will continue to see the trend towards massive global urbanization that we are witnessing today, with predictions that by 2070, some 70 percent of the world’s population will be located in cities.
Ayesha stressed that this Hybrid Age will bring massive opportunities in terms of healthcare, education, sustainability and business opportunities, with the potential to lift many people out of poverty. She highlighted the use of sensors in healthcare provision that will enable patients to be medicated safely and effectively without the need for healthcare professionals. However, she warned that, “We are seduced and absorbing of new technologies but we need to be more questioning.”
Parag suggested that to cope with emerging technologies and their implications, we need to adopt a set of principles. These include embedding universal values on access to technology, transparency and equity. Technology design needs to allow individuals to retain control over information that they do not want to become publicly available. And we need to have the power to manage our own identities.
So when the time comes that your doctor tells you that your heart isn’t working properly and she can offer you an ordinary transplant or a robotically enhanced version that will give you greater energy, athleticism and life expectancy…what would you choose? (And by the way, if you pressed accept at the start of this blog, answering a question like this might be telling the world - friends, future employers, insurance companies - about your heart condition, treatment choices, and even future health prospects).