Most people born between 2007 and 2040 have never experienced living in a non-digital world. Smartphones and social media networks are ubiquitous and all-pervasive, with nearly everyone on the planet now connected through technology. While global digitalization began in the mid-1990s, it was Apple's launch of the iPhone in 2007 that sparked a revolution in how people live and work. Ever since, society has been on a journey of digital discovery, developing and introducing innovations designed to drive economic growth and improve future well-being.

Though the blending of electronics with the human body began in earnest in the early 2020s, the introduction of neurotechnology and cybernetic products in the 2030's truly blurred the lines between technology and biology. The vast majority of these new technologies target the brain and include invasive solutions requiring surgery as well as non-invasive wearables.

Today, the population relies entirely on digital services, and neural devices have become to Generation C (for cybernetics) what smartphones were to people in the late 2000s. Their effect is far-reaching, touching on everything from education to entertainment.

Education system overhauls have been made to accommodate the altered nature of cognition in the digital era, with traditional schools and universities revamping curricula and courses to take advantage of neural devices that enhance memory and research capabilities. Cybernetics skills are taught in trade schools, allowing for greater interaction with machines and creating more jobs.

Media and entertainment are now embedded in people's minds, not just their devices, and visual and audio memories are recorded and stored live in both. New forms of entertainment, such as “real-streaming” experiences, are commonplace, with individuals sharing their daily adventures with other people's neural devices, allowing them to enjoy an event as if it were “real” to them, too. News cycles and advertising are omnipresent, with near-constant viewership. And ground-breaking research in brain mapping is helping the media industry tailor content that elicits a viewer's emotional response.

Why did this happen?

Brain-machine interfaces, neuro-prosthetics, and implants are just a few of the technologies being used to treat diseases like Alzheimer's and depression, monitor and analyze brain activity during sleep, and stimulate the brain to enhance the efficiency of physical training.

Where cybernetics was once seen as extensions of humans, they're now viewed as human-machine interfaces that work both ways, with AI-powered devices often training humans. Neurotechnology no longer merely augments nervous system activity but expands its capabilities.

Today, humans are something of a new "life" form, inescapably linked to monitoring and computational devices. They've achieved a sort of symbiosis with AI, using the brain's electrical signals to sync with those from computers.

In the meantime, the neurotechnology and cybernetics sectors remain focused on the next stage of human civilization --studying, understanding, and influencing human thought in radically new endeavors that promote human thriving.


Research in brain mapping and increased understanding of the brain is allowing governments, corporations, and media companies to increasingly influence personal and societal preferences and behaviors. Critics say the result is a hijacking of individual autonomy and the very real threat of “mind control,” and they've called for greater oversight and regulation to reduce the political influence of corporates over society.

What were once called mental health and cognitive disorders are now referred to as conditions. They include brain overstimulation from social media platforms, decreased attention spans, sleep pattern changes, reinforced cognitive biases, lack of empathy, and online anonymity-induced disrespect. Unfortunately, existing healthcare entities are still woefully unprepared to address these challenges, with not nearly enough trained psychologists and therapists available to meet the demand for mental health. In a positive development, neural devices that stimulate the brain and remedy many mental health issues like depression and anxiety are proving successful in curbing some of the adverse effects of the digital age.

The societal implications of neuro-technologies and cybernetics are vast. And while technologies based on these advances are already providing enormous social benefits, adopting new technologies also poses various risks, including autonomous weapons, inequity, and intentional abuse. Most experts agree that the rise of neurotechnology and cybernetics calls for a parallel focus on human rights, with regulations needed to protect against any abuses and inequities that could arise.

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Vikram Ramankutty

Vikram Ramankutty

KPMG in Dublin

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