Jewelry for the Eyeball

I once gave a speech in class about the future of Internet technology based on a (then) recent breakthrough in pairing neurons with a microchip. One classmate said he would shoot himself in the head before allowing anyone to put a microchip in his brain. The speech was supposed to last for twenty minutes; his comment abruptly ended my speech and launched an emotional discussion that raged for an hour.

It is easy for us to make sweeping statements about things we instantly recognize as extremely different from the norm. What my classmate failed to understand is the fine-grained nature of change. Change does not always come all at once, but instead often sneaks up on you until it becomes just another part of your life. Case in point, Dutch eye surgeons have developed jewelry for the eyeball.

Humans are getting over their initial queasiness toward having technology embedded in their biological substrate. Cochlear implants are routine procedures, artificial retinas are moving through human trials, students and faculty members at various universities are turning themselves into cyborgs, and artificial limbs can now tap into the signals coming from the brain. Certainly each of us has a threshold of tolerance for such technology, but this threshold is constantly being pushed back, and will continue to do so until most of us have absolutely no qualms about allowing someone to put a microchip in our brains.

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