This shouldn’t really come as a surprise to anyone. Last time you got on public transportation, what was everyone doing? Hell, last time you walked down the street or drove in your car, you probably noticed that everyone was talking, texting, or otherwise fiddling with a cell phone or gadget. We’ve become connected to our devices to the extent that we can’t live (or use the bathroom, or sleep) without them, which is part of the reason the Supreme Court recently ruled that police officers can’t search suspects’ cell phones without a warrant. And then there are all of the wearable technologies out there, not to mention implants. According to the Brookings Institution, “a process of cyborgization is taking place,” which means, among other things, that we need to figure out how to regulate this technology and adjust and create new laws accordingly.
One point the report makes is that enhancements used to be for people who are missing something — a limb, for example — but are now used by people who simply want and can afford them. Neil Harbisson, the world’s first government-recognized cyborg, has an implant designed to help him see (or rather, hear) color, but implants can be used to enhance normal and healthy functioning, as in the case of Steve Mann. Google Glass exemplifies that trend, but in the opposite direction, as VSP Vision Care is offering Google Glass frames and lenses.
All of this raises the question of what rights people who have these devices should get, if any, especially when it comes to the harvesting (and distributing) of their data. Do they have any additional rights by virtue of the tech they use? Should their rights be any different than those for “normal” people? Can they or their devices be banned? And what about people’s rights to use the tech to, say, record arrests?
The report lists myriad ways “cyborgization” will affect all of us in the future, especially when it comes to legalities concerning data generation and collection. Are we ready — and is our legal system — to address these questions and concerns? The NSA scandal has been bad enough, but what if those hacks hit even closer to home? What if they infiltrated our bodies, not just our gadgets? The report suggests that the line between the two is blurring rapidly, and that we need to be ready when it disappears altogether.