In a “twenty-questions” style interview with author Michael Grant over at The Guardian, I was struck by his answer to the final question:
What piece of technology would you most like to own?
I want a Google chip implanted in my brain. Wire up my cerebrum. I’m perfectly serious. I want all access, all the time.
Now, despite his protestations of seriousness, I rather suspect he’s exaggerating for effect. But even so, I found myself wondering whether I’d go for such a connection myself, if the opportunity arose. Let’s assume for a moment (and not too hypothetically) that such an always-on link could be achieved without surgical intervention – high-powered wearable computing, wireless broadband link, some sort of cyberpunk data-shades assemblage for interface, all that jazz. Is it still as transgressive and extreme an idea if you could just take it all off when ever you chose to? After all, I already spend upwards of ten hours a day connected to the internet*; the technological leap to being able to do so without having to be here at my desk seems like a small skip of convenience from where I’m sitting right now.
Now, imagine that Grant’s implants actually existed – how differently would a person with such capabilities interact with the world, and with other people? Would they have something of the autist or savant about them, or would instantaneous access to the knowledge and conversation of the web enhance their abilities to socialise? What work would they do (or want to do), and what jobs would they be denied?
Sure, these are all established questions that arise from reading cyberpunk literature – but to be kicked into that mode of thinking by a throwaway line in an interview with a YA author? It’s a weird wired world, and no mistake.
[ * - Yes, I know it shows. Be nice. ]