When Marshall McLuhan published Understanding Media, in 1964, the U of T English professor’s radical arguments about technology’s role in shaping human existence made him a unique media oracle. Now, 100 years after McLuhan’s birth, many simply take as a given that our future will be shaped, not by ethical or cultural precepts, but by our fast-changing technological advances.
In fact, we’re approaching the moment – not too far off – at which computer intelligence will exceed that of humans. Today, some already dream of uploading their consciousness into artificial bodies or virtual worlds; others wish to radically prolong their lives or enhance their bodies through biotechnology. These changes are feared by some, embraced by others, and point to key questions: What will it mean to be human in the future? Can we look forward to a utopian tomorrow? Might some of us simply become obsolete?
Robert J. Sawyer, another homegrown oracle, promises a few answers.
Robert J. Sawyer is Canada’s leading science fiction writer, winner of over 40 national and international awards for his bestselling fiction, including the Nebula, the Hugo, and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award. His keen insights into the human impact of technological change have led to consulting work for corporate clients such as Google, and Sawyer has also advised bodies from the Canadian Federal Department of Justice to the US Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency.