I've just seen the future of technology and you may not love it

It's one thing to ask what the future will be like. It's quite another to ask what it will feel like. Twelve minutes listening to someone who really knows may make you question the meaning of life. And what's left of it.
Written by Chris Matyszczyk, Contributing Writer on

In the future, you'll shed your personal meat.

Let's talk about meat.

Specifically the meat in your head.

I'm not confining these words to meatheads, but to the whole body of humanity that's about to undergo a precipitous descent into a new level of being. Let's call it Level 13 because I'm not sure we'll be lucky to get there.

I'm not depressed about this. I'm (a little) more fascinated by what will happen to us all after hearing the sage meanderings of Gabe Newell, co-founder and president of video game company Valve.

Speaking to 1 News in New Zealand, Newell patiently explained what we are about to become.

Let's begin with his opening salvo. It isn't a salve for the sane. Said Newell: "Our ability to create experiences in people's brains that are not mediated through their meat peripherals will actually be better than is possible."

Don't you feel the limitations of your meat peripherals? Don't you wish that you could pan-fry them a little so they could behave in a tastier manner?

Newell explained: "You're used to experiencing the world through your eyes. Eyes were created by this low-cost bidder who didn't care about failure rates and RMAs."

Are we dissing God here?

And Is he talking about reliability, maintainability, and availability? Or perhaps he's referring to return merchandise authorization?

Evolution? Nah, Revolution.

It's hard to keep up with the biggest-brain nerds.

Newell's thoughts can be a joy to behold. Here's how he describes our meat deficiencies: "It totally makes sense from an evolutionary perspective, but is not at all reflective of consumer preferences."

Evolution, then, is something of an incompetent system. Technology is here, as it is with all things, to perfect the original idea, so that humans can give it a five-star review.

Of course, Newell was referencing gaming, but you can't help thinking he's really talking about life. He wants to leave the real world behind -- something too many technologists do instinctively -- and make people experience things that leave the world looking "blurry." I bet.

Naturally, he has in mind the power of the Brain-Computer Interface. Or, as it's known in some circles, the Ideal State Of Elon Musk.

Newell doesn't find any of this weird. Well, why would he? For him, weird is another realm entirely.

He mused: "Where it gets weird is when who you are becomes editable."

I've longed for being edited since before I learned to type. Why did I say that? Why did I do that?

Thankfully, ZDNet provides me with highly intelligent human beings who perform the task, but they're not available to me 24 hours a day. Which does cause problems.

With the Brain-Computer Interface, things can change at any given second.

"So, like, I'm feeling unmotivated today. Right now, we think that's the fundamental characteristic that is relatively intractable to change, and instead, it'll be like, 'Oh, I can just turn up my focus right now. My mood should be this.'"

My mood shouldn't be to worry, but I do.

Won't we all just turn on the Happy Switch all the time and be utterly unbearable to each other? Even more unbearable than we find each other currently. At least on Twitter.


Sleep Is An App. Discuss.

What's lovely about such descriptions of the future is that they're bonkers. And therefore entirely inevitable.

And Newell does offer tangible benefits that everyone will appreciate. One of the first benefits of BCI will be better sleep, he believes.

"Sleep will now become an app that you run," he explained.

Oh, please no. Another app I have to have on my iPhone?

"I need this much sleep, this much REM, but it's now, rather than, you know, 'I'll fluff my pillows this way and I'll take Zolpidem to get myself to go to sleep, I just say, 'This is how I want to sleep right now.'"

What boring self-absorbed beings we'll become. Yes, even worse than now. We won't need drugs because we'll have technology that can change how we feel.

Newell offered one sentence that many will instantly gravitate to: "You can make people think they hurt by injuring their tool."

(I pause for your inner child to release itself and go to play on the swings.)

What Newell was referring to was the prospect of adding tentacles or other workable pieces to the human body.

Bob's Your Uncle. Your Hacked Uncle.

Lurching toward understatement, Newell mused: "People are going to have to have a lot of confidence that these are secure systems."

Let's pause for digestion. Your very brain will be subject to technological interference. Which may -- oh, you just know it will -- include hacking.

Hey, have you seen Bob lately?

"Nobody wants to say, 'Oh, remember Bob? Remember when Bob got hacked by the Russian malware? That sucked -- is he still running naked through the forests?'" admitted Newell.

Newell's conclusion is, if anything, even sadder than his description of future life and humanity's decision-making process in it.

"I'm not saying that everybody is going to love and insist that they have a Brain-Computer Interface," he said. "I'm just saying each person is going to decide for themselves whether or not there's an interesting combination of feature, functionality, and price."

One translation might be: The rich will do it first and try to become all-feeling superhumans.

Yet I'm most saddened by Newell's painfully glib finger-stoke toward ancient views of personal liberty: "People are going to decide for themselves if they want to do it. Nobody makes people use a phone."

Oh, come now. That's not true. Apple does it all the time. And you know exactly what's going to happen.

There's often a blessed naiveté in tech luminaries' perspectives.

If only we had a Brain-Computer Interface that could make us immune from the consequences.

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