IF a brain implant were safe and available and allowed you to operate your iPad or car using only thought, would you want one? What about an embedded device that gently bathed your brain in electrons and boosted memory and attention? Would you order one for your children? In a future presidential election, would you vote for a candidate who had neural implants that helped optimize his or her alertness and functionality during a crisis, or in a candidates’ debate? Would you vote for a commander in chief who wasn’t equipped with such a device? If these seem like tinfoil-on-the-head questions, consider the case of Cathy Hutchinson. Paralyzed by a stroke, she recently drank a canister of coffee by using a prosthetic arm controlled by thought. She was helped by a device called Braingate, a tiny bed of electrons surgically implanted on her motor cortex and connected by a wire to a computer. Working with a team of neuroscientists at Brown University, Ms. Hutchinson, then 58, was asked to imagine that she was moving her own arm. As her neurons fired, Braingate interpreted the mental commands and moved the artificial arm and humanlike hand to deliver the first coffee Ms. Hutchinson had raised to her own lips in 15 years. Braingate has barely worked on just a handful of people, and it is years away from actually being useful. Yet it’s an example of nascent technologies that in the next two to three decades may transform life not only for the impaired, but also for the healthy.
Posts Tagged ‘Enhancement’
Tags: bioscience, Enhancement, Olympics, Science
Some of the UK’s leading bioscience and sports researchers have teamed up to help improve training for elite athletes, thanks to special funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and UK Sport with additional money from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). As well as helping to improve our sporting performance, the research will also provide answers which will benefit our aging population. Three new projects have been awarded a total of nearly £1.4M to look specifically at athletes’ vision and movements at a physiological level, the answers to which could lead to improved training methods for elite athletes across all sports as well as providing vital information about how best to train or retrain people who have lost every day skills due to aging or disease. The three projects, announced today, will look at: Working with elite cricketers to understand cognitive and motor skills and to learn how they adapt over their lifespan Identifying the behavioral and biological mechanisms underpinning elite performance in aiming tasks through working with GB archery team Looking at whether elite athletes have superior visual perception and if so, how and why.
Tags: bionics, Cyborg, Enhancement, Technology
In a job market that is tougher than it has been for a generation, millions are struggling to find – and keep – work. But while huge swathes of society deal with overcoming cutbacks, closing businesses and forced redundancies, another group of job seekers really does have its work cut out. Even after a summer of extraordinary Paralympic achievement, people with disabilities face even greater hurdles into employment – access and mobility, coupled often with prejudice and ignorance. Many believe technology can go some way to addressing this. But it’s a complex journey, with many crossroads, and one that’s far from finished. At its cutting edge, is Hugh Herr, an associate professor of biometrics at MIT Media Lab. He believes his pioneering technology – known as bionics – has the ability to tap into a under appreciated workforce who, until now, may have been unable to work. “I predict a bionics revolution,” he says. (via BBC News – Bionic revolution: The tech getting disabled people into work)
Check out the before-and-after photos. We’re not talking about a small eye-opening or chin-chiseling operation here. We’re talking about techno-miraculously transforming a humdrum wallflower into dazzling hottie. (via Miss South Korea Admits Plastic Surgery Enhanced Her Beauty… Who Cares?)
Tags: athletes, Cyborg, Enhancement, Technology
Oscar Pistorius was never going to win the race. Just as well, some pundits agreed – as if there was a chance he would have done, he may not have been allowed to run it in the first place. As the 400m semi-final at the London 2012 Olympic Games drew to a close, he may have been well off the pace, but he was well ahead of his time. As the first double leg amputee to compete against able-bodied opponents at the Olympics, Pistorius has fired the starting pistol on arguably the most significant debate elite sport will ever encounter. Soon, athletes using technology to enhance their bodies will be able to jump higher, leap farther and last longer – stretching our concept of what it means to push the human body to the limit. It’s a limit no longer being pushed out on the track but in a scientific lab. (via BBC News – Paralympics: Should technology push athletes beyond their limits?)
Tags: Cyborg, Enhancement, Philosophy, Technology
Alva Noë at NPR wrote an excellent opinion piece over the weekend on Lance Armstrong’s decision to stop fighting the United States Anti-Doping Agency—which accuses the seven-time Tour de France winner of ingesting performance enhancing drugs. Noë argues not that Armstrong ‘didn’t do it’—on the contrary, most expert commentators agree that he probably did dope, along with all other high level cyclers—but that ‘doping’ is a logical component of competitive sports in a cyborg era. Noë concludes with a key point and a provocative question: He didn’t win races on his own. No, Like each of us in our social embeddings, he created an organization, drawing on other people, and the creative and effective use of technology, the mastery of biochemistry, to go places and do things that most of us never will, that no one ever had, before him. That we now attack him, and tear him down, and try to minimize his achievements…what does this tell us about ourselves? I want to take on this question, and in doing so, further flesh out the points that Noë brings to the fore. I argue that our attack on Armstrong speaks to our collective discomfort with a cyborg nature, and that this discomfort is twofold. First, we are uncomfortable with categorical blurring, and second, cyborg bodies problematize deeply held myths and moral tenets of self-reliance. (via Resistant Cyborgs: Lessons from Lance Armstrong » Cyborgology)
Testing times: Injecting reality into the war on doping
The London Olympics will see the greatest effort yet to stamp out the curse of chemical cheating. But with rising costs, some question whether sport can keep up the fight – so is it time to redefine what is meant by doping and performance enhancement? Once a day, every day, a former European athlete is reminded of his greatest victories – but not because of his trophies and medals. To stay alive, this one-time champion has to inject himself with the medical substance on which his fame largely rests. According to anti-doping scientists who have heard this story, this unnamed athlete is believed to have taken so much of the blood-boosting drug erythropoeitin (EPO) during his career that his body permanently lost the ability to make red blood cells without it. He will need to inject the drug for the rest of his life. (via BBC News – Testing times: Injecting reality into the war on doping)