Imagine becoming superhuman. Or, at the very least, becoming superhumanly good at your job. Imagine a drug that would give you total focus, total composure, genius-level clarity of thought, and the ability to stay up and in the zone for two days straight. Aural and optical implants, gene transfers, and even bionics keep you sharp and operating at peak ability well into your retirement years.
Imagine that those technologies used by the military to augment soldiers are turning you into a super-worker capable of moving ahead in your profession and up the career ladder with beyond-human, almost Übermenschen abilities.
Now, imagine that everyone in your office is on the same tip. Imagine that you’re being forced to stay in line, too, just to keep up—that you're becoming a medical experiment in human efficiency just to retain your job.
The latest research suggests that we're not too far off from this sort of labor ecosystem. A new report compiled by the Royal Society (the United Kingdom’s national science academy) summarizes the findings of British academics, doctors, professionals, and futurists, and it suggests, somewhat cautiously, that jacked-up worker ants could soon be marching en masse.
“Work will evolve over the next decade,” the report, titled Human enhancement and the future of work, states, “with enhancement technologies potentially making a significant contribution. Widespread use of enhancements might influence an individual’s ability to learn or perform tasks and perhaps even to enter a profession; influence motivation; enable people to work in more extreme conditions or into old age, reduce work-related illness; or facilitate earlier return to work after illness.”
Those “enhancements” include chemical cocktails, such as the sleep-annihilating drug Modafinil, and surgical improvements like directed-brain stimulation and bionic limbs. While many of these technologies are already available, their increasing proliferation in the workplace is expected to raise serious issues. Will those who can't afford them be hopelessly outpaced by those who can? Even more disturbingly, will workers soon be socially pressured or even overtly coerced into going superhuman?