Would You Implant Your iPhone in Your Brain? A Slick New Web TV Series Explores Transhumanism.

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
Aug. 14 2012 3:57 PM

Would You Implant Your iPhone in Your Brain? A Slick New Web TV Series Explores Transhumanism.


Still courtesy Warner Bros.

Warning: This post contains minor spoilers.

Torie Bosch Torie Bosch

Torie Bosch is the editor of Future Tense, a project of Slate, the New America Foundation, and Arizona State that looks at the implications of new technologies. 

In the slick new Web video series H+, from X-Men producer Bryan Singer, the iPhone has been rendered obsolete by the H+, a small implant that allows for a smartphone-like experience inside your head. Ads for the H+ promise those who are not yet implanted, “You’re always online. You’re always connected.” But that isn’t just a marketing slogan—it’s also a threat. In accordance with the grand tradition of science fiction warning us that technology may doom humankind (or at least remove a bit of our humanity), a virus released in the implant kills off one-third of the world’s poulation.


Distributed by Warner Bros., H+ premiered last week with two short episodes, each about five or six minutes long (including titles), and another four are available if you subscribe to the YouTube channel.

Given the impending debut of Google Glass, this portrayal of physical computing doesn’t seem tremendously far-fetched. Indeed, in an interview with Fast Company’s Co.Create, director Stewart Hendler said, “We were racing to get our fictional technology out before actual technology, which was pretty funny.”

In some ways, it is reminiscent of another recent video, “Sight,” in which augmented-reality contact lenses serve as an intermediary in human relationships. And Daniel H. Wilson’s novel Amped, about a world in which “amplified” humans are widely discriminated against, was published in June. Brain-computer interfaces: almost as popular this summer as “Call Me Maybe”!

For transhumanists, who anticipate a future in which technology can “elevat[e] the human condition,” there are some problems with H+, starting with the decision to make the implant the only evident piece of breakthrough technology. On the website Acceler8or, Peter Rothman, a transhumanist, points out, “In the H+ series future, we’ve got magical nanotech implants but the cars don’t have autopilot.” There’s little if any evidence of artificial intelligence—which Rothman calls “a central theme of modern transhumanism.”

If you’re a transhumanist, these tales of “an apocalyptic future where technology has begun to spiral out of control” (as the H+ opening teases) must be getting mighty old. But in his Co.Create interview, Hendler admits that he would probably run out to buy the H+ implant if it were for sale—he doesn’t necessarily mean for the show H+ to be a tale of warning. It's just more fun to explore technology when the stakes are high.

Maybe the more interesting question here is not the technological issues explored therein, but whether H+'s high production values can help take Web-based TV to the next level.

Watch the first episode below, and find more on YouTube.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.


Frame Game

Hard Knocks

I was hit by a teacher in an East Texas public school. It taught me nothing.

Chief Justice John Roberts Says $1,000 Can’t Buy Influence in Congress. Looks Like He’s Wrong.

After This Merger, One Company Could Control One-Third of the Planet's Beer Sales

Hidden Messages in Corporate Logos

If You’re Outraged by the NFL, Follow This Satirical Blowhard on Twitter

Sports Nut

Giving Up on Goodell

How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.

How Can We Investigate Potential Dangers of Fracking Without Being Alarmist?

My Year as an Abortion Doula       

  News & Politics
Sept. 15 2014 8:56 PM The Benghazi Whistleblower Who Might Have Revealed a Massive Scandal on his Poetry Blog
Sept. 15 2014 7:27 PM Could IUDs Be the Next Great Weapon in the Battle Against Poverty?
Sept. 15 2014 4:38 PM What Is Straight Ice Cream?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 15 2014 3:31 PM My Year As an Abortion Doula
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Sept. 15 2014 11:38 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 4  A spoiler-filled discussion of "Listen."
Brow Beat
Sept. 15 2014 8:58 PM Lorde Does an Excellent Cover of Kanye West’s “Flashing Lights”
Future Tense
Sept. 15 2014 4:49 PM Cheetah Robot Is Now Wireless and Gallivanting on MIT’s Campus
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 15 2014 11:00 AM The Comet and the Cosmic Beehive
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.