Enlightened exploitation of discoveries in the NBIC sciences will humanize technology rather than dehumanize society. Robots, intelligent agents, and information systems need to be sensitive to human needs, which is another way of saying that they must to some extent embody human personality. Over the next two decades, as nanotechnology facilitates rapid improvement of microelectronics, personal digital assistants (PDAs) are likely to evolve into smart portals to a whole world of information sources, acting as context aware personal brokers interacting with other systems maintained by corporations, governments, educational institutions, and individuals. Today's email and conference call systems could evolve into multi-media telepresence communication environments. Global Positioning System (GPS) units could become comprehensive guides to the individual's surroundings, telling the person his or her location and also locating everything of interest in the immediate locale.
To accomplish these practical human goals, we must invest in fundamental research on how to translate human needs, feelings, beliefs, attitudes, and values into forms that can guide the myriad devices and embedded systems that will be our artificial servants of the future. We must understand how interacting with and through machines will affect our own sense of personhood as we create ever more personable machines. As they become subtle reflections of ourselves, these technologies will translate information between people who are separated by perspective, interests, and even language. Without the guidance provided by the combined NBIC sciences, technology will fail to achieve its potential for human benefit. Multidisciplinary research to humanize computing and communications technology will expand the social competence of individuals and increase the practical effectiveness of groups, social networks, and organizations.
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