Body modification is all the rage these days, as any parent with teenage children knows. Pack them off to the school disco, and the next thing you know, they've come back with a fabric of piercings and tattoos that only a supercomputer can decipher.
Our very own Kevin Warwick - or "Captain Cyborg", to regular readers - was just a middling tutor at a Midlands polytechnic before he caught a whiff of this peculiar zeitgest. For the past few years Warwick has staged a succession of publicity stunts in which he "augments" his human self with bits of machinery. His adolescent stunts have been pretty lame so far, but he has been successful in gathering an appreciative following in the international press.
The issue of augmentation, or fusion with technology, is a masturbatory fantasy that we encounter often, especially out here in California. The venerated Extropians are just one of many cults that dream of transcending mortality - and evading the messy social responsibilities to your brother or sister - by launching themselves into a cryogenically-assured future to which only they have the keys.
Enter Larry Page, who by cruel popular caricature is the friendly, goofy half of the partnership that created Google. In the manner of a Bond villain, the brilliant, cold and secretive Russian Sergey calls the shots, while the American nitwit Larry loafs around on colored cushions between Segway rides, and gets to "chill" with with Joi Ito. Lucky Larry!
(Parodies don't work unless they have at least a grain of truth, but we must point out that in real life, Sergey is not so nerveless as his parody suggests, nor Larry so stoopid. However Larry is mesmerized by stupid tech toys, perhaps fatally so, as we shall see.)
Leisure Suit Larry
For a brief and wonderful moment, Larry escaped his minders and 'fessed up his wildest desires to CNET.
"On the more exciting front, you can imagine your brain being augmented by Google. For example you think about something and your cell phone could whisper the answer into your ear," he burbled.
Yes, Larry, that's pretty exciting. But first things first. John Markoff in the New York Times recently unearthed the gem that Google is planning to create a "phone" that directs the user to Google's incomparable archive of weblog trackbacks and payola bracelet placements. Heads rolled at Google HQ after that revelation, although we ought to acquaint Google's remaining sentient executives with their kin from Nike who have also been planning an entry into the commodified phone business with such a similar caper. Neither Nike, nor Amazon has yet to launch such a product.
But commercial considerations aside, why is Google's co-founder so besotted by the idea? Is he genuinely such a cartoon simpleton, or does he simply think that his product is so amazing - and that we're so correspondingly gullible - that we would willingly submit to such a complicated medical operation to make it work. (And, alas, it still requires messy medical science to implant a Google chip in your brain). Can you imagine a car manufacturer touting such a pitch? Where, in the history of commerce, has the promise been so distant from the reality? Car buyers wouldn't stand for this ("just take our Ford implant, sir, and everything will work out...") and neither, we suggest, should you.
The "Internet" promised us so much when it was touted to us ten years ago. The world's body of knowledge would be at our fingertrips.
Now we're being told that we need body modification to make it work. Ten years ago we thought that all we needed was an ISP. Now, all we need is a brain surgeon!
Oh, dear. ®