This seems like a question best solved by science fiction, but the answer is here and now. Knowing what addictions await us in the future not only gives us the opportunity to prepare, but can also help us deal with the addictions we struggle with today.
Body Hacks & Implants
It’s not hard to see the addictive potential in any of them. People are already becoming addicted to Google Glass, spending 18 hours a day on the device and experiencing withdrawal symptoms when forced to go without it. That’s scary enough, thank you very much.
Memory storage and playback
If you haven’t watched » Black mirror» (BBC TV series), do it. Each episode is a compelling standalone 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 people to do whatever they see to improve their memory, and then return to those moments with a rewind function. I won’t spoil anything here, but the episode clearly shows how such a simple idea can have devastating consequences.
Which raises an interesting question: if you could have perfect memory using an implant, right? The internal reaction is often “Yes!”, but reliance on external memory can create many potential problems, including addiction.
Some of us already use smartphone calculator apps to help with basic mental tasks. Now that the Internet is so deeply embedded in everyday life, we don’t even need to memorize facts anymore. Why not us when sites like Wikipedia are never more than a search term?
Just as we now carry our smartphones everywhere we go, I don’t think it would be far-fetched to imagine a future where we carry our memory banks everywhere we go. But more than that, it will be easy to be tempted to literally relive our memories rather than live in the present.
Earlier this year, researchers at the University of California, San Diego managed to inactivate and activate certain memories in genetically engineered rats. This is a far cry from voluntary selective amnesia in humans, but it is certainly a step forward. And when that happens, society will never be the same again.
Selective amnesia can be helpful in traumatic experiences. It can also be used maliciously by making people forget sensitive information against their will. But what is most interesting, at least for this author, is the possibility of memory erasure as an occasional service, akin to massages, haircuts, and pedicures.