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Sense-expanding Technologies
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1Quantum Revolution& Advanced AI2HumanAugmentation3Eco-Regeneration& Geo-Engineering4Science& Diplomacy1.11.21.31.42.12.22.32.43.13.23.33.43.54.14.24.34.44.5HIGHEST ANTICIPATIONPOTENTIALAdvancedArtificial IntelligenceQuantumTechnologiesBrain-inspiredComputingBiologicalComputingCognitiveEnhancementHuman Applications of Genetic EngineeringRadical HealthExtensionConsciousnessAugmentation DecarbonisationWorldSimulationFuture FoodSystemsSpaceResourcesOceanStewardshipComplex Systems forSocial EnhancementScience-basedDiplomacyInnovationsin EducationSustainableEconomicsCollaborativeScience Diplomacy
1Quantum Revolution& Advanced AI2HumanAugmentation3Eco-Regeneration& Geo-Engineering4Science& Diplomacy1.11.21.31.42.12.22.32.43.13.23.33.43.54.14.24.34.44.5HIGHEST ANTICIPATIONPOTENTIALAdvancedArtificial IntelligenceQuantumTechnologiesBrain-inspiredComputingBiologicalComputingCognitiveEnhancementHuman Applications of Genetic EngineeringRadical HealthExtensionConsciousnessAugmentation DecarbonisationWorldSimulationFuture FoodSystemsSpaceResourcesOceanStewardshipComplex Systems forSocial EnhancementScience-basedDiplomacyInnovationsin EducationSustainableEconomicsCollaborativeScience Diplomacy

Sub-Field:

2.4.4Sense-expanding Technologies

In principle, neuroengineering and virtual reality can combine to give an experience of consciousness that is no longer bound by the five standard human senses. Expanding consciousness is about more than increasing cognitive capacity. The goal is to create better models of the world with more complete information, and to experience the world in a way that is not limited by the normal complement of human sensory input.

It is already possible to restore sensory input when it has been damaged by trauma or is congenitally missing: cochlear implants, retinal implants, and gene therapy have all been used to restore the full input portfolio of conscious experience. We can use the same principles to add extra senses to the human sensory portfolio, possibly from animals. We have already given some animals extra senses — bestowing a snake’s ability to see in the infrared on a rat using optogenetics, for example.17 Some researchers have used wearables or implants to give themselves magnetic senses18 or the ability to feel sound.19

However, expansion of consciousness doesn’t have to stop at senses. It is possible to deliver artificial sensory input with psychotropic drugs like psilocybin, virtual reality, and robotic embodiment. VR could make it possible to expand our definition of consciousness by changing our environment or body. Full immersion may even change our linear experience of time by allowing us to pre-live possible future experiences, or re-live past memories.

Future Horizons:

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5-yearhorizon

Humans begin to adopt augmentations

Targeted gene therapy allows augmentation of sensory scope — “seeing” in the infrared part of the spectrum, for example. Mouse models elucidate the neural model of drug efficacy, pointing to the design of more precisely-targeted therapeutic interventions. Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) offer visual overlays representing other people’s heart rate and blood pressure, letting us “see” their inner emotional state.

10-yearhorizon

Engineered body enhancements become commercially available

Some people choose to augment their natural senses with new engineered senses, or to adopt robotic limbs. VR allows us to visit the future and the past by making immersive, realistic “dress rehearsals” for future events, and by putting us into our own memories.

25-yearhorizon

The era of meta-humans arrives

For a sector of society, permanent connections with machines create blurred boundaries between different realities and between natural and artificial body parts — some of which display non-human characteristics. It becomes possible to better incorporate within our experiences the perspectives of other people and other species.

Sense-expanding Technologies - Anticipation Scores

How the experts see this field in terms of the expected time to maturity, transformational effect across science and industries, current state of awareness among stakeholders and its possible impact on people, society and the planet. See methodology for more information.

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