Human augmentation conjures up visions of futuristic cyborgs, but humans have been augmenting parts of the body for hundreds of years. Glasses, hearing aids and prosthetics evolved into cochlear implants and wearables. Even laser eye surgery has become commonplace.
But what if scientists could augment the brain to increase memory storage, or implant a chip to decode neural patterns? What if exoskeletons became a standard uniform for autoworkers, enabling them to lift superhuman weights? What if doctors could implant sensors to track how drugs travel inside a body?
Technology is now on the cusp of moving beyond augmentation that replaces a human capability and into augmentation that creates superhuman capabilities.
How these changes will impact the world and business makes human augmentation one of Gartner’s top 10 strategic technology trends that will drive significant disruption and opportunity over the next five to 10 years.
The trends are structured around the idea of “people-centric smart spaces,” which means considering how these technologies will affect people (i.e., customers, employees) and the places that they live in (i.e., home, office, car).
“These trends have a profound impact on the people and the spaces they inhabit,” says David Cearley, Gartner Distinguished VP Analyst, Gartner. “Rather than building a technology stack and then exploring the potential applications, organisations must consider the business and human context first.”
These trends do not exist in isolation; IT leaders must decide what combination of the trends will drive the most innovation and strategy.
For example, artificial intelligence (AI) in the form of machine learning (ML) with hyperautomation and edge computing can be combined to enable highly integrated smart buildings and city spaces. In turn, these technology combinations enable further democratisation of the technology.