Do you remember Victor Stone from early DC comics? The one person whom scientists use to conduct various enhancement experiments. He was also a member of Teen Titans and Justice league. And also Ray Fisher in Justice League. These are some of the examples of cyborgs and human enhancement in the world of DC.
But do cyborgs only exist in comics and in the world of sci fi? Well that is not the case. In the era where technological advancements are at its peak be it at cybernetics and bioengineering. Even though it is a long way to go. But it is very much likely to develop a perfect cyborg with the progress happening in these fields.
Cyborgs are not robots. It is an extended version of humans. The concept was to make humans a better species through the mixture of organic and artificial systems.
1. What Is Considered A Cyborg?
Well, the answer to this question changes from time to time. The reason for that is that a cyborg is a living organism embedded with an artificial system or component.
So, if a person from the olden times when he/she sees someone with glasses or lenses. Then technically these people are cyborgs to them. Because it is an added artificial element that gives them the ability to see clearly that was not there before.
A person with prosthetic limbs, artificial joint replacements, implanted devices such as pacemakers, and these kinds of augmentation can also be considered as a part of cyborg development.
Currently, we only consider cyborgs as some form of electronic technology that enhances a person’s ability significantly.
2. Types Of Cyborg
You can classify cyborgs based on their permanence:
- This starts with the simple method of add-on. Where the technological implants can be put in and removed easily. It does not have any permanent effect on you. Using intelligent prosthetics is a perfect example for people who have lost their limbs. This is called temporary cyborgization.
- The next level of cyborgs are those that are long-term but reversible cyborgization. Meaning that the extensions in the body can be removed but not as simply as the above-mentioned case. Implantation of pacemakers can be considered as one of the examples. Even though it is a long-term process, surgical intervention can help you remove those extensions.
- The ultimate kind of cyborgs is those that are irreversible. Meaning that the extensions made to the human body cannot be changed. Changing the human genome can be one of the examples of this type of cyborg. In this case, it is close to impossible to make changes without endangering the species.
3. Cyborgs In Real Life
3.1 Neil Harbisson
If we are talking about human cyborgs we can never exclude this man. Neil was a cyborg artist and trans-species rights activist. He was born in Britain and is known for an antenna implanted into his skull. But he suffered from color blindness from his childhood.
The antenna helps him listen to particular musical notes and identify the specific color. With the antenna, he can observe colors in his head in the form of vibration.
One of the interesting things about him is that he can sense colors that we can’t even see like UV and infrared. This is the proper extension of artificial implants enabling humans to work beyond their capability.
3.2 Dr. Kevin Warwick
He is a cybernetics professor in the UK known for conducting experiments that connect human nervous systems to computer systems. He installed microchips in his arms that let him operate computer systems and lights remotely.
He didn’t want to make systems that would “tweak the intelligence”. Rather he wanted to create something which the human brain can’t even think of.
He implanted the same in his wife to check the sensation of touch when someone touches her hand.
3.3 Jens Naumman
Naumman lost his vision by the age of 20 and had no perception of light at all for 17 years. A brain implant operation has restored his partial vision ability. The computer interface was attached to a camera and into his visual cortex.
Jens also worked on sensory substitution technology that makes the person recognize objects by the sounds associated with it. But sadly the death of Jens led to dropping of some of the projects he was involved in.
3.4 Dr. Peter Scott Morgan
Dr Peter Scott Morgan was diagnosed with Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a neurological disease in 2017 that led to loss of muscle movement. At that time his doctors told him he had two years to live. But he thought he could extend his life by developing cutting-edge technology.
He had undergone several operations to replace functioning body parts with machines. He was in the process of becoming a Neo human leaping towards the future as a prototype. He used a voice box, eye tracker, and many technologies to help him live his life.
Peter was featured in the documentary The Man who turned himself into a Cyborg. This covered the entire process of how a doctor underwent several procedures to become a bionic person.
Unfortunately, he died at the age of 64 from complications of his motor neuron disease.
4. Human Enhancement
As humans, we have biological constraints. And as technology develops we try to create a transhumanist future that helps us to overcome these constraints. It was first a concept of science fiction. But with growing technology, we try to enhance the lives of humans and make them a better species with high quality.
Human Enhancement is the process of usage of technology to alter the human body in order to enhance physical or mental capabilities. This replicates a person’s body or mind. It positively expands or alters our capabilities through artificial alteration.
Engineers, and entrepreneurs are exploring this field of study and trying to find marketable applications.
5. Levels Of Human Enhancement
This is a basic level of human enhancement that can replicate what a human can do. Like some people have health issues that with this technology can be made normal and make people live like anyone else. Prosthetics, hearing aids, and glasses can be an example of replication.
Implanting or hosting devices in the human body is the next level in replication enhancement. These wearable devices are used to gather biometric data and interact with those devices.
Supplementation is the next level of human enhancement after replication. This level enhances the physical and intellectual limitations of humans. This is an advanced level compared to replication.
For example, there are devices that translate real-time conversations into earbuds and Google glasses can also be an example of this level of enhancement.
5.3 Exceeding Human Ability
This is the last level of human enhancement that exists. This level of enhancement exceeds the capability of what humans can do in real life. As exciting as it sounds, there is still a long way to go. We are still far off in attaining this level of human enhancement.
Nanobots, artificial blood cells, and synthetic memory chips are some of examples in this enhancement level. However, these are in the infant stage of their development. But it is the strongest level that can lower all the inabilities of a human.
6. The Future Of Cyborgs
With the developments that are in the process today. It is highly possible for cyborgs to exist in our day-to-day lives. If that’s the case, then the concept of transhumanism will come into existence. It only existed in fiction.
The concept of transhumanism is that humans should go beyond the capabilities of what they are now. For the betterment of mankind. In terms of political, cultural and technological aspects. This could benefit humans in a great way.
Imagine, in the future if someone lost their basic function. This could be added on and changes the perception of humans who now consider that as a concern. But with these enhancements, it doesn’t matter. You can regain the ability easily.
Not only for medical purposes like prosthetics etc. But also to attain the impossible things as humans are an exciting thing to think about. With advancements like these, you can actually think about the possibilities of immortality. This is mainly done for the extension of humans. If you look at the real-life cyborg examples above, there was some motivation for them to live longer which made them study technology.
With this you can also clone yourself and make it do your work. Sounds silly, but it is possible technically. But with the current inventions itself, humans are becoming more lazy.
But before the development of cyborg technology in a serious manner. You need to make sure there is a proper ethical and legal structure built to make sure that these do not impede them. With all the positives that are mentioned above. By developing each level with the perks you get in each of those. You also need to consider the negative or dangerous impacts it can have.
Of course, while developing these technologies and improving on human enhancements. There would come the fear part which can slow down the process. This is a good thing since it would save us from hazards. But just fear won’t help us either for development or for safety. What is important is to measure the pros and cons of these abilities beforehand to have a say in whether this can be explored further.