Author Topic: Extreme bionics will create modular superhumans  (Read 335 times)

Extreme bionics will create modular superhumans
« on: January 07, 2017, 05:27:30 AM »
Could we soon 'upgrade' our bodies? Extreme bionics will create modular superhumans

http://www.wired.co.uk/article/bionic-limbs-make-us-superhuman



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Researchers at the Institute of Robotics and Intelligent Systems are trying to understand how humans manipulate objects in order to reproduce gripping movements with an anthropomorphous artificial hand



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MIT's Center for Extreme Bionics it trying to eliminate human disabilities and push us beyond the limits of our own bodies

From peg legs through hook hands and iron fists, for millennia prosthetics were a very poor substitute for our basic biology. No-one would have voluntarily chosen a prosthetic. But, over the past few decades, prosthetics have been improving in functionality. External appendages became internal implants such as artificial hips and knees.

In some areas, prosthetics are beginning to exceed our natural capabilities. For instance, Phonak hearing aids improve not only overall hearing, but can zoom focus on conversations, create white noise, double as a phone and serve multiple functions that our natural ears cannot. Now that six MIT rock stars - Hugh Herr, Ed Boyden, Canan Dagdeviren, Kevin Esvelt, Robert Langer and Joseph Jacobson - have launched the Center for Extreme Bionics, prosthetics may take some extreme leaps. And we may change our notion of who is "disabled" and what a human can do.

In the short term, the centre's aim is to eliminate human disabilities. Herr is exhibit A of this thesis. As he bounds around his lab, not everyone realises he is missing both legs.

Addressing disabilities requires integrating neuroscience, regenerative medicine and synthetic biology alongside traditional mechatronics. The new centre's long-term ambitions are breathtaking: one programme seeks to create "bi-directional central neural interfaces". These implants would modulate, bypass or substitute certain brain functions to eliminate depression, Alzheimer's, schizophrenia and a host of other conditions. The first step is developing feeling prosthetics: that is, artificial appendages that not only function, but feel, just as a natural limb does. They would also like to record and play back information into the brain.

A second programme seeks to build a digital nervous system (DNS), bypassing parts of our nerves entirely using light, electricity or liquid metals. One potential application might be a DNS that could blend synthetic wiring and computational elements that would increase human reaction times by ~50ms. (That implies that if a human were far enough away from a bullet, and if one could track the future trajectory of the bullet to estimate the precise point of impact, one could effectively move the human out of harms way and "dodge the bullet".) A third programme seeks to regenerate organs and body parts, permanently integrating prosthetics into the body, embedding them in bone and muscle, powering the new parts through body heat with direct brain rewiring.

And why stop there? Substitute organs could be redesigned to address specific diseases and needs. Eventually, organ functions could be enhanced to allow humans to live far longer or in very different environments. Boyden's long-term dream includes growing miniature brains in petri dishes with the hope that they could replace the parts that wear out.

It is not hard to visualise how not only the disabled but all might contemplate upgrades of various body parts. But in the process, this may just end up redesigning humanity to the point where many humans become almost unrecognisable. Of course, the most fundamental changes will likely be hard to see; as Herr and Boyden begin to redesign and augment brains, we might get extraordinary options and opportunities. Building a direct interface between brain and limb may also allow a direct interface between brains, allowing us to feel and perhaps better understand others.


All of this just might have a few moral-ethical-economic-political implications. Many will instinctively react fearfully as what we consider "normal" and "natural" changes. And, yes, there are risks. But we must also remember that, just as happened with Caesareans, IVF and cloning, following generations will likely see us as a little retrograde as they grow used to, and expect, ever-improving extreme bionics.

Juan Enríqyez is managing director of Excel Venture Management, Boston, and the co-author of Evolving Ourselves: How Unnatural Selection is Changing Life on Earth (Oneworld Publications).

The WIRED World in 2017 is WIRED's fifth annual trends briefing, predicting what's coming next in the worlds of technology, science and design
« Last Edit: January 07, 2017, 05:36:00 AM by drunkenshoe »

Offline Baruch

Re: Extreme bionics will create modular superhumans
« Reply #1 on: January 07, 2017, 09:50:03 AM »
Only billionaires can afford these gadgets.  So that they can become superhumans, all the better to crush the thoats and gonads of the peasants!  Think Doc Oc vs Spiderman!
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Offline Baruch

Re: Extreme bionics will create modular superhumans
« Reply #2 on: February 14, 2017, 03:10:03 PM »
Latest from Bionic West Coast:
“Elon Musk: Humans must merge with machines or become irrelevant in AI age”

Mr Musk should go first.  Silicon Valley ... resistance is futile!
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Re: Extreme bionics will create modular superhumans
« Reply #3 on: February 15, 2017, 03:00:58 PM »
Awesome!   When can I get an upgrade?
Winner of WitchSabrinas Best Advice Award 2012


We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real
tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light. -Plato

Offline Baruch

Re: Extreme bionics will create modular superhumans
« Reply #4 on: February 15, 2017, 06:36:06 PM »
Awesome!   When can I get an upgrade?

Here you are, flying around in your Ironman suit .. you get a OS upgrade push from MS, you find out your current version of hardware can't take the upgrade, MS sends a "sorry your hardware isn't covered anymore" message, and you fall out of the sky.  This happened with a popular drone just this past week.  New version of blue screen of death, except nobody was on board the small drone.
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