Eccescopy, part 7

I’ve mentioned before, in another context, Charles Darwin’s observation that every genotype requires a viable phenotype. That is, no mutation can survive unless it can produce viable offspring. Technology is like biological evolution in that it can’t just magically jump far ahead. Every step along the path to innovation needs to correspond to a set of needs, or it will die in the marketplace before enabling the next step.

For example, I don’t think we will achieve widespread eccescopy through surgery. Yes, technically we could give everyone an artificial lens implant, but the problem is that until there is a good reason for such a drastic intervention, people won’t do it.

It’s not even that invasive eye surgery is so exotic. You probably know many people who have had cataracts, and are walking around today with an acrylic lens implant — or maybe two. You don’t know who they are, because it’s not something people generally talk about. The operation itself is relatively simple and safe, requiring only local anaesthetic, and no stay in a hospital.

But it’s only done because it avoids blindness — a very different value proposition than, say, implanting an artificial lens so you can do Google searches within your eyeball. Most people won’t opt for invasive surgery unless it helps them to be more “normal”, however that word is currently defined in their culture.

In other words, even if you accept the hypothesis that artificially enhanced eyes, surgically upgraded at infancy, are the long term future of humanity, you can’t get there from here — at least not directly. First there would need to be an non-invasive technology, easy to adopt, to allow the underlying ecosystem to evolve, the layers of application code to be written, the world around us to become populated by well designed and compelling cybernetic ghosts.

Something you can wear, rather than implant. Next time I’ll talk about some candidate technologies.

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