Bionic humans: not just science fiction

…at least, not any more. Over in San Francisco this week, the Experimental Biology symposium is getting into swing; among the many topics being discussed are the many ways that science can be used to augment, repair and replace elements of the human body.We can’t quite build Steve Austin yet, but we’re getting pretty close. Among the more amazing applications of bionics being discussed at this symposium are: prosthetic fingers, hands and limbs controlled by the wearer’s mind, just like the real thing; computer modelling of the human skeletal and muscular system to better understand locomotion and movement; the ‘BLEEX’, which is basically an early version of the power exo-skeleton that any science fiction buff has encountered more than once; ‘Santos’ the virtual sim-soldier, used for developing new equipment for comfort and effectiveness without the need for meatspace prototypes or grunts to try them out; and what is essentially the first bionic eye.

It’s fair to say that all these projects are quite a long way out of the pockets of the average man-about-town. But, as I never tire of observing and repeating to people, technology moves real fast these days; the curve is accelerating, developments take less and less time to occur as they feed each other with new techniques and tools for further development. Barring global disasters, this sort of thing will be all over the place in a few decades. And as William Gibson once said, ‘the street finds its own use for things’. I think it’s not totally ridiculous to speculate that the field of body modification as we know it currently (piercings, tattoos, implants etc) will look pretty damn tame in 2025.

And I, for one, look forward to seeing it happen. Believe in the teachings of Kurzweil, ladies and gents; we humans will transcend biology.

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