“Technologies of Consciousness” (ToC) are defined as methods that shape awareness, emotions, values, beliefs, ideologies, choices and the general state of mind. The range of ToCs in this survey range from Artificial Intelligence, Nuerotechnology, BioFeedback, Sex Tech, Thought Power, Mild Drugs, and Virtual Reality – “hard” ToCs – to the Collaborative Enterprise and Global Moral Code -- “soft” or “social” ToCs.
This subject is important because TechCast thinks consciousness represents a great frontier beyond knowledge. Today’s focus on knowledge is likely to fade in a decade or so when our forecasts indicate that advanced AI is likely to automate routine human thought, moving attention to the higher-order concerns that increasingly pose the greatest challenges facing modern societies: climate change, energy shortages, environmental decline, financial instability, WMD, terrorism, and other threats we call the Global MegaCrisis.
The frontier of consciousness is so critical that TechCast is considering making it our next field of study. This survey explores the 6 ToCs defined below, summarizing background information on each ToC and inviting you to estimate when they are likely to enter mainstream use – roughly the same way we study the other 7 fields on TechCast. We also ask your opinion about the feasibility of including various ToCs in this field.
Thanks for taking the survey and answering the questions at the end. The TechCast ToC Team
BIOFEEDBACK by K. Chris Mitchell
Summary Biofeedback as an emerging technology has steadily become a legitimate medical technique for treating heart problems, pain, stress, ADD, depression, and other medical issues. Using electrical sensors that provide visible information about one’s body, practitioners have been able to teach patients how to use their mind to make physiological changes without use of invasive techniques or medicine. Prof. Harry Rothman works in this field, and thinks "Biofeedback will boom in a decade."
1. The military has begun to use Biofeedback to help treat Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Through the use of Heart Rate Variability Biofeedback Training, soldiers learn to control anxiety and stress without medication (AAPB, 2009).
2. Biofeedback is an effective tool in battling chronic pain. Patients master relaxation and meditation techniques to help alleviate headaches or muscular aches (MSN Health, 2010).
3. The Association for Applied Psychophysiology has awarded Biofeedback the highest efficacy rating in treating urinary incontinence. Evidence demonstrates greater effectiveness than traditional practices (Yucha Montgomery, 2008). The Association also concluded it was an effective treatment for attention deficit hyperactivity, seizures and depression (AARP, www.aapb.org/consumers)
4. Biofeedback is noninvasive, it reduces the dependency on medications, it is an alternative to medications with certain health risks, and it allows people to become self sufficient and in control of their own ailments (Mayo Clinic, 2009)
5. Devices have entered the market that allow formal therapy with readily available, cheap, and portable devices. (US News, 2008)
1. Many professionals contend that Biofeedback has yet to prove its effectiveness in teaching permanent skills and conveying long term benefits (US News Health Report, 2008). The field must accrue more research and become a more cost effective alternative to traditional treatments.
2. The biggest obstacle is that Biofeedback often lack’s insurance coverage. A five-session treatment plan for stress can cost $500, and a 20 session plan for handling migraines can cost $2,000 (US News, 2008).
SEX TECH By Mako Parker
Summary Sexuality is a universal human urge, but it is treated differently across the world, with some societies regarding it as taboo and discussed in private or not at all, while others enjoy it openly as just another commodity. In addition, sexuality varies widely because of individual preferences and needs, and the profound effects of sexuality often help or hinder general health, mental states, and well-being. Sexual practices increasingly employ powerful new technologies (like robots and virtual reality), so it is easy to imagine people being able to have a full-range of sexual experiences using all senses with avatars of movie stars and other persons of their choosing.
1. Studies find that 2/3rds of people feel they did not have enough sex and half believe their sex lives lacked excitement and variety (www.durex.com/en-GB/Sexual Well Being Survey). 85% of men and 61% of women think sex is important to quality of life (Washington Post 5/8/10).
2. Sex robots are booming due to the Internet’s democratization of the adult entertainment market (www.guardian.co.uk/technology) The sex-bot, “Roxxxy,” is programmed with multiple personalities so a user can select a personality to talk to. The price tag for a Roxxxy is $7,000-$9,000, and the maker is working on a male-bot called, Rocky (www. news.cnet.com)
3. In Japan, sex dolls were originally created for handicapped men, but they have become popular amongst a much wider audience. Although they are not automated, sex dolls are extremely life-like, have 35 joints to provide full motion, and can cost as much as $6,000 (www.honeydolls.jp/en/main).
4. Second Life is a virtual world with a wide range of sexual possibilities where people are not inhibited by normal constraints (www.villagevoice.com ). It is estimated that 80 percent of Second Life users have sex online, which is about 530 million people. This translates into roughly 10 percent of the world population now experiencing cybersex (www.informationweek.com).
5. The percentage of female fans at adult trade shows rose from 10% to 50% between 1998 and 2000, so female porn use is growing.
6. A survey found that 55% of Americans said sexuality is “an integral part of their spiritual life.” Most called it “A gift from God.” (“God’s Gift,” NewsWeek, Oct 2, 2006)
1. The price tag for a sexbots, dolls, and Virtual Reality is prohibitive for an average consumer.
COLLABORATIVE ENTERPRISE by Gabriel Kauper
Summary Many corporations are moving from a focus on profit and shareholders to a quasi-democratic model that includes a wide range of progressive practices -- corporate social responsiblity, ethics, the triple bottom line, participative management, corporate community, and other terms. The concept of a "collaborative enterprise" focuses on the need to form collaborative partnerships with investors, employees, customers, business partners, and the public to solve complex strategic problems that produce both financial and social benefits. This concept goes beyond the other common terms because collaborative problem-solving creates value, thereby better serving social needs for as well as economic performance. Business is a powerful institution that largely sets the character for society, and the emergence of this more equitable and more productive model could produce a mental shift in the business-society relationship and in national cultures themselves.
Selected Adoption and Forecast Data
1. In the U.S. and EU countries, these practices are close to mainstream.
1. The Wall Street crisis of 2008, the failure of US auto-makers, and problems with health care companies have raised serious questions about the profit-centered business model. Critics from Bill Gates to the Pope have called it a ”moral crisis of capitalism” (Christian Science Monitor, Aug 6, 2009).
2. Studies show that managers in 17 nations realized higher financial gains when focusing on stakeholders rather than on profit alone. Other studies confirm that having women in corporate leadership improves performance, largely because women excel at effective working relationships. Even Jack Welch, the former CEO of General Electric who gained fame for pushing the primacy of profits, seems to have recanted. In 2010 Welch acknowledged "Shareholder value is a result, not a strategy. Your main constituencies are your employees and customers." (Nathan Washburn, “Why Profit Shouldn’t be Your Top Goal,” Harvard Business Review, 2009)
3. A leading edge of companies in the US (Saturn, J&J, Nucor, Ben & Jerry’s), Europe (Mondragon, German labor-mgt cooperation), and Asia (Japanese and Indian firms) have practiced various form of DC for years. The problem is that they are usually relegated to the margins of business thought. Hart, Capitalism at the Crossroads: Aligning Business, Earth, and Humanity, 2007).
4. The United Nations Global Compact is association of businesses committed to universally accepted principles in human rights, labor, environment and anti-corruption. It grows at a rate of roughly 100 new participants/month, with the current total at over 7,000 organizations in more than 135 countries (www.ungc.org)
5. The International Co-operative Alliance represents the global cooperative movement, with 224 federations and organizations in 87 countries and growing global momentum (www.ica.coop)
6. B Corporations use the power of business to solve social and environmental problems. Unlike traditional responsible businesses, they meet comprehensive and transparent social and environmental performance standards; institutionalize stakeholder interests; and build collective voice through a unifying brand (www.bcorporation.net).
7. Business for Social Responsibility is a global network of companies, thought leaders, and stakeholders who share best practices and forge new relationships for innovative solutions (www.bsr.org)
8. Fortune 500 companies now publish Sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility Reports, covering issues like governance, community and partnerships (www.walmart.com; www.ge.com)
1. Some countries have cultures that are committed to traditional forms of “capitalism” focused on profit and the rights of shareholders, and they are likely to resist the difficult changes that are involved.
2. Shareholders legally own a corporation, which tends to stress the central role of profit. But 30 or so US states now recognize legal rights of other stakeholders.
3. Wall Street has traditionally forced firms to focus on short-term gains to avoid being taken over and lose capital as its stock drops. The collaborative enterprise, however, offers the possibility of having stock held by stakeholders, resolving the business-society conflict.
4. Collaboration is more time-consuming and difficult than autocratic leadership. It also requires a more challenging form of leadership and depends on stakeholders being receptive to partnering.
GLOBAL MORAL CODE by Kiran Kolekar
Summary A synthesis of major religions is encouraging a new “Global Moral Code” (GMC) that could unify people under a universal set of values and beliefs. The significance of this phenomenon lies in the fact that religion is one of the most powerful forces to be reckoned with, irrespective of geography, and GMC could use this force to unify the globe. The Dalai Lama said ”All major religious traditions carry basically the same message of love, compassion and forgiveness ... that should be part of our daily lives” (www.dalailama.com).
1. The International Association of Religious Freedom (IARF) is a century old organization that meets annually to integrate religious thought and practice (www.iarf.net).
2. A “Millennium World Peace Summit” of Religious and Spiritual Leaders in 2000 announced a “Commitment to Global Peace” that would counter conflict, poverty, and protect the environment.
3. The UN. passed a resolution to encourage the observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion (www.un.org; www.millenniumpeacesummit.com).
4. The Religions for Peace organization is one of the first to form a large alliance of religious leaders to fight poverty, save nature and prevent war (www.wcrp.org).
5. The Internet has become a popular format to help people understand the universal truths of all religions. Websites, forums, blogs, and publications, such as Interfaith Today, are devoted to the message of harmony and peace (http://interfaithtoday.com)
6. Inter-religious marriages are common.
7. Many philosophers and religious teachers (Baha’i, Mother Teresa, Osho Rajneesh) believe there is one universal god who is like a rainbow which constituents of different religions forming different colors (http://en.wikipedia.org).
1. Politicians often mislead people by playing on their fears about other religions.
2. Illiteracy encourages superstition, narrow mindedness, blind faith, and even terrorism.
3. Many individuals are determined to find faults in other religions out of the belief that theirs is superior and the one true path to salvation.
MILD DRUGS by Blair Gardner
Summary Mild drugs like marijuana have been shown to be effective in altering states of mind for therapeutic purposes, and they relieve stress and serve other recreational purposes. The criminalization of most drugs has come into question, which raises the prospect that widespread use of mild drugs could cause a mental shift in society. A recent poll from ABC/Washington Post showed 81% of respondents supporting the legalization of medical marijuana, and many nations have successfully decriminalized. As the baby boomer generation ages, acceptance of mild drugs is rising. (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration).
1. Argentina, Mexico, the Netherlands, and Portugal have legalized marijuana and other mild drugs. Argentina moved towards “a harm-reduction approach” that focuses on education (8/25/2009 CNN). Mexico decriminalized small amounts of all drugs, including marijuana, cocaine, and even heroin, after drug wars claimed the lives of over 11,000 people in the last 3 years (8/26/2009 BBC). The drug trade here is estimated to be the country’s most profitable enterprise, employing some 450,000 people and generating $40 billion, second place only behind the oil and automotive industries (Wall Street Journal.12/26/09). Portugal has completely decriminalized possession of marijuana, cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine. Since it's inception in 2001, the strategy has resulted in lower drug use among teens, lower rates of HIV infections, and the amount of people seeking treatment for drug problems has increased greatly. Portugal has the lowest rate of lifetime marijuana use in the EU (Time 4/26/2009).
2. Other countries such as Canada, the Netherlands, Australia, Great Britain, Brazil, Belgium, Germany, Chile, and Columbia, still make marijuana illegal, but it is either decriminalized, or unenforced (Wikipedia).
3. In the U.S., medical use of marijuana was approved by California in 1996, and the state is taking steps to completely legalize it (1/29/10 LA Times). 13 other states have followed suit, and several other states have legislation pending (ProCon.org). The US Attorney general said he will not prosecute those who are complying with state laws on medical marijuana (Washington Post, 8/20/2009).) 44% of Americans aged 35 and older have used marijuana in their lifetime (SAMSHA).
4. Results of a comparative study in the US, Australia, and the Netherlands suggest that the de-penalization of marijuana is not associated with increased use. There are countries with harsh laws and high drug use, and countries with liberal laws and low drug use (2001 MacCoun and Reuter).
5. Organizations such as NORML, the Marijuana Policy Project, and the Drug Policy Alliance, and other powerful groups and wealthy individuals like George Soros are supporting legalization with funding and manpower.
6. Joycelyn Elders, MD, Former US Surgeon General, noted: "The evidence is overwhelming that marijuana can relieve pain, nausea, vomiting and other symptoms caused by illnesses or by the harsh drugs used to treat them. And it can do so with remarkable safety. Indeed, marijuana is less toxic than many of the drugs that physicians prescribe every day." Lester Grinspoon, Emeritus Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, said "There is very little evidence that smoking marijuana represents a significant health risk.
7. The war on drugs seems futile because people find benefits in medicating the mind. There are some 200 recreational drugs and more are being invented. An experiment at Johns Hopkins University gave 36 volunteers psilocybin (mushrooms) while a control group was given a placebo. Participants called it the most significant experience of their lives. In a follow-up, 79% reported increased well-being, which was confirmed by family and friends. (The Economist, July 13, 2006)
8. According to Harvard University economist Jeffrey Miron, marijuana legalization would save $7.7 billion per year in government costs, and $2-6 billion would accrue from taxation (Miron 2005).
9. Mind enhancing drugs, such as adderall, ritalin, concerta, and modafini, are enjoying increasing usage rates and may prove to make people more comfortable with mind altering substances. (The NSDUH Report)
1. Norms of social morality are very hard to change.
NUEROTECHNOLOGY by Tanya Alguard
Summary Neurotechnology is any technology that identifies, modifies, or controls neural pathways to analyze, repair, or enhance functioning of the brain. Simple forms of emerging technologies in neurotechnology are in use today to treat cognitive impairment, depression, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and even neuromarketing.
Selected Adoption & Forecast Data
1. The neurotechnology industry, which includes neuromodulation, neural prostheses, neurorehabilitation, and neurosensing, is expected to grow from $3.6 billion in 2010 to $8.8 billion in 2012 (Cavuoto, “Commercial Opportunities for Neural Engineers,” Journal of Neural Engineering, 2008)
2. Between 1994 and 2003 there have been 19 approved neurological devices and as many as 59,000 human recipients. (Foster, Engineering the Brain. (2006 Oxford U. Press)
1. Deep Brain Stimulation uses electrical impulses to stimulate regions of the brain for treatment of Parkinson’s, Tourette’s syndrome, obsessive-compulsive disorders, addictions, obesity, Alzheimer’s and depression.
2. Nueroimaging can analyze brain activity to rehabilitate damaged cognitive function, such as Alzheimer’s disease. It can even be used with unconscious persons, and can help determine recovery prognoses.
3. Transcranial magnetic stimulation targets brain areas with the promise of developing new treatments for depression and other psychopathology (Farah et al, “Neurocognitive Enhancement," Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 2004)
4. Researchers are decoding EEG signals to control artificial limbs and to guide robots. Future prosthetic limb systems will allow physicians to connect wirelessly to adjust settings (Denning et al, “Neurosecurity,” Neurosurgery Focus, 2009). Also see TechCast’s forecast on Thought Power.
5. Neural prostheses will be implanted in the brains of great apes which may endow them with "synthesized speech" (Saniotis, “Present and Future Developments in Cognitive Enhancement Therapies,” Journal of Future Studies, 2009).
6. Direct Neural Interface augments intelligence by directly linking the human brain to databases containing knowledge. Even abstract ideas and thoughts could be communicated, mind to mind, through a wireless link. The power of computers could be merged with the creativity of humans to perform complex calculations “in their head.” An architect could, for example, think through a design for a bridge while simultaneously calculating load factors and costs (Coates, “Neural Interfacing: Forging the Human-Machine Connection.” Morgan & Claypool Publishing, 2008).
1. Existing concepts of mental health and body are threatened by the integration of human and machine. Will the melding of the two become socially acceptable?
2. As neural systems become more wired, complex, integrated, and powerful, it will be necessary to defend against potential security vulnerabilities, such as malicious attacks in which a hacker could take control of robotic limb systems or infect a patient’s biotech components with a digital virus.
3. Patient willingness to undergo brain surgery to have electrodes attached to the brain and run the risk of infection.
4. Limited bandwidth of EEG signals, learning to decade the signals, etc.
5. Only a small number of neurons have been studied, whereas thousands are involved in basic body functions.