The paper makes many useful points and has useful information and has links to more. See the paper itself for these (Link).
The author asks a penultimate question: Clearly, we are already in the age of cyborgs. So where are things headed? What sorts of technologies will we continue to see develop? Here are five.
- Neural Implants
- Connecting your mind with a computer has been science fiction for decades, but it is closer to becoming reality than ever before. Today’s neural implants are cochlear implants to restore hearing and retinal implants to repair failing vision. These are basic neural implants, but they are already being advanced.
- Computer Controlled Smart Limbs
- Touch Bionics, a prosthetic tech company, has created a hand that can be controlled using a smartphone app. Though most of us would never consider adding a limb, many believe that the future is about improving our own limbs with smart, computer-controlled prosthetics.
- Current prosthetics are an enormous help to those who have lost limbs, and these prosthetics are getting smarter every day. “Touch Bionics’ i-limb prosthetic hand also features a rotating thumb, five individually powered fingers, a rotatable wrist and aluminum chassis.” Touch Bionics claims this is the most advanced prosthetic hand ever made, and that it comes with 24 different grips.
- This hand can also be controlled using an app, but it was originally designed to interpret muscle signals.
- Nanotech, a medical miracle, delivers tiny ‘smart’ particles wherever needed in the body. One experimental lung cancer treatment has the patient inhale nano-particles by aerosol; the particles settle in diseased areas of the lungs. An external magnet, superheats the particles, which kills diseased cells.
- One Texas team has created super-strong, artificial muscles made from nanotech fibers and filled with paraffin wax. The muscles can “lift more than 100,000 times their own weight and generate 85 times more power than the same size human muscle.”
- Uploading1 The Brain
- Ray Kurzweil, the well-known futurist, believes that by 2040 to 2045, any human will be able to upload2 his or her consciousness into a computer. Though it seems like a sci-fi movie story, one Russian billionaire has revealed that he plans to upload3 his own brain, thus becoming immortal, no later than 2045. Dmitry Itskov, 32, believes that technology will let him live indefinitely in a hologram body.
- According to Itskov, “The new human being will receive a huge range of abilities and will be capable of withstanding extreme external conditions easily: high temperatures, pressure, radiation, lack of oxygen, etc. Using a neural-interface, humans will be able to operate several bodies of various forms and sizes remotely.”
- Invisibility Technology
- Technology experts say a real-life Harry Potter invisibility cloak is coming soon. It is true: Researchers already have working invisibility cloaks, though they are far from optimal operation. Most recently, engineers encircled an object with small antennas that collectively radiated an EM field, cancelling out visible light waves.
I don’t know enough about the areas of technology to be able to comment on whether the claims are exaggerated or whether they will scale up to yet more stunning advances. My interests are mostly philosophical. However:-
- Neural Implants:
- I’ve no doubt that motor and sensory implants will improve without measure. The areas of the brain that control these areas are localised and the outputs mostly non-cognitive.
- Where I have my doubts are on claims of “memory chips” and the like. The higher cognitive functions aren’t as localised in the cortex, so “plugging into” them isn’t a simple wiring problem.
- Computer Controlled Smart Limbs:
- As above, with fewer reservations. This is an entirely tractable engineering problem.
- I’m not sure what this has to do with cyborgs. It’s another advanced technology with an impact on our health, so – if it gets going – is associated with transhumanism4 and endless life. But it’s very far from being a technology where it’ll just be more of the same, only better.
- The example of the cure of lung disease doesn’t seem to have anything to do with nanobots (Wikipedia: Nanorobotics), though there seems to be some progress in this area (as reported in the FT in March 2018: Link).
- Such things – if ever developed – pose very grave existential risks to humanity if used for malign purposes.
- Uploading5 The Brain:
- As I’ve remarked elsewhere, I think the whole idea of “uploading6” is incoherent.
- Invisibility Technology:
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- Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2019
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