Last updateFri, 13 Jan 2017 3pm


Robotics, Cybernetics, AI and Personhood

From the movies Terminator to Blade Runner, images of cyborgs have captivated many audiences. Yet now, what once was seen as science fiction is apart of everyday scientific explorations. The term cyborg was first introduced in 1948. Today cyborgs are referred to as a human being who is technologically complemented by external or internal devices that supplement or regulate various human body functions.

Cyborgology refers to the development of various types of cyborgs leading to the formation of a cyborg society. Developments in this industry are apart of our everyday lives from pacemakers to prosthetic devices. Cyborgs can refer to an individual who has been altered externally or internally. Thus the future of cyborgology does not just include developing prosthetic arms, but also creating implants that would create superhuman capabilities. When blended with Artificial Intelligence, cyborgology has the capability to make humans immortal. While this seems futuristic, there are current studies taking place to create superhuman capabilities and redefine what it means to be a person.

In response to the potential advancements in cyborgology, Kevin Warwick, Professor of Cybernetics at Reading University, England noted, "There is no way I want to stay a mere human." Which begs the question, at what point will being mere human not be good enough to be considered a person? If advancements continue, then there will begin to be a distinction between the classes even more. Except this time the distinction will come with who can afford or have access to the newest cyborgology invention?

One future application of this field is resiprocytes which is a development in the field of cyborg sciences blended with nano-technology. These respirocytes are artificial red blood cells that mimic the action of the natural hemoglobin-filled red blood cells and can supplement or replace the function of much of the human body's normal respiratory system. The nano device can be filled up with oxygen or carbon dioxide, making one complete transfer of gases at the lungs, and is able to deliver 236 times more oxygen to the body's tissues per unit volume than natural red blood cells. Respirocytes could one day serve as an in-body SCUBA device, a transfusable blood substitution, a partial treatment for anemia, or used for the treatment of perinatal/neonatal and lung disorders, the prevention of asphyxia or for the artificial breathing of incapacitated patients. 

Theoretically, a diver could hold his breath underwater for 0.2-4 hours, then surface, hyperventilate for 6-12 minutes to recharge the respirocytes, then return to work below. These cells could permit major new sports records, because the devices can deliver oxygen to muscle tissues faster than the natural lungs can provide. This could easily be abused in competitive sports where extended periods of sustained maximum exertion are required. Resiprocytes may one day be especially helpful for the treatment of cancer patients because the patients are usually anemic. X-rays and chemotherapy require oxygen to be maximally cytoxic (toxic or poisonous cells), so boosting oxygenation levels into the normal range using resiprocytes might improve a patent's prognosis and treatment outcome.        (Source:http://www.foresight.org/Naromedicine/Respirocytes4.html#Sec68  )

Implantable brain chips: ethical and policy issues

By Ellen M. McGee, Ph.D. Director, The Long Island Center for Ethics Long Island University - CW Post, Brookville, NY?

By Gerald Q. Maguire, Jr., PhD Royal Institute of Technology, Kista, Sweden??

“The future may include the reality of science fiction's "cyborgs," persons who have developed some intimate and occasionally necessary relationship with a machine. It is likely that computer chips implanted in our brains and acting as sensors or actuators may soon not only assist the blind and those with failing memory, but even bestow fluency in a new language, enable "recognition" of previously unmet individuals and provide instantaneous access to encyclopedic databases. Developments in nanotechnology, bioengineering, computers and neuroscience are converging to facilitate these amazing possibilities. Research on cochlear hearing and retinal vision has furthered the development of interfaces between neural tissues and microcomputers. The cochlear implant, which directly stimulates the auditory nerve, enables totally deaf people to hear sound. An artificial vision system, the "Dobelle Eye," uses a tiny television camera and ultrasonic distance sensors mounted on eyeglasses and connected to a miniature computer worn on a belt. This invention enables the blind to navigate independently, "read" letters, "watch" television, use a computer and access the Internet. 1 These "visual" activities are achieved by triggering pulses from the microcomputer to an array of platinum electrodes implanted on the surface of the brain's visual cortex. In March 1998, a "locked in" victim of a brain-stem stroke became the first recipient of a brain-to-computer interface, enabling him to communicate on a computer by thinking about moving the cursor.”