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Addictions evolve with technology. In an overstimulating, constantly distracting modern world, phenomenona like videogame and even Internet addiction Take A Break From the Internet - You’ll Thank Yourself Later [Opinion] Take A Break From the Internet - You’ll Thank Yourself Later [Opinion] Oh, the Internet. One of the most world-changing inventions of the past century, perhaps even in all of human history. Never before has everything been so available in so little effort for so low a... Read More  have become serious issues. How will the landscape shift in another ten, fifty, or hundred years?

It feels like a question best tackled by science fiction, but the answer is important in the here and now. Knowing which addictions await us in the future not only grants us the opportunity to prepare, but may also help us to deal with the addictions we struggle with today.

Body Hacks & Implants

Biohacking, also known as transhumanism, is a trend that essentially amounts to enhancing one’s body using technology Biohacking: The Creepy but Exciting Trend in Body Modification Biohacking: The Creepy but Exciting Trend in Body Modification "Sorry about the mess," says Steve Haworth, as we walk down the stairs to the surgical theater, where he merges consumer technology and the human body to produce uniquely functional body modifications. Read More . The concept has been around since the early 1920s but recent advancements in science have shoved it back into the spotlight. It may not be long before real life begins to imitate fiction (see Deus Ex and Fringe).

The potential benefits of implantable technology are exciting. Google Glass 5 Reasons Why Google's Project Glass Is The Future & Why That's Awesome [Opinion] 5 Reasons Why Google's Project Glass Is The Future & Why That's Awesome [Opinion] Google’s Project Glass has everyone talking. It’s a glimpse of the future of augmented reality, wearable computing, and better integration of the Internet and technology in our day-to-day lives. Imagine replacing your smartphone with a... Read More may or may not be a huge step up from smartphones, but what about bionic eyes Plugging In Your Brain and Body - The Future Of Implanted Computers Plugging In Your Brain and Body - The Future Of Implanted Computers With the current trend of technical innovation and advancement, now is a good time to explore the state of the art in computer-human technologies. Read More ? What about neuroimplants that could eradicate depression forever These Brain Implants Promise To Eradicate Depression From Humanity These Brain Implants Promise To Eradicate Depression From Humanity A fascinating form of depression treatment called deep brain stimulation is gaining ground and may change the way we view the treatment of mental disorders. Read More ? We may even see another milestone in healthcare thanks to nanotech in medicine How Nanotechnology is Changing the Future of Medicine How Nanotechnology is Changing the Future of Medicine The potential for nanotechnology is unprecedented. True universal assemblers will usher in a profound shift in the human condition. Of course, there's still a long way to go. Read More .

It’s not hard to see the addictive potential in any of these. People are already becoming addicted to Google Glass, spending 18 hours a day with the device and experiencing withdrawal symptoms when forced to go without it. That’s frightening enough, thank you very much.

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Memory Storage & Playback

If you haven’t watched Black Mirror (a BBC television series) yet, please do. Each episode is a thrilling self-contained story that explores the impact of technology on society and relationships. It’s exciting, compelling, and at times downright terrifying.

One episode revolves around a neural implant that allows humans to commit everything they see to perfect memory, then revisit those moments with a rewind feature. I won’t spoil anything here, but the episode vividly shows how such a simple idea can have devastating implications.

Which brings up an interesting question: If you could have perfect memory by using an implant, would you? The gut reaction is often “Yes!”, but a reliance on external memory could introduce a lot of potential issues, including addiction.

Some of us already rely on smartphone calculator apps to handle basic mental math. Now that the Internet is so deeply embedded in daily life, we don’t even need to memorize facts anymore. Why would we, when sites like Wikipedia are never more than a search query away?

Just as we now carry our smartphones everywhere we go, I don’t think it’s farfetched to imagine a future where we carry our memory banks everywhere we go. But more so than that, it will be easy to succumb to the temptation of literally reliving our memories rather than living in the present.

Memory Wipers

Earlier this year, researchers from the University of California, San Diego managed to inactivate and reactivate specific memories in genetically-engineered rats. It’s a far cry from voluntary selective amnesia in humans, but it’s certainly a step on the path. And when it does arrive, society will never be the same again.

Selective amnesia could prove helpful for traumatic experiences. It could also be used in a malicious way, forcing people to forget sensitive information against their will. But most interesting, at least to this writer, is the possibility of memory wiping as a casual service akin to massages, haircuts, and pedicures.

Memory wiping could pave the way for humans to re-experience emotional moments as if they’d never experienced them. We’ve all read a book or watched a TV series that was so good that we wished we could start over with a blank memory, right? Well, if you could walk down the street and have it wiped for $20, wouldn’t you?

Similarly, how much would people pay to erase the pain of a lost family member or a broken relationship from their brains? Awkward moments, embarrassing moments, moments that stir anger and hatred up within us — all gone for a small fee.

Whatever the cost, I could see it being incredibly addictive. But more frightening than individual addiction is the idea of an entire society that no longer remembers bad and only remembers good. The consequences of that sort of cultural blind spot are hard to ignore.

Artificial Intelligence

When machines become indistinguishable from humans, what happens to love and affection? Will we be able to find satisfaction and meaning in artificial intelligence? Is artificial intelligence even safe to explore? A definitive answer doesn’t exist yet, but there’s been plenty of speculation Here's Why Scientists Think You Should be Worried about Artificial Intelligence Here's Why Scientists Think You Should be Worried about Artificial Intelligence Do you think artificial intelligence is dangerous? Does AI may pose a serious risk to the human race. These are some reasons why you may want to be concerned. Read More — some of which might keep you up at night.

Movies like HER have tried to depict what it might look like if a human fell in love with a conscious-but-not-quite-human entity. Imagine a world where artificial partners can be downloaded and customized — or, on the physical side of things, a world where artificial friends can be bought from Amazon.

Replacing friendship and romance with software could spell the end of our humanity. That’s the kind of science fiction that makes smartphone addiction Are You Addicted To Your Smartphone? Are You Addicted To Your Smartphone? At one time, landlines and payphones were all we had--and we survived just fine, thank you very much. But now, it’s almost laughable if you don’t own an iPhone or Android, and for some of... Read More look tame by comparison.

Then again, maybe we won’t look to artificial beings for meaningful relationships. Maybe we’ll just use them for sexual gratification instead. Porn addiction Pornography Addiction: The Hidden Struggle & How to Break Free [Feature] Pornography Addiction: The Hidden Struggle & How to Break Free [Feature] Anon22 discovered Internet porn when he was just 12 years old. For around 10 years, Anon22 has enjoyed pornography using his computer once or twice a day, a compulsion that he claims ruined his social... Read More is real and pervasive, but how much worse will it get when “sex robots” are just as widely available?

Virtual Reality Experiences

Along with jetpacks and flying cars, virtual reality has always been one piece of technology that’s right around the corner. It still hasn’t arrived — at least not in the form that most people expect it to be — but we’re getting pretty close, especially with the debut of the Oculus Rift 5 Amazing Non-Gaming Ways People Are Using Oculus Rift 5 Amazing Non-Gaming Ways People Are Using Oculus Rift "It's just a gimmick." That's what people said about the Wiimote, the Kinect, and more recently Google Glass, and that's what they're saying about the Oculus Rift. If you're one of them, I implore you... Read More .

Virtual reality addiction would have many similarities to video game addiction Video Game Addiction In Teens - What Is Too Much and How to Curb the Problem Video Game Addiction In Teens - What Is Too Much and How to Curb the Problem Video game addiction is a serious issue. I know this because I am an ex-video game addict. Read More . One of the main attractions is the ability to explore worlds, environments, and scenarios that simply aren’t possible in real life.

It’s one thing to imagine Mordor while reading The Lord of the Rings. It’s another thing entirely to be transported into Mordor, to walk across the land, and to interact face-to-face with nasty orcs. If Mordor isn’t exactly your style, what about Atlantis? Mars? Heaven?

When virtual worlds become preferable to the real world, that’s when addiction will explode. After all, many gamers sink hours every day into their favorite games because it grants them an escape from the stresses of mundane life. How much more of an escape will virtual reality be?

In some ways, the term “virtual reality” should scare us more than it currently does.

Final Thoughts

With all of the excitement and possibilities that come with technological advancements, it’s important that we don’t ignore the potential drawbacks — and addiction is a big drawback. Internet, smartphone, and porn addictions have already shaped society in a measurable way. Who knows how future addictions will change us?

What do you think of the potential for future addictions? What other upcoming technologies could prove dangerous for those with addictive personalities? Share your predictions with us in the comments below!

Image Credits: Futuristic young man Via Shutterstock

  1. Leah
    December 24, 2014 at 6:36 pm

    Memory Wipers: my biggest fear would be them causing cancer. A great idea for MIB 4: all the characters who've had their memories wiped now have brain cancer.

    (Sorry for the double post)

    Virtual Reality might be cool but I don't want it in the form where we don't know whether we're in the VR or the real world. I think it needs to stay like playing a video game. You can get lost in that world like you do in a video game but it cannot replace real life.

    • Joel Lee
      December 24, 2014 at 6:55 pm

      A virtual reality that's indistinguishable from actual reality would be terrifying. We're probably decades, if not centuries, away from that being plausible... but still, it would be TOO tempting to live in virtual space 24/7. I'd rather not have the temptation in the first place!

  2. Leah
    December 24, 2014 at 6:32 pm

    As a musician perfect memory for some things like music would be awesome (I am reminded of marching band days when no matter how hard I tried there were always a few notes I couldn't remember). If we had this ability, though, I'd like to be able to turn it off whenever. Remembering EVERYTHING isn't important. I'm someone with a great memory and there are things I want to forget. The more I want to forget something the less I can.

    • Joel Lee
      December 24, 2014 at 6:53 pm

      I agree very much. Some things just aren't meant to be remembered. Perfect selective memory would be ideal, but I have no doubt that there would be a lot of problems associated with that. Maybe it'd be best if we just stay content with the way we are? Ha!

  3. dragonmouth
    December 23, 2014 at 11:52 pm

    How many years is it now that women have been having boob and butt implants?

    I am waiting for cell phone implants. That would get rid of many of the inconveniences associated with today's cell phones like having to constantly hold it next to your ear, pocket dialing, having to text using those tiny little keys, having to constantly recharge them, losing them.

    • Joel Lee
      December 24, 2014 at 6:50 pm

      That's a nifty idea that could be a transitional phase between now and the arrival of true neural implants. Freeing up pocket space would undoubtedly be great. :P

    • dragonmouth
      December 25, 2014 at 12:36 am

      "Freeing up pocket space would undoubtedly be great"
      You could wear cargo pants. :-)

  4. Victor
    December 23, 2014 at 10:04 pm

    Very well-written, very good reasoning. It's nice to see reservations about the future of technology, and not hailing every single new technology as an incredible revolution.

    • Joel Lee
      December 24, 2014 at 6:49 pm

      Thanks Victor. I've always held the stance that all good things can be used in bad ways and that's especially true for technology. Case in point: as awesome as the Internet is, it has really paved the way for some nasty activities. A little bit of caution can go a long way. :)

  5. Gerva Sharma
    December 23, 2014 at 3:26 pm

    I think you forgot about project ara which is really a cool future technology and it is supported by Google. Just think about it that you can change whatever you want in your phone see
    this http://projectaraforum.com/link-forums/all-about-project-ara-in-one-article.3/
    Isn't it amazing see the gorgeousness of it and you can also add 2 battery modules if you want more juice.

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