from drones to bio-hacking, are we ready for a tech takeover?
We investigate the tech trends of 2015, and whether this is the year everything we know to be sci-fi, will become sci-fact.
"2015? You mean we're in the future?" says Marty McFly in Back to the Future II. We're firmly living in the fast paced age of technology and while we might not be cruising through the clouds in flying cars or eating hydrated pizzas, technology is developing at the speed of light! It shocked our systems in 2014 as we welcomed the rise of wearable technology, got down and dirty with masturbating robots, watched FKA Twigs look fly in Google Glass and broke the internet with #cometlanding. 2015 kicked off with a glimpse into our future at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, and it turns out drones and robots are the next big thing, we're heading to infinity and beyond in driverless cars and practically everything on show can to connect to the Internet.
The latest tech trends are intended to benefit mankind in every shape and form, from health and fitness to sex and surveillance. Taking off at the CES, shiny new drones performed dance routines, delivered parcels, took the perfect selfie and tracked, filmed and followed their users. There was even one called Nixie that shape shifts from bracelet to flying camera when thrown in the air. If all goes well, Amazon Prime Air will have your package flown through the sky by their delivering drones, right to your front door in 30 minutes. Driverless cars were an even hotter hit. Fast, furious and futuristic, the self driving Mercedes-Benz F015 stole the show, Nissan is teaming up with NASA and BMW are getting closer and closer to an autonomous car. Wearable technology is still the future of fashion, with smart watches, belts and bracelets monitoring everything from heart rate to health and happiness.
Recently, Channel 4 sent comedian KG to the land of high-tech dreams, San Francisco, to film the 4oD Shorts series, Futurgasm. From $100 dollar cups that analyse your drink, to fit friendly watches that shock your body (literally) if you don't exercise, he was exposed to brand spanking new gadgets and gizmos. "The most exciting technology had to be Oculus Rift," says KG on the virtual reality headset. "As a part of an exhibition called Birdy I was flying around the skies of San Francisco. It felt like I was "Matrixed" into this virtual world that felt so real. When I got off the machine I felt nauseous but I missed my ability to fly." It's easy to get carried away in a virtual reality, dreaming of drones delivering takeaways or driverless cars chauffeuring us to and fro, but what problems arise from our love affair with high tech? "I love technology; I think we should just remember to use our brains. The best thing about the latest developments is how the impossible has become possible," says KG.
It's easy to let your mind wonder away with the possibilities of where technology can take us. Over in the states we are one step closer to combining man and machine. Bio-hacking is the term used to describe those who upgrade the body with D.I.Y body enhancements, such as magnetic implants or home gene sequencing. It's like a reinvention of mankind, a superhero makeover for the modern world. "The weirdest part of the trip had to be the bio-hackers. Before we met I was sure I was going to meet cyborg type people - I watch a lot of movies," KG explains. "When the guy starting moving metal with his finger and picking up keys I was sold. I met a person who had inserted a magnet but his finger was rejecting the foreign object. He said when it finally comes out there is going to be some blood, but he is going to insert a new one right away - hardcore."
Bio-hacking is dramatically changing our limitations as humans - Matrix-style magnetic control is only the beginning. Set in a not too far off future, an episode of Charlie Brooker's TV series Black Mirror explored the idea of extreme bio-hacking, with humans implanting micro-chips in their brain, allowing their eyes to work in the same way as Google Glass. It's the idea of merging together the familiar with the future in an exploration to see how far we can push the boundaries of technology. The concept of human manipulation opens up a whole new sci-fi world to explore, how far can we really take bio-hacking? "We already have bum-borgs, these are girls that are trying to get the Kim Kardashian booty via ways of cosmetic surgery, and it's only a matter of time before they can connect a USB port to one of their butt cheeks so you can charge your phone while you are on the go," says KG. "I think it will take another 10 years before we try something as crazy as that, but if a well known celebrity does it tomorrow we will have bio-hackers all over UK. Celeb culture is still the future, so if it's mixed with technology the cocktail is complete."
2015 is the year that technology may takeover. It's the year that could spell the end of privacy as we enter a constantly surveyed society, one where drones fly overhead recording every move you make, more Orwell's Big Brother than the Channel 5 variety. The more we're used to technology aiding our everyday lives the less we question the ways in which we're becoming powerless and how it may be used against us. Released later this month is Alex Garland's directorial debut Ex Machina. The sci-fi thriller depicts the story of a computer coder who ends up involved in an experiment with a brand new kind of artificial intelligence - a beautiful human-like robot named Ava. Is it possible that the idea behind Ex Machina is more sci-fact than sci-fi? Google have just spent £242 million to purchase DeepMind, a British A.I. company, who are trying to develop artificial conciseness as we speak. If A.I. develops conciseness, emotions and the ability to improve itself, perhaps it's humans that will go out of fashion. Who knows, maybe we are on our way to a post-human dystopian future where robots rule the world. It's like KG said - the impossible has become possible.
Text Billie Brand
Photography David Bailey
[The Back To The Future Issue, i-D No. 310, Winter 2010]