Are we en route to a human API?
Are you using your smartphone every waking hour?
Yeah, me too.
But no, this isn’t going to be one of those texts where someone complains about how we’re becoming slaves to IT. Instead, I suggest exploring a future merger between biology and technology.
Are we en route to becoming part human, part robot?
Or are we already there?
Here we go:
- All Technologies are Human Extensions
- From Biological Darkness to Augmented Ascension
- Transhumanism: A Posthuman Approach
- A Global Village of Shared Experiences
- “We Are the Robots”
- We Are the Human API
- The Cybernetic Renaissance
- PR Resource: The Digital Transformation
- PR Resource: How AI Will Impact PR
All Technologies are Human Extensions
Marshall McLuhan: “The Medium is the Message”
“The medium is the message” is a phrase coined by the Canadian philosopher Marshall McLuhan in the first chapter of his notable book “Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man.”
Despite being one of the most influential thinkers in media theory, McLuhan’s ideas are often widely misunderstood. “The medium is the message” is no exception.
“The medium is the message” doesn’t imply that content or substance lacks importance, only that the medium in which messages are sent will significantly impact humanity.
McLuhan views mediums as extensions of human physiology. Our ability to build houses extends our human skin, as it protects against the elements. This added layer of protection and physical safety frees up mental bandwidth for human interaction.
So, a house is a medium in McLuhan’s interpretation. All human technologies, down to the campfire, are considered mediums.
“McLuhan’s insight was that a medium affects the society in which it plays a role not by the content delivered over the medium, but by the characteristics of the medium itself. […] McLuhan pointed to the light bulb as a clear demonstration of this concept. A light bulb does not have content in the way that a newspaper has articles or a television has programs, yet it is a medium that has a social effect; that is, a light bulb enables people to create spaces during nighttime that would otherwise be enveloped by darkness.”
Source: Wikipedia 1Marshall McLuhan. (2023, May 15). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marshall_McLuhan
According to McLuhan, our ability to create extensions of humanity exponentially impacts our communication more than any message conveyed as a result:
And so on.
Why is McLuhan’s analysis necessary? “The medium is the message” is a stark reminder that a medium’s format (and its limitations) will massively impact human society — and the messages themselves, too.
We often default to seeking meaning in messages but forget to consider the medium’s inherent media logic.
Learn more: Media Logic is Dead, Long Live Media Logic
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From Biological Darkness to Augmented Ascension
A medium is that in which a physical transfer of information takes place. If our smartphones are extensions of our voices, ears, social graphs, memories, and the fabric of our logical thinking, then aren’t we, according to McLuhan’s light bulb analogy, in the process of stepping out of cybernetic darkness?
We have a long history of appropriating technology to free up mental bandwidth.
Adding supportive systems to see in the dark, staying warm and sheltered, and sorting and structuring thoughts and ideas allow us to communicate and develop increasingly complex and abstract concepts. Information technology allows us to create layers upon layers of human civilisation.
But recent technological advancements, starting perhaps with the smartphone, must be regarded as unprecedented even by historical standards.
I’m talking about transhumanism.
Transhumanism: A Posthuman Approach
What is transhumanism? A couple of years ago, in 2009, I advised the Pirate Party, which earned two seats in the European Parliament. Within this by-nature technocratic movement, transhumanism was often discussed and debated.
“Transhumanism advocates for the advancement of science and technology to overcome human limitations and promotes the development of new biotechnologies to enhance human potential.”
Source: Dictionary of Global Bioethics 2Have, H., & Neves, M. (2021). Transhumanism (See Enhancement; Transplantation; Genetic Engineering). Dictionary of Global Bioethics. https://doi.org/10.1007/978 – 3‑030 – 54161-3_499
“Transhumanism, abbreviated as H+ or h+, is an international intellectual and cultural movement that affirms the possibility and desirability of fundamentally transforming the human condition by developing and making widely available technologies to eliminate ageing and to greatly enhance human intellectual, physical, and psychological capacities. […] Transhumanist thinkers study the potential benefits and dangers of emerging technologies that could overcome fundamental human limitations, as well as study the ethical matters involved in developing and using such technologies. They predict that human beings may eventually be able to transform themselves into beings with such greatly expanded abilities as to merit the label ‘posthuman’.”
Source: Wikipedia 3Transhumanism. (2023, October 29). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transhumanism
A transhuman world is almost incomprehensible. It seems to sit above fundamental conceptions of “good” or “bad” — it seems inevitable.
A Global Village of Shared Experiences
I would argue that development is intrinsically inevitable — and that technology allowing more information to flow is necessary. And no shortage of trends suggests we might be on the cusp of a transhumanistic future.
What does it mean to extend the human experience with technology — or is it the other way around? Are we advancing technology with human experiences?
“We Are the Robots”
Popular culture has been playing around with merging humanity with machines for centuries. Science fiction does tend to become a reality; we might already be well underway to becoming cyborgs:
“A cyborg is a cybernetic organism (i.e. an organism that is a self-regulating integration of artificial and natural systems). The term was coined in 1960 when Manfred Clynes and Nathan Kline used it in an article about the advantages of self-regulating human-machine systems in outer space.”
Source: Bionity.com 4Cyborg. (2023). Bionity.com. https://www.bionity.com/en/encyclopedia/Cyborg.html
So, how close are we? I use Evernote as an external memory bank, an artificial extension of my brain made up of software and hardware working in sync with the living organism that is me. Does this make me a … cyborg?
We Are the Human API
Would it be possible to create a biological/electrical interface?
“An application programming interface (API) is a protocol intended to be used as an interface by software components to communicate with each other. An API may include specifications for routines, data structures, object classes, and variables.”
Source: Wikipedia 5API. (2023, November 23). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/API
Will we ever be truly able to integrate directly with information technology?
Even public relations thought leader Brian Solis discusses “the human API,” making the concept his primary focus for his keynote presentation at the world’s most prestigious new media event, Le Web in Paris.
“What if the medium wasn’t just the device, the medium was us? At the center of the IoT and Big Data are the very people who fuel the constant exchange of information. At the same time, it creates a human network, where we become nodes and the information that ties together people and devices feed new experiences and changes our behaviour over time.”
— Brian Solis
The Cybernetic Renaissance
“Transhumanism, a modern form of Enlightenment techno-utopianism, has evolved into diverse subsects, with potential for violent confrontation as technological innovation and human enhancement threaten the future of humanity.”
Source: Zygon 6Hughes, J. (2012). THE POLITICS OF TRANSHUMANISM AND THE TECHNO-MILLENNIAL IMAGINATION, 1626 – 2030. Zygon, 47, 757 – 776. https://doi.org/10.1111/J.1467 – 9744.2012.01289.X
I would argue that we’re in the midst of a cybernetic renaissance. As the media curse of the Bell curve and the historically recurring techlash dictates, we tend to focus on the adverse side effects, such as technology-induced stress, attention deficits, brain tumours, and big data-related integrity issues.
Loud voices are demanding everything from legislative countermeasures to prohibiting the use of information technology in schools. We’re collectively afraid of what our transhuman future will bring. We shudder at the thought of having humans and machines merge into one.
The effects of developing human APIs are potentially massive. Like so many historical transitions before, we could be standing with both feet in the middle of a reformation that far overshadows the digital information revolution. Still, sharing experiences and becoming more interconnected with everything else might just as well be seen as a natural stepping stone in human evolution. Some will choose to fear a medieval cyborg dystopia, but I firmly believe that humanity is entering a cybernetic renaissance.
Keep your smartphone, not as its slave, but as a part of what you can be.
PR Resource: The Digital Transformation
The Digital Transformation of PR
The biggest challenge in modern public relations is the constantly changing media landscape. With the proliferation of social media, the rise of fake news, and the decline of traditional journalism, it can be difficult for organisations to control the spread of information and protect their reputations.
When Brian Solis and Deirdre Breakenridge published Putting the Public Back in Public Relations: How Social Media Is Reinventing the Aging Business of PR in 2009, it proposed how PR should embrace the digital-first media landscape and elevate our profession to new heights. 7Solis, B. & D. Breakenridge (2009, February 1). Putting the Public Back in Public Relations: How Social Media Is Reinventing the Aging Business of PR. Amazon.com: Books. … Continue reading
Public relations professionals must be strategic and proactive in their approach and must be able to adapt to new technologies and platforms to communicate with their publics effectively.
“The authors argue that earlier paradigms are mostly inadequate in addressing the needs of a 21st Century in which communication technology is creating rapid globalization while it is dangerously exacerbating the tensions of multiculturalism. Through a critical discussion of prior assumptions and paradigms in public relations scholarship, the authors underline the need for public relations to revitalize and bring its body of knowledge into the 21st Century. The authors posit and discuss how the community-building theory originally espoused by Kruckeberg and Starck (1988) and modified in subsequent scholarship can provide a viable departure point toward developing new approaches to research about and practice of public relations that can take into account the dynamic environment wrought by changes in communication technology.”
Source: Public Relations Review 8Valentini, C., Kruckeberg, D., & Starck, K. (2012). Public relations and community: A persistent covenant. Public Relations Review, 38(5), 873 – 879. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pubrev.2012.06.001
The biggest challenge in PR is ensuring that our profession keeps up with new communication technology and stays valuable and relevant as a business function.
Learn more: PR Must Adapt (Or Die)
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PR Resource: How AI Will Impact PR
The AI Revolution: Transforming Public Relations
There are several ways in which artificial intelligence (AI) is likely to impact the public relations (PR) industry. Some potential examples include:
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|Marshall McLuhan. (2023, May 15). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marshall_McLuhan|
|Have, H., & Neves, M. (2021). Transhumanism (See Enhancement; Transplantation; Genetic Engineering). Dictionary of Global Bioethics. https://doi.org/10.1007/978 – 3‑030 – 54161-3_499|
|Transhumanism. (2023, October 29). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transhumanism|
|Cyborg. (2023). Bionity.com. https://www.bionity.com/en/encyclopedia/Cyborg.html|
|API. (2023, November 23). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/API|
|Hughes, J. (2012). THE POLITICS OF TRANSHUMANISM AND THE TECHNO-MILLENNIAL IMAGINATION, 1626 – 2030. Zygon, 47, 757 – 776. https://doi.org/10.1111/J.1467 – 9744.2012.01289.X|
|Solis, B. & D. Breakenridge (2009, February 1). Putting the Public Back in Public Relations: How Social Media Is Reinventing the Aging Business of PR. Amazon.com: Books. https://www.amazon.com/dp/0137150695?tag=pr200f-20&camp=14573&creative=327641&linkCode=as1&creativeASIN=0137150695&adid=02J76YW6R9GXVRCCJJM0&|
|Valentini, C., Kruckeberg, D., & Starck, K. (2012). Public relations and community: A persistent covenant. Public Relations Review, 38(5), 873 – 879. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pubrev.2012.06.001|
|Silfwer, J. (2023, March 20). AI & PR: Beware the Artificial Content Explosion. Doctor Spin | The PR Blog. https://doctorspin.net/artificial-content-explosion/|