Today, we are entering the beginning stages of a society that
many futurists believe will not end until man and machine become
completely integrated into a single being – an enhanced human.
The biotech revolution, from 2010 to 2020, promises to correct
many of our biological flaws including vulnerability to disease and
telltale signs of aging. Doctors will re-grow cells, tissues and
organs to replace aging body parts; and by as early as mid-2020s,
most humans can look forward to an extended healthy lifespan of 200
years or more.
Molecular nanotech marks the next step in our march towards this
futuristic society. From about 2025, we will enjoy home-replicators
that provide food, clothing, and essentials at little cost; and
tiny nanobots that roam through arteries and veins keeping us
forever fit and healthy.
The final stage of achieving this remarkable future lies in
supercomputers and artificial intelligence; powerful robot-like
machines that many predict will outthink humans by 2030. These
silicon marvels will possess reasoning and logic similar to our
own, but can share data and knowledge millions of times faster than
we can with our slow human language; a desirable feature that many
humans will want to incorporate into their bodies, experts say.
Yesterday, the journal Nature reported researchers at the
University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine had successfully tested
a robotic arm which was controlled using only the signals from a
monkey’s arm. (A good overview of the technology can be read in
this article: “Mind
over Matter: Monkey Feeds tself using its Brain”.)
The test was not the first such test but it does suggest that
the technology is getting better and will likely someday soon be
used to aide people with spinal cord injuries or other debilitating
diseases such as Lou Gehrig’s disease or MS.
I would, however, encourage people to think beyond these
immediate applcations. Michael Berger of Nanowerk recently had a
very thoughtful – and thought-provoking – piece entitled
Nanotechnology, transhumanism and the bionic man, in which he
discusses how technologies which were initially created for the
disabled could become a platform for “the acceptance of
transhumanist ideas and products.”
He is right and the aforementioned brain-neural technology is a
perfect case in point. In the beginning, it will be sold as a tool
for the disabled but as the technology continues to improve it will
eventually be viewed by some people (but not all) as a way to
perform at a higher level—both mentally and physically. I discussed
this idea briefly in this piece entitled “Pong and the President’s
Brain” a few months ago, but the issue is worth thinking about
in greater detail. (cont.)
Despite the Second Great Depression, the early 20-teens saw tremendous advances in communication, agriculture, fuel-efficiency, medicine and especially robotics. By 2016, the resurgent world world had become saturated with interactive projected interfaces, smart light-weight vehicles of all shapes and sizes, farm-bots and a variety of human Add-ons that both solved serious illnesses and enabled amazing new capabilities. It was not uncommon to encounter citizens with artificial fingers, eyes, hearts, livers and even memory sticks.
Most prevalent and readily visible were prosthetic lower legs that replaced the tibia, ankle and foot. At first these had replaced the damaged limbs of injured human athletes, soldiers, accident victims, and those whose bones had simply worn down, but as the non-cyborg population came to appreciate the tremendous running, jumping and long-distance transport abilities that these Add-ons enabled, a growing number of perfectly healthy citizens decided that they too could benefit by upgrading their limbs. The efficiency increase was simply too great to pass up. Instead of buying a car or leasing certain bots, a person could accomplish the same through elective surgery and incorporation of the iRobot / Stryker co-manufactured lower legs.
As such modifications became all the rage it appeared that humans were rapidly heading toward total body replacement. But then, at 4pm EDT, November 21, 2016 the Crazy Legs virus struck, forever altering the public perception of Add-ons and the prospect of a fully mechanized near-term future.
Perpetrated by anonymous white hat hacktivist “Marty McFly”, Crazy Legs took advantage of a vulnerability in the Ubuntu Body System short-range encryption signal. The blue-tooth signal connecting the artificial legs to the Brain-Ware was compromised and replaced with new instruction codes. The result was an illegal social choreography that reached a never-before seen scale.
Precisely at 4pm every human outfitted with the iRobot/Stryker ver. 2.2 lower limbs started dancing… uncontrollably.
If there's one thing that could creep you out this morning, it's that cyborg creatures (bugs, rats, birds and sharks) already exist. Researchers have been working heavily into cyborg creatures in order to reduce the cost of developing miniature robots. "The motivation is simple: why labour for years to build robots that imitate the ways animals move when you can just plug into living creatures and hijack systems already optimised by millions of years of evolution?" DARPA has heavily funded research into this kind of field, possibly hoping for a bug which can buzz around a room, spying on inhabitants.
Cyborg creatures feature heavily in science fiction movies, and not just for spying. Often cyborgs are touted as superior to robotic creatures since they combine real intelligence with robotic structure. It's weird to think of, but we may well be seeing rat-brain powered personal robots before robotic intelligence gets good enough to take over. Your dog can be taught to fetch the paper and all other sorts of tricks, why not more complicated tasks if given a better body? Fido, go do the laundry!
Check out the full article regarding cyborg developments at the NewScientist.