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World-Wide-Web: Rise of technology needs to be balanced with vigilance

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By Gaurav Sharma

The world-wide-web (www), a revolutionary technology that defines our present-day-life, celebrates its silver jubilee today.

Whether we are at home or on the move, at work or on vacation, the Internet has become our new family friend. From easing communication, providing interactive education, speedy and efficient public administration, to increasing our visibility in social circles, the wings of Internet’s penetrating power span across every sphere of life.

Birth

Tim Berners Lee, an English computer scientist, invented the Internet as World Wide Web on 6th August 1991 while working at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) as an independent contractor.

Berners-Lee devised a project based on a hypertext wherein physicists could share information across the globe without using hardware or software. The first proposal having failed, Lee’s proposal for a Hypertext Project succeeded in grabbing the assent of the researchers.

After battling titles such ‘The Information mesh’ and the ‘Mine of Information’, the proposal was christened World Wide Web. In 1990, while working for NeXT Computers (the company where Steve Jobs worked after being thrown out of Apple), Berners-Lee developed the web browser software whose prototype would be run on the CERN server a year later.

Since the users were largely unaware and therefore inept at using the new technology, a user manual was issued to educate them on its proper use.

tim
Tim-Berners Lee, the father of the Internet

Evolution

The novel technology soon started taking giant strides towards growth. In 1992, Berners-Lee uploaded the first picture on the World Wide Web, an image of Les Horribles Cernettes (a French parodic rock group).

A year later, an epic announcement — that of making the Internet free for everyone to use and develop — was made. This emancipating feature has led to a sea change in the way we look at the world today.

In line with the free availability and accessibility of the World Wide Web, a number of free commercial browsers were also developed, the first one being Netscape Navigator. However, it was Mosaic which brought the non-scientist population on to the web through the launch of Internet Explorer (Compuserve also performed a similar job).

While the web initially consisted of a network of static HTML pages, it has now evolved into a dynamic system wherein media and pages can be streamed real-time.

microsoft-discloses-zero-day-in-all-versions-of-internet-explorer
Internet Explorer, previously one of the most popular web-browsers

Future

The internet is a constantly evolving organism which is exceeding its expectations (if it had one) every day. IT technology is undergoing a sea change with information rapidly moving onto the cloud. The transforming digital environment implies that companies have to be abreast with newer technologies such as the cloud, mobile automation, and the Internet of Things.

Internet of things basically means connecting daily-use appliances and systems digitally. By enabling physical objects to transfer information from the real world to the digital plane, the Internet of things has brought Artificial Intelligence a step closer to reality.

Trains are able to tell their arrival and departure time to our smartphone, imaging has become more precise, and traffic data can be accessed by our smartphones at the click of a button or through vocal instructions. Semantic Web wherein metadata is read by machines rather than by humans will also become a reality.

Indeed, life has become comfortable and convenient because of the internet. Still, the developments do not give a complete picture of the stupendous power the Internet exercises over our lives.

Like a shadow of the bright side, we are becoming precariously dependent on the internet for simple activities. Music, movies, adventure, and travel, among a host of other outdoor activities have become an online entertaining online experience. People read on Kindle, date on Tinder, and marry on Shaddi.com. One’s rise to the corporate ladder is determined by how glossy his profile is on Linkedin.

Networking no longer involves personal physical contact but an exchange of photo-shopped copies of one’s scarred existence. Language itself has become an abbreviated caricature of slangs and acronyms. Interpersonal aesthetics have radically altered.

One wonders if human relationships will now become an online rendezvous whereby gentle gestures such as shaking hands and a warm hug will now take a back-seat to exchange of mechanical whatsup’s. And then there is the ‘extraordinary’ chance of a young child experiencing the entire cosmos in his iPad. By the time he turns 20, there is hardly anything exciting to look forward to. Boredom becomes his companion. Psychological problems are also bound to spiral-up when the number of likes on Facebook start determining our self-esteem.

Not ones to leave behind the dark-side of internet, criminals have also begun working in novel fashions. Social media scams are increasingly being utilized maliciously by cyber-criminals to use people’s inherent trust in the content that friends share on Facebook and other social networking sites.

According to the Symantec Intelligence Report, India is the second most targeted country in the world for social media scams and the highest in Asia-Pacific region. In ransomware, a criminal act wherein a victim’s photos, files, and digital content is hijacked without revealing the attacker’s intention, India records an overwhelming 7 attacks per hour.

Attackers have surely changed the stealthy way of deceiving and duping netizens. As the Internet gets more sophisticated, newer possibilities will open-up, bringing forth both positive and negative consequences. Vigilance is the price we will have to pay for becoming more tech-savvy.

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Transforming Human Race: Human to TransHuman to PostHuman

Is it good to become transhuman and extend life and capabilities beyond normal or it is something which will finally destroy us?

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A transhuman is someone who is human, to begin with, but then with the help of technology enhances his capabilities, which are way more than a normal human. Wikimedia Commons
A transhuman is someone who is human, to begin with, but then with the help of technology enhances his capabilities, which are way more than a normal human. Wikimedia Commons

By Dr. Bharti Raizada

  • A Trans-human is someone who is human, to begin with, but then with the help of technology enhances his capabilities
  • Human Race is changing at very fast pace

Have you ever paid attention to the fact that humans are slowly becoming machines? The number of mechanical and electrical devices, in the human body, are increasing at a fast pace. Even parents of a child need not be humans. They can be agencies, trust, bodies, department etc.

First of all. Lets us figure out, who is a human? Any idea? Think for a minute. What makes us human? Is it our genes, our thinking capabilities, our consciousness, spirituality, physical abilities, look, our erect posture, ability to walk on feet, or something else? As per Merriam Webster dictionary, a human is a bipedal primate mammal.

An extreme form of the transhuman is called posthuman. Wikimedia Commons
An extreme form of the transhuman is called posthuman. Wikimedia Commons
What is a Transhuman?

A transhuman is someone who is human, to begin with, but then with the help of technology enhances his capabilities, which are way more than a normal human. Means more intelligence, psychological capability, strength or physical stamina. There is either extension of life, improved quality of life or more capabilities or all of these. An extreme form of the transhuman is called posthuman. Posthuman is a being made up of artificial parts, with minimal or no human attributes remaining.

In stories or fiction, this type of human is called Cyborg or Bionic human or a genetically enhanced human.

Also Read: Analytic thought developed for children with sight disabilities

Change from human to trans human can be achieved by various mechanical or electrical devices, Gene therapy, Artificial intelligence, Nanotechnology, Genetic engineering, Cloning etc. Are you aware that technology is being developed to upload the mind to a computer and print human organs?

Following are the examples of some artificial things which change humans to Transhumans:

Bionic eyes or visual prosthesis

Intraocular lenses/Contact lenses

Artificial voice box

Artificial limbs

Nails/pins in bones

Artificial knees/hips

Neurostimulators

Penile prosthesis

Artificial heart

Artificial heart valves

Pacemakers

Defibrillators

Ventricular assist devices

Transcranial direct current stimulation

Powered exoskeletons

Ear chips etc.

Also Read: New-gen robots to refuel and repair friendly satellites

The difference between humans and technology is narrowing down. Wikimedia Commons
The difference between humans and technology is narrowing down. Wikimedia Commons

So, what are your thoughts? Is it good to become transhuman and extend life and capabilities beyond normal or it is something which will finally destroy us.

How arrogant will we be if we become eternal? Will there be a population explosion on planet earth? Will we still be eating food and reproducing? What about natural resources? Will there be a need to inhabit other planets? What will happen if we all are very high tech and have equal IQ? Who will rule us? How are we going to interact with each other? Will there still be feelings left? Will we still seek eternal happiness?

So, the basic question is what do you prefer? Stay as a human? Or become a transhuman or posthuman? Or something in the middle? And what is that middle? Where will you stop?

Do share your opinion!

Bharti Raizada, M.D. practices Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine in Chicago, Illinois, USA.