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Raquel Cascales Tornel, Doctoral student at School of Philosophy and collaborator of project 'Religion and Civil Society' del Institute for Culture and Society

iWatch: the technological Trojan horse

Mon, 23 Mar 2015 14:14:00 +0000 Published in Aceprensa

A few weeks ago, the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona 2015 took place. The great development of wearables - wearable technology - could be seen there, but perhaps they would not have attracted so much interest if Apple had not planned the launch of its smartwatch, the iWatch, a few days later.

Although some 33 million wearable devices of various types were sold last year subject, according to Business Insider, they have yet to reach the general public. Their excessive size and price, as well as lack of functionality, have slowed sales. However, Apple is poised to address those bumps. With a sleek design and seamless communicability between all of the brand's devices, the Apple Watch (also known as the iWatch) promises to be an irreplaceable companion.

Monitoring our vital signs

This subject of inventions are also presented as a financial aid to improve the health of the consumer. Smartwatches are not only useful for making calls, checking email or answering whatsapps. whatsappsThey can also measure heart and lung rate (this was already done by smart bracelets) and send these data directly to our doctor wherever we are. The possibility of foreseeing illnesses or accidents will be a great financial aid for many patients.

In fact, some technology has been incorporated into our bodies today at agenda: pacemakers, insulin pumps and implants of all kinds subject allow many people to lead a completely normal life. Especially significant is the contribution of technology to the fields of technopharmacy and neuroscience. The study of the brain is making great strides and a map of the complex neural system is expected within a few years(Human Connectome Project). At Google X, Google's technological laboratory , research is being carried out on nanoparticles that, when introduced into the bloodstream, are capable of detecting mutations associated with different diseases and cancers.

But beyond the question of whether it is good to be constantly aware of our vital signs or of the possible commercialization of these data, there is a deeper question. Some voices, such as that of writer Lev Grossman, have already called it the technological Trojan horse, because although it is apparently only a small, innocuous technological accessory, by incorporating it we are accepting the entrance to a whole world destined to merge with our skin.

Without becoming technophobic, we must be aware that neither Apple nor Google are Doctors without Borders, nor is the incorporation of massive technology neutral. Questions immediately arise as to who will have access to these data: doctors, pharmaceutical companies, our bosses? On the other hand, we must not forget that not all of society has access to these "advances", which in the future may continue to increase social inequalities.

Wearing apparatus

The incorporation of technology in our own lives is changing many of our daily habits: from interpersonal communication, reading and studying to work relationships or Internet shopping.

Now, with the development of wearables -wearable technology-, we are trying to go a step further, bringing technology progressively closer to our bodies. In this regard, a wide variety of "smart" systems have already been announced or are on the market through which a wide range of actions can be carried out: from glasses that allow us to consult information to rings to control domestic devices or pay with a simple gesture. The iWatch would be a further step in this direction.

The underlying idea that is fascinating so many people is that of improving the human being technologically. The next step, which transhumanism advocates, is that this technological improvement will lead to a new leap in the human species.

A posthuman being

Transhumanism is a scientific-theoretical movement that sustains the possibility and moral obligation to technologically improve the physical, intellectual and psychic capacities of the human species. In this sense, its goal is to reach a transhuman species, with greater physical, psychic and intellectual capacities and, subsequently, a posthuman, a being that will no longer be human but superior to him, in the same way that we left behind the Neanderthals.

Of course, this leap in the species will be made through the application of new technologies and eugenics, with the aim of eliminating all undesirable aspects of the human condition such as disease, suffering, aging, and even death (1). For transhumanism enthusiasts, technology can improve our "defects" and delay our expiration date.

The research about life extension is getting more money than ever. Google Ventures, which was founded in 2009 as a venture capital arm of Google, will invest $425 million this year alone in small companies researching topic.

Along with this business, there is the Singularity University, jointly financed by Google and NASA (cfr. Aceprensa, 30-06-2010). The Singularity refers to a qualitative leap in human beings that will allow them to do away with their limitations of time and space, as transhumanists claim. For them, the human species does not represent the end of evolution, but the beginning, as stated in the transhumanist declaration.

However, despite the fact that this current is presented as the great bet for the improvement of humanity, the vision of the human being it offers is purely material, so that its perfection is based on physical or intellectual enhancements and improvements. At the same time, the differences between androids (humanoid robots) and cyborgs (human beings with technological improvements -and many people would already fall into this category-) refer to what they can do, not to what they are from entrance.

The lack of ethical limits, the materialistic vision, as well as other problems of transhumanism have been highlighted by authors such as Murillo or Bellver, in the last issue of the journal Cuadernos de Bioética (2).

Although we do not hear the word transhumanist directly, the speeches of the thinkers of this current are more and more frequent every day. The myth of the elixir of eternal youth has always existed in one form or another, but it was always presented as a challenge to nature, not, of course, as an improvement on it.


(1) Bostrom, N., "A History of Transhumanist Thought", Journal of Evolution and Technology, vol. 14, Apr. 2005.

(2) Especially the articles by José Ignacio Murillo - "Does posthumanism need ethics? La Normatividad de una Naturaleza abierta"- and Vicente Bellver Capella - "Ethics and policies in the face of research into extending human life"-, Cuadernos de BioéticaXXV, Sep.-Dec. 2014.

The article in Aceprensa