5 ways humans and technology are getting closer
It’s Halloween weekend and today we’re celebrating Frankenstein Friday – which marks the birth of the fictional monster and its creator.
Mary Shelley’s original story was about fear of the unknown. Dr Frankenstein was merely inventing the defibrillator. The fear came from the ignorant peasants outside, and the fear of science and progress.
The results of technology being plugged into humans in movies make for great entertainment at this time of year.
But it got me thinking. Technology and humans getting closer isn’t something to be scared of – in fact it’s quite the opposite.
Futurologist Ray Kurzweil predicts by the 2030s we’ll be able to merge the human brain with technology – imagine being able to directly connect from the neocortex to the cloud. Sounds cool, right?
So here are five ways technology could merge with us in the not-so-distant future…
Elon Musk’s neural lace
Woven into the brain, Musk suggests a lace would allow users to connect to the internet just by thinking. Being able to back-up your mind in the cloud is another suggested use case. Not one for shying away from the spotlight, he suggests a neural lace would help humans “achieve symbiosis with machines.”
It feels pretty far-fetched at the moment, though let’s not rule it out as impossible. The outspoken entrepreneur claims to be ‘making progress’ on the idea. Time will have to tell on that one.
For when carrying keys, or even remembering a password, is just too much…
A woman in Adelaide has reportedly embedded a tiny microchip into both her hands, allowing her to unlock doors and access her computer.
This trend could muscle in on wearables (what’s the point of wearing a device if an implanted chip does the same?) and I think the sky is the limit in terms of what future uses could look like.
Why stop at basic security when you could factor in payments and even connectivity? Your body itself could even become a mobile WiFi hotspot…
Now, just to get over the mental barrier of actually implanting a piece of technology under the skin…
Taking prosthetics to new levels
While prosthetic technologies are nothing new, recent levels of advancement are something to behold.
This year British engineers developed a new prosthetic limb with an integrated robotic knee and foot, allowing each of the parts to ‘talk’ to each other, much like a human leg.
A central computer system acts as a brain, meaning the wearer can walk confidently at all times.
Taking this further, could prosthetic limbs actually make you stronger? I think this would be quite fanciful and I can’t see it happening any time soon.
Instead, it’s great to see technology being used to help people with genuine need, and more people are mobile as a result.
3D printed/lab-grown organs
Need a new hip? No problem. Let’s do a CAT-scan of your body and we’ll get one printed right away.
OK, I’ve got carried away there – doctors aren’t quite transplanting 3D printed hips into people just yet. However, surgeons are using the models to practice before patients go under the knife and it’s helping improve recovery times as a result.
It’s likely this technology will soon be coming to a hospital near you and is currently under trial (with hundreds of operations completed already!). However, it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to see 3D printing replacements for structural parts of your body in the not-so-distant future.
But what about being able to grow organs? There’s a lot of research going into stem cells, yielding some promising results. Tiny versions of kidneys and hearts have been successfully grown in the lab so far.
If we’re to ever to see this in the future there are a whole bunch of ethical issues to overcome, but it could have a massive impact on chronic illnesses such as heart disease.
USB pen finger
After losing a finger in a motorbike accident, Jerry Jalava embedded a 2GB USB port into his prosthetic. While it doesn’t connect his body to the rest of the internet, it is an example of how you don’t necessarily need to be a mastermind of robotics to become a cyborg.