Thursday, May 11, 2006

The Cyborg Future

Popular Science takes a look at "human upgrades" that will be coming down the road in terms of new technologies to improve our biology. In case you missed it, the cyborgs are already among us.

By the year 2000, 25 million Americans had medical implants, such as pacemakers and artificial hips, made of the same sorts of metal alloys and ceramics engineers use in other sophisticated machinery.
And it is only going to get worse (or better depending on your perspective). They take a look at a bunch of promising technologies. Worth reading the whole thing. How about Super Bones?
NanOss, created by a company in Woburn, Mass., called Angstrom Medica, is made of the same material as our skeletons, hydroxyapatite. NanOss is bone, but it's better, having been restructured at the molecular level into a sort of superbone. One of the first devices incorporating nanotechnology to receive FDA approval, NanOss encourages real bone to fuse with it--resulting in a hybrid that is as tough as steel.
The future of scuba diving could be pretty cool if these artificial red blood cells pan out.
Freitas says respirocytes would transport oxygen 236 times more efficiently than red blood cells--and a syringeful could carry as much oxygen as your entire bloodstream.
Then he goes and lays out some ideas that will be familiar to those who read my Pimp My Cochlear Implant post.
Today, the pulses transmitted to the auditory nerve by cochlear implants represent sounds from near the patient, but why couldn't the signals come from miles away? In fact, why do they need to reflect real sounds at all, as opposed to, say, an e-mail run through some text-to-speech software? And, finally, does this imaginary e-mail need to be typed with a keyboard-or would a BCI implant do the trick? This is just speculation, but someday wireless implants may transmit the equivalent of an e-mail from one mind to another: "Hey, honey, I was just thinking of you." It sounds like an unlikely idea--but heck, so did the telegraph.
Cool stuff. Telepathy, super bones, super breath, we are all going to be superheroes. Can't wait for my upgrade.

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