At present, the technological wonders people have read about in science-fiction literature are coming to life. Touchscreen cellphones, 3D-holograms, artificial intelligence, robots, and other novelties of modern engineering were impossible to create just 20 years ago. One of such novelties is cybernetic prosthetics. Scientists and engineers learned how to create true masterpieces of bionics: fully functional cybernetic arms and legs; a prototype of a bionic eye grown from stem cells is on its way; an artificial heart is something no one feels surprised about anymore. Still, there are many opponents of such innovations. But why oppose such marvels?
What is the point of depriving people who suffer from disabilities of the benefits that cybernetic implants can provide? A person who has lost an arm or even both arms would likely appreciate the possibility to use advanced technologies to allow them to hold things in their arms once again, to hug people they love (there is a technology allowing to transfer the sense of touch from an artificial limb to its owner), to write and paint comfortably, or perhaps even play a guitar or a piano. Modern prosthetics allow a connection directly to an individual’s neural system (instead of working from muscle contractions), so a person can control their artificial limb like a real arm. DARPA has already presented this technology in early 2016, and it probably will become available by the end of the current decade (DARPA).
Speaking of blindness, whether you are religious or not, would you deprive a blind person of the possibility to see the world again? Would it be fair, given you are healthy, to demand people with blindness should accept their fate because you think that bionic eyes are immoral, unnatural, or causing God to become angry? Yes, scientists have successfully created a retinal prosthesis system, allowing blind people to see (Time). So far, it is a low-resolution device that looks like eye glasses, but knowing the modern technological trends, it is obvious that in about 10 years, we will be talking about implanted eye prosthetics. There is little-to-no blind people (especially those who were not born blind, but lost their sight because of an accident or sickness) who would give up a chance to be able to see. Refusing them such a chance would be cruel.
This is not a thing currently, but in the nearest future, it might be possible, as the famous scientist Ray Kurzweil suggests, that people will be able to change their original body parts to cybernetic analogues (IEET). This means if you are for some reason dissatisfied with how your limbs or organs work—for example, because of rachitis—you will be able to change them. Although this does not sound like something a human being would easily do, such possibilities will definitely meet their potential users. For example, the first Martian pioneers (NASA plans to launch the first expedition to Mars by approximately 2030) might need severe body modifications in order to survive or adapt to harsh Martian conditions. Or soldiers fighting in conflict zones might want to change their limbs to stronger cybernetic analogues. This is probably the only aspect of using cybernetic prosthetics that is disturbing, because the human race will either have to redefine what it means to be human, or at least partially accept cybernetic body augmentations for some professions. Anyways, it looks like this is the inevitable future.
It can be seen that cybernetic prosthetics is a rather controversial part of science; this controversiality mostly refers to the probability of voluntarily changing one’s functional and healthy “original” limbs and organs to their better cybernetic analogues. This is a moral dilemma humanity will have to think about in several decades. So far, cybernetic prosthetics can bring nothing but good to their owners, because their main goal is to return disabled people to a normal life: an ability to walk, run, or do sports like running for those who have lost their legs; an ability to write, paint, and touch objects with fully functional cyber-arms for those who have no arm\arms; in addition, there is a unique chance for blind people to see the world again due to the technology of retinal prosthesis system. All this proves that this technology can be only for good, since it can make millions of people all over the world happier and more productive. Disability as a problem will probably completely disappear by the middle of the current century.
- “Neurotechnology Provides Near-Natural Sense of Touch.” DARPA. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Mar. 2016.
- Sifferlin, Alexandra, and Alice Park. “Cutting-Edge Cures for Blindness: Three People’s Stories.” Time. Time, 9 Sept. 2015. Web. 28 Mar. 2016.
- Niman, John. “Prosthetic Technology and Human Enhancement: Benefits, Concerns and Regulatory Schemes Pt1.” IEET. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Mar. 2016.