Our notion of personhood is expanding, as we harness the power of technology in all areas of our lives. The parameters of man and machine are starting to blur, and the results are riveting.
Technology is changing the way we live our lives, share our experiences, make our art and experience our surroundings. It’s also challenging our idea of what it means to be human as it optimizes our bodies, expands our minds’ capacity for memory and creativity, and affords total connectivity with each other.
In the next five years, more than 75% of the global population will own and use smart phones, with 5G Internet in development for commercial use by the same time. Spanning generations and socio-economic groups, unlimited access to information and unlimited connectivity will be the reality for digital adopters and digital narratives alike. We’re also witnessing staggeringly rapid developments in robotics, AI, wearable tech and app design, many of which enhance lives and allow us to learn more about ourselves, both as individuals and as a collective.
Much of this change is playing out in the field of the body. We’re now able to more precisely self-monitor our physiology, and have a more proactive approach to our own wellness plans. Health apps like Apple HealthKit, Nike+ Training Club and Strava, and wearables such as Apple Watch and Fitbit, yield data that can be sliced and diced into colorful, engaging infographics tracked from smart phone to computer, allowing us to put pictures to previously abstract ideas or microscopic functions, and set personal goals around them.
As technology transforms healthcare services, it also removes the anxiety around self-diagnosis. Being able to engage with a doctor digital-face-to-digital-face as opposed to looking up one’s own symptoms on a website—and more often than not, scaring oneself half to death about imagined ailments—is not only more convenient, it sets our minds at ease. The biotech industry is increasing our longevity, as we integrate fabricated mechanics and foreign organic materials into the very substance of ourselves, upgrading our biological hardware as we do our laptops and iPhones.
Tech is also expanding our senses, letting us see further and travel to infinite places, real or imagined, without ever leaving our living rooms. We can now explore myriad far-flung landscapes and even spacescapes, getting a hit of wonder any time we want. With the launch of the Oculus Rift headset at an affordable price for consumers and, on an even more accessible basis, Google Cardboard, fully immersive experiences are becoming a (virtual) reality for us all.
From the beginning, part of the appeal of photography has been that it allows us to experience people, places and events that we could never get to see in reality, and ultra-high resolution imagery, 3D technologies and virtual reality are meeting our expectations for an even deeper visual experience. Getty Images recently released 360˚ imagery for the Oculus platform, allowing people to experience places or events in a more interactive and fully surrounded way than ever before. Instead of looking ‘at’ the images, we are now ‘in’ the images—it’s the next best thing to being in the moment itself.
As tech becomes an extension of the self, what does it say about human ‘being’ anyway? In a world where babies are learning the swipe gesture before they learn to walk, and the boundary between skin and machine is becoming ever more blurred, our concept of personhood will continue to mutate. Are we going to need to build the cyborgs of the Terminator terrain, or will our own enhanced physical and mental capacities obliterate the need to do so? These are the questions we’re only just starting to contemplate with images—in the pictures we create and the new ways in which we’re creating them.
See which keywords have risen in Getty Images search data that have helped define the Extended Human trend:
Explore more fascinating images inspired by the Extended Human trend at Getty Images and iStock by Getty Images