By Aditya Khanduri
What if I told you I am sure you saw at least one cyborg today? Or that there are very high chances that there may be one cyborg in the room you are sitting in right now! And what if I told you it might even be you!
The concept is not new. It is something which has always been a fascinating idea and has found some special appearances in works of fiction. But the depiction has been rather biased and pretty one dimensional. The cyborgs are shown as being immensely more powerful than humans with some special abilities and powers. They are shown as a separate different race than humans, created due to greed for more power, money and territory.
But a cyborg does not refer only to the ultra-powerful, full mechanical superhero machine most people imagine them to be. Any Organism with some mechanical non organic technology which enhance or modifies the human body’s natural mechanism can be called a cyborg. Hence, people who are fitted with a heart pacemaker, a synthetic limb or an insulin pump can be considered cyborgs. In fact Some scientists classify modifications like contact lenses and hearing aids as examples of fitting humans with technology to enhance their biological capabilities. So are you a cyborg?!
One of the biggest emerging technologies that will have a huge contribution to the future of cyborgs is 3D printing. 3D Printing or Additive Manufacturing is a process of making 3D solid objects of any shape from a digital model. It marks a new age of mass personalization that will boost innovation, bring about more efficient use of scarce resources, and transform the way things are produced. Some have gone so far as to characterize 3D printing as the ‘Third Industrial Revolution’.
Cybernetics is perhaps one of the most exciting areas of application. Beyond the use of 3-D printing in producing prosthetics and hearing aids, it is being deployed to treat challenging medical conditions, and to advance medical research, including in the area of regenerative medicine. 3-D printing technology is even being used to grow new human tissues using bio-printers. It takes human cells and shapes them into 3-D tissues for medical research, including drug development and therapeutic applications.
Given the rate of population explosion, Space Colonization seems like a good solution. However, it will require mega scale engineering of structures like space elevators. With self-replicating robotics, the production of such large structures could be done largely by autonomous drones, with intelligent agents only managing the highest top-level functions and architecture. These autonomous robots will rely on 3D printing for self-replication as well as mega-scale engineering. Self-replication robots might be considered the Holy Grail of robotics.
An international cultural and intellectual movement with a similar goal of fundamentally transforming the human condition by developing technologies to enhance human intellectual, physical, and psychological capacities is the Transhumanism, often abbreviated as H+. They predict that human beings will transform themselves into beings with expanded abilities and adaptabilities. This vision has attracted much support as well as opposition. Some deem it the “world’s most dangerous idea”, while some argue it is rather the “movement that epitomizes the most daring, courageous, imaginative, and idealistic aspirations of humanity”.
Critics foresee a major issue with biological engineering. They state that it will create a divide between the ‘haves and have-nots’. It’s inevitable that there will be those select few who see the potential of a master-race from this technology. Also, the master-plans for these cyborgs may fall into the wrong hands, which can cause mass-destruction as well. However, the biggest problem remains the lack of humanism, the essence of humanity, in these cyborgs.
Once a technology is out there, you cannot make it go away. The genie simply will not go back in the bottle. Thus, once invented, cyborg technologies cannot be wished away. A new “cyborg bioethics” may be necessary. Safeguards will have to be insisted on to prevent the possible negative impacts, since they probably cannot be achieved only through policy and regulation. But the possibilities of these technologies are immense. They open doors which the human mind can only dream of. Hence their influence on the future is inevitable.