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The Fusion of Technology and Humanity: Exploring the Next Wave of the Internet of Bodies

Introduction:

The dawn of the next iteration of the ‘Internet of Bodies’ promises a groundbreaking fusion of technology and the human form.

The forthcoming era of the “Internet of Bodies,” abbreviated as IOB, holds the promise of unprecedented integration between technological devices and the human body. Coined by academic and author Andrea M. Matwyshyn in 2016, IOB is defined as “a network of human bodies whose integrity and functionality rely at least in part on the internet and related technologies, such as artificial intelligence.”

Market analysis by Mordor Intelligence forecasts a substantial growth trajectory for the global connected medical device market, projecting a value of approximately $66 billion by 2024, surging to over $132 billion by 2029.

Matwyshyn categorizes IOB into three distinct tiers based on the extent of device integration. Firstly, there are external devices, exemplified by prevalent technologies like smartwatches or rings, which serve as mainstream tools for tracking activities such as steps taken or heart rate. Early IOB entrants like smart glasses, boasting functionalities ranging from cameras to headphones or monitors, also fall into this category.

Moving inward, the second tier encompasses internal devices. These include ingestible or implanted gadgets, such as pacemakers featuring digital implants, smart prosthetics intricately connected to patients’ nerves and muscles, or digital pills transmitting medical data post-ingestion.

Lastly, the third tier represents a seamless fusion between device and body, perpetually linked to an external machine and the internet in real-time.

One prominent player in this burgeoning field is Elon Musk’s Neuralink, spearheading the development of a brain-computer interface (BCI) christened “the Link.” This coin-sized chip, nestled beneath the skull, interprets an individual’s brain signals, enabling control over external machinery.

While proponents of IOB anticipate groundbreaking advancements, particularly within healthcare, concerns loom large regarding privacy and ethics. Matwyshyn, in her seminal paper, highlighted these apprehensions, remarking, “As bits and bodies meld and as human flesh becomes permanently entwined with hardware, software, and algorithms, IOB will test our norms and values as a society,” she wrote. “In particular, it will challenge notions of human autonomy and self-governance.”

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