Humans, Androids, Cyborgs, and Centaurs:
Navigating the future of human-machine interactions.
Although some humans may still attach the diminutive “mere” to describe their species, humankind’s behaviors over the last decades indicate that humans have been operating for some time now in conjunction with machines and new technologies. Whether driving cars to increase their ability to cover distances, consulting search engines to enhance their knowledge base, or using stored digital images as a supplement to lived memories, many of the activities that we partake in today are only possible when humans work with machines.
Just what we call the hybrid-human —or “more-than-human”— has changed over time. Androids, so named from the Greek word for “man” (Andros), first referred to tools that operated in “man-like” ways. It was only later that the term came to be associated with robots that have peculiarly human attributes. Cyborg, on the other hand, a term dating from the mid-twentieth century, and meaning “cybernetic organism,” describes human-machine systems that are self-regulating. In the late 1990s, the chess grandmaster Gary Kasparov re-introduced the term “centaur” as one that might better describe the possible symbiosis between humans and digital information technologies. Though in ancient history designating mythical creatures conceived as part-human and part-horse, the term centaur has recently come back into common use to connote the possibilities for artificial intelligence applications and systems to amplify human abilities.
To help you consider the possible futures of human-machine interactions, we've forecasted dozens of emerging technologies that are expected to play a pivotal role in the linkage between humans and machines. Having incorporated these into three science fiction narratives, we invite you to explore the outcomes derived from logical extrapolations of the capabilities of current technologies and the social contexts they would exist within. By interacting with them, you get to choose your own path through the future and, in the process, consider the possibilities and implications of emerging technologies in extending the human potential.
The specific technological solutions that appear in these narratives each have different technology readiness levels (TRL), ranging from TRL 9 for solutions that are already established and incorporated into new systems to TRL of 1 for the ones that are possible but not yet plausible inventions. Alongside these metrics, we have identified three vectors that navigate technological scenarios between the intervals of close, medium and far futures. From machines making lives easier and frictionless, exploring how human capabilities may be improved through the deployment of digital technologies as prosthetic devices, to inviting AI to take over many aspects of human lives, it comes as no surprise that humans are shifting, all thanks to the association with non-organic beings.
Of course, in light of these innovative configurations of human and machine relations, several questions arise: are humans becoming more “machine-like” as they extend the invitation to new technologies to enter not only their lives but their bodies and minds? What are the ethical and practical implications that underlie the enhancement of humankind through technologies? What new types of human/machine hybrids might you be able to imagine?
These questions are yet to be answered, and they need to be tackled wisely. Through a shared framework we might be able to conceive possible interpretations, solutions, and answers. For now, we encourage you to get a glimpse of future narratives that depict several events you may, eventually, find yourself in.