Humanity's evolution, relatively speaking, has been remarkably quick. Homo sapiens sapiens, the scientific name for modern humans, evolved 200,000 years ago, though the first of our evolutionary ancestors can be traced to 6 million years ago. The earth itself is 4.6 billion years old. Around 450 million years ago the first plant life sprouted. Our species is one of the newest on the planet. And our evolution has accelerated. Our ancestors may have invented boats 50,000 years ago, but it was not until the 1500s that trade and exploration went global. Sustained economic growth in the modern sense did not occur until the Industrial Revolution of the late 1700s to early 1800s. The World Wide Web was proposed by Tim Berners-Lee in 1989, and our world has changed enormously over the past few decades. Increasingly, we are living in an interconnected and transnational world. Facebook (2004), Twitter (2006) and Google (1998) have all become integral to everyday life over the past 15 years by allowing people to become more connected to their interests and each other, regardless of distance.
So where are we going? According to the animation studio Pixar, we are heading towards a period where robots will take care of every human need. The National Intelligence Council predicted in December that humans would become increasingly modified by technology in order to improve quality of life. The NIC also forecasted prosthetics; exoskeletons and implants were also predicted. It's not as far-fetched as it might seem. Artificial hearts (pacemakers) have been used on humans since the 1960. Research is being conducted into making prosthetic arms have feeling, a quality that would make artificial arms comparable to organic ones. On the implant front, the FDA recently approved a 3D-printed skull that would replace 75% of a patient's skull. When used in combination with stem cells, 3D printing technology may grant us the ability to replace whole limbs, and that technology may only be years away. According the NIC, the lines between organic and inorganic will become increasingly blurred.
Our cells are also being explored for their technological potential. DNA (or biomolecular) computing is one area being explored to increase computing power and the understanding of the human body. Theoretically, biomolecular computing would allow scientists to build more powerful computers at a fraction of the size using biologically derived molecules. Potentially these computers would be able to self-assemble. In 2013, scientists have been able to store information such as photographs and Shakespearean sonnets within DNA digital storage as well as created a biological transistor. In computers a transistor control a circuit by regulating the flow of electrons. By making a biological transistor the team at Stanford has taken a major step towards creating a computer inside a living cell.
Technology is progressing by leaps and bounds before our very eyes. Through implants, prosthetics, and biomolecular computing allows science to improve the quality of human life. Indicators suggest that these progressions will allow limb replacements and self-replicating computers to become the standard. It is an exciting future we face with science fiction turning into reality; one that may be far closer that we thought.