It was probably 6,000 years ago in the present day Iraq when humans first started to store knowledge outside their brains in any meaningful way. Sumerian cuneiform was written on wet clay tablets and then baked with fire. Before that all human wisdom, experiences, stories and myths were mainly transferred by the word of mouth, person to person. This new invention made it possible for us to speak beyond the bounds of time and space. Other writing systems of the day like Egyptian Hieroglyphs and Chinese Pictographs also used materials at hand. These were either etched on stone or written on animal hides and tree barks (papyrus, bamboo). Then in the 2nd century A.D. paper was invented in China. Transmission of knowledge became much simpler with that as paper was quite easier to produce and transport. Next breakthrough came in 1440 AD Germany. The foundations of our modern era rest upon the mass production of books through Gutenberg’s printing press.
The creation of World Wide Web in 1990 is considered fourth such great leap forward in human history. Availability of knowledge at the touch of a button is hallmark of this era. This transformation is barely 25 years old and the next revolution is already on the horizon. Some experts believe that the coming convergence of our mobile and social data with AI and big data technologies will evolve us into Homo digitas. Humans, who will heavily rely upon digital networks and augmented intelligence through wearable and implanted devices. Others envision a future in which human intellectual and physical capacities will be greatly enhanced using novel technologies. They prefer the term of Transhumans for that. After all, we are already using Cochlear implants to restore hearing to the deaf, retinal implants to restore sight, heart pacemakers; technology laced functional limbs and artificial joints. Gamers are using tDCS (transcranial direct current stimulation) to score higher. Students are using memory enhancing drugs to concentrate better. Experiments to decode brainwaves into recognizable visual fields have already been done.
Fast forward to the future and neural interfaces, targeted gene editing and brain implants are not unthinkable. Most of us would feel anxiety and alarm towards such outlandish visions and would prefer to remain natural and unaltered. But the temptations of perfect memory recall, seamless access to the internet and instant mastery of skills would be too hard to ignore for some. Newer generations would be much more comfortable with tomorrow’s technologies. Most of our education is about memorizing basic facts. Actual learning and creativity comes much later. Imagine what can be achieved if we can skip that first part and jump straight into ingenuity and originality.
Artificial Intelligence programs are also becoming smarter with each passing year. Today’s personal digital assistants like Cortana, Siri and Echo are going to evolve into Iron man's JARVIS like partners. Ordinary human beings would be having hard time functioning in that kind of world. Perhaps future belongs to the super smart machines and hybrids human or post humans. Perhaps such developments would be deemed too dangerous for the fear of hostile AI and dystopian future. Complete ban on such technologies is also possible. We clearly don’t know about these things at this point in time. Future is in the flux and it will take a course that our collective wisdom would decide for us.