Thursday, September 19, 2013

Bionic Us

Paul Bills recently made a great post that talked about some ways that crowdsourced video games are helping to solve complex medical problems, and that got me thinking a bit about this week's  class discussion, wherein we talked a little bit about how modern advances in medical technology are creating new opportunities for people with disabilities. We watched above video, which shows a woman hearing her first sound ever, thanks to a cochlear implant. If you haven't seen the video, take the chance now to do so, because if you're anything like me, it'll probably make you pretty grateful just to be able to see and hear and feel and live out an ordinary life. 

The idea of bionic implants and prosthetics isn't exactly a new one. In fact, the man considered by many to be the father of bionic technology and wearable computing, Steven Mann, has worn a bionic eye of sorts for the past thirteen or fourteen years and has apparently sported some form of wearable technology since the late 70's. How's that for thinking ahead? 

Modernly, though, we've seen huge improvements in both the technology itself and in availability of such technology to everyday people. There are bionic eyes undergoing testing right now that fit into the eye socket and function, for all intents and purposes, just as would a regular eye. Other technologies such as 3D printing are opening the way to the creation of viable human cells, bone implants, and a wealth of other things that are revolutionizing medicinal research and reparative efforts. The reality is that the bionic man is not so much a thing of the past. Even if we look at just regular people, we're hard pressed to find someone without a cell phone or other device, but it seems altogether likely that over the next few years, these technologies will become more and more integral--more and more a  part of who we are and how we interact with one another. 

Check out the video below for more info on 3D printing in medicine. Also, what are your thoughts on modern bionic technology? Should it be used to augment our natural abilities? What social issues might arise as integrated technology becomes more prevalent within our society?