Is the human body a machine?

Digital democracy

Miriam Meckel

To person

Dr. phil., born 1967; Professor of Communication Management at the University of St. Gallen, Switzerland; Faculty Associate at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, USA; Visiting Professor at the Singapore Management University. [email protected],

In the face of increasingly powerful computers, the difference between human and machine intelligence becomes unobservable. So the computer doesn't have to become human. It is enough if he appears that way to us.


For six years, the IT company IBM has published a year-end forecast of the five major technology trends. In the latest forecast from December 2011, trend number 3 is: "Mind reading is no longer science fiction." [1] A short video explains how the company is researching the human brain with technical devices such as computers and smartphones to connect so that the human no longer has to press keys to enter a command into the computer or to contact another human. "Just remember to call someone and it'll happen."

If this prognosis is correct, then machines will in future be controlled by thoughts, and more and more interfaces between humans and computers will be eliminated. The possibility of implanting miniaturized machines directly into the human body is also conceivable. The American company Applied Digital Solutions has long since developed an implantable "Verichip" based on RFID technology (Radio Frequency Identification Technology) based on radio frequency technology. The chip can be built into cardiac pacemakers, for example, in order to monitor via remote diagnosis whether the person wearing the pacemaker has fainted. Such a chip can also easily be expanded with GPS technology, i.e. provided with the possibility of tracking the whereabouts and the range of movement of a person or an animal at any time. In future, we will not only be able to contact our glasses to ask "Where are you?" take - a vision covered by the term barcoding humans (Providing people with a barcode) has already aroused harsh criticism. [2]

For years, scientists have also been researching the expanded use of computer-brain interfaces through which, for example, paralyzed people can give commands to the computer. The connection between man and machine takes place via electrodes attached to the head or implanted in the brain, which decode specific signal patterns assigned to individual body movements and convert them into computer language. Computers or artificial limbs can be controlled just by thinking. [3] So far, this research has focused on medical applications, but the game industry has long been working on mind-controlled computer games. The possibility of having our thoughts read out by computers or, conversely, of controlling the machine through thoughts, is now the most far-reaching concept of comprehensive networking and connection of everyday human life with the Internet. The human being becomes fully analyzable and calculable, i.e. predictable. This can make life easier in many everyday routines. But: Who will have control over these calculations and controls in the future? Is it still the individuals to whom the thoughts that have been read out and used to control further processes can be assigned in their creation, or do other people or organizations also have access to them who use our data for their own purposes? The process of human and machine growing together changes essential parameters of human life and existence. It enables (1) the comprehensive personalization of information, (2) the unlimited publication of individual human existence and (3) the design of humans as a hybrid being of technology and mind, machine and body, which calls into question well-known distinctions that shape our lives.