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Medicine Technology

Can Cyborg Tech End Human Disability By 2064? 121

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the sweet-robot-arm dept.
the_newsbeagle (2532562) writes "As part of a 50th anniversary celebration, IEEE Spectrum magazine tries to peer into the technological future 50 years out. Its biomedical article foresees the integration of electronic parts into our human bodies, making up for physical, emotional, and intellectual disabilities. The article spotlights the visionaries Hugh Herr, an MIT professor (and double amputee) who wants to build prosthetic limbs that are wired directly into the nervous system; Helen Mayberg, who has developed brain pacemakers to cure depression; and Ted Berger, who's working on neural implants that can restore memory function."
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Can Cyborg Tech End Human Disability By 2064?

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  • by ArcadeMan (2766669) on Wednesday May 28, 2014 @01:19PM (#47110437)

    No.

    Next question?

    • by Arith (708986) on Wednesday May 28, 2014 @01:22PM (#47110465)
      I think a better question is: Can the general populace AFFORD cybernetic fixes for their particular problem.
      The answers are the same.
      • by geekoid (135745)

        Can the general populace AFFORD to have a device that's a calendar and a phone and a music player and a camera and a game machine?

        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Yes, but only if you're willing to have it subsidized by installing nano-cameras in your anus.

          http://www.smbc-comics.com/?id=3370#comic

        • by Kjella (173770)

          Can the general populace AFFORD to have a device that's a calendar and a phone and a music player and a camera and a game machine?

          Those items come bog standard off an assembly line by the millions if not billions, with no individual tuning necessary. Just looking at the basic "augments" like prescription glasses and hearing aids there's tons of personal adjustment. I very much doubt you'll be able to find "one size fits all" cybernetics.

          • Just looking at the basic "augments" like prescription glasses and hearing aids there's tons of personal adjustment. I very much doubt you'll be able to find "one size fits all" cybernetics.

            True. But consider the revolutions in 3D printing and CAD/CAM technologies. What was once an arduous and expensive process (a well manufactured one-off part) is no longer a pricey pipe dream. Prescription lenses are a good example. They are no longer simply off the shelf "one size fits all" lenses, but are custom ground. As manufacturing gets better, we'll begin to see adaptive augments. Hearing aids, for example, already can be customer tuned. We'll not see "one size fits all" cybernetics, but indivi

          • prescription glasses and hearing aids there's tons of personal adjustment.

            30 years ago, I paid nearly $100 for a decent pair of prescription glasses. Now I buy them online for $6/pair. A generation ago, a crappy hearing aid cost thousands. Today, you can buy a far better device for $39. I bought one for my father-in-law, and he describes it as "fantastic".

            I very much doubt you'll be able to find "one size fits all" cybernetics.

            The personalization is done by custom manufacturing. We already have that today. It is still expensive because the technology is new, but there is nothing inherently expensive about it. Prices are already falling. So the

            • 30 years ago, I paid nearly $100 for a decent pair of prescription glasses. Now I buy them online for $6/pair.

              Where? I could use some $6 glasses! I'm still paying $100/pr. And I need a new pair.

              A generation ago, a crappy hearing aid cost thousands. Today, you can buy a far better device for $39. I bought one for my father-in-law, and he describes it as "fantastic".

              Where? My brother would be very interested!

            • by ultranova (717540)

              So they scan your arm, then a computer designs your prosthesis, and it is printed out on a 3D printer.

              Or you can just mill it to specification. That process is already in use [wikipedia.org] today. And even traditional assembly lines could be designed to switch the mold without stopping. With modern computer simulation capabilities to design them, you could potentially have unique assembly instructions accompany every part on the line.

          • by ranton (36917)

            Can the general populace AFFORD to have a device that's a calendar and a phone and a music player and a camera and a game machine?

            Those items come bog standard off an assembly line by the millions if not billions, with no individual tuning necessary. Just looking at the basic "augments" like prescription glasses and hearing aids there's tons of personal adjustment. I very much doubt you'll be able to find "one size fits all" cybernetics.

            200 years ago the idea of creating billions of similar products is what would have been considered far fetched. Changes to manufacturing allowed for assembly plants to rework society. Changes in manufacturing due to advances in 3D printing could do for the next century what the assembly line did for the 1900s. It is true today that things must be mass producible to be cheap, but that may not be true in the very near future.

      • by chinton (151403)
        I don't have $6 million dollars. Do you?
      • by loufoque (1400831)

        Maybe in the USA, but don't forget other countries have a sane healthcare system.

    • No.

      Next question?

      No.

    • Let me know when the prosthetics can run on a fuel cell based on human fat, and then I think you'll get LOTS of people interested.

      • by lgw (121541)

        While that would be quite clever, advances in battery power are a big part of why fully functional prosthetics seem likely to me. I don't think it will take anywhere near 50 years, either, at least for the physical disabilities. The mental stuff is a whole different world.

        • My point is the biggest physical disability is obesity. Even (or especially) among cyborgs, who have a problem exercising enough to keep weight down. If we had a way to burn that fat for say, recharging our cell phones or our prosthetics, then you'd solve the obesity problem overnight.

          • You could probably do this via some VR solution of a world with just enough problems to make it believable. Can't be too perfect. At any rate, you'd probably have all sorts of people signing up for that, and you could harvest that energy generated from their fat for whatever reasons you wanted.

            • by lgw (121541)

              Pure awesome. I suspect you flew under the mods radar, but +5 virtual funny.

          • by lgw (121541)

            Liposuction works too. But carrying some fat isn't in itself a concerning health issue: it's the eating and exercise habits correlated with it (e.g., fat cells don't cause adult-onset diabetes, the same bad eating habits cause both).

            • My understanding was that we're not sure about that yet. We do know that various toxins can be dissolved in fat cells, which can then cause cancer or other diseases as they are slowly (or quickly, ironically whilst one is losing weight by burning it off) reabsorbed into the rest of the body. And while there is still a lot we don't yet know about the role of antibiotics, pesticides, herbicides, and hormones in the food supply, all that we do know to date suggests that all of these are very, very bad. The
              • by lgw (121541)

                But it's the toxins, not the fat cells, doing the harm. The fat cells just delay the harm until they're metabolized.

                But we know nothing for sure. There's nothing with less credibility than a nutritionist.

                • Like much of what tries to pass for modern science, nutritional research is tainted by the influence of those with a vested interest in the outcome. A healthy dose of skepticism is completely understandable. But there are things I believe we are learning. For instance, while it's been known for centuries that sugars and what we now recognize as high-glycemic starches tend to encourage obesity, it's only fairly recently that we've come to understand why. The role of various micronutrients, again long sus
    • Any headline which ends in a question mark can be answered by the word no.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

  • Call Cyborg!

    He can shoot a rocket through his shoe

    Go Cyborg!

  • Making up for intellectual disabilities?

    Oh boy, I better run and invest in stocks right away, if they can do that...I'm gonna get rich!
    • A smartphone is already a brain enhancer. The only difference is the interface. And when the cyborg tech will be the same phone-home and controlled-by-home shit that smartphones are, there will be a huge change in human society models in the future.
      The more control we give our computers, the more we need to make sure they do what they were told to do. Computers are too young to be integrated this much in human life. The main problem computers create is the centralisation of control.
      Users should be aware tha

    • Intellectual disabilities like Depression are already being treated experimentally by adding what amounts to a prosthesis to the brain.

  • Yes (Score:5, Interesting)

    by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland@yBLUEahoo.com minus berry> on Wednesday May 28, 2014 @01:25PM (#47110501) Homepage Journal

    but it will be unnecessary since we will be able to grow body parts.

    • You can keep your puny mortal flesh. I'll take the robot legs that can jump 20 feet and run 40mph, the robot fingers that can type 500wpm, the robot eyes that have infrared and ultraviolet vision and a heads-up display, etc etc etc...

      • At that point, who needs the body? Just plug your brain into a mobile unit designed for the task of the day.

        • Why move around your precious brain? All your life depends on it! It is better to store your brain in a safe location and then remote-control a robot body. When this is shot or burned or whatever you only will loose $1M but not your life. Which puts us to the question wheter in such a highly advanced society we will need money, but I think that there will always be a lobby *cough* DRM *cough* that tries to convince everybody we need it.

          • But, in that case, why interact with the real world. You can just stay in the virtual world and do whatever makes your brain happy.
          • Why have individual brains at all? Just use one giant entity of processing power controlling all the robots.

            Sorry. Did I ruin it?

          • by fractoid (1076465)
            Exactly. Once the option becomes available I'll have my brain safely stashed in a bunker with secure backups in a bunch of other bunkers around the world. No more risk-taking for me!
      • Sucks that you broke your back and died at your first 20 foot jump attempt.
      • ...the robot fingers that can type 500wpm...

        Type? How quaint!

        • by compro01 (777531)

          ...the robot fingers that can type 500wpm...

          Type? How quaint!

          An airgap is about the most effective kind of firewall available.

      • by geekoid (135745)

        I agree, but the energy requirement to do those things are far too high.

          but typing? really?

    • by chinton (151403)
      We will be able to grow body some body parts and build cybernetic body parts to create our very own cyborg armies. What could go wrong?
    • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

      Unfortunately replacing parts won't fix a lot of disabilities. You can't replace a brain, for example. I suffer from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome which is not well understood, but the best available theory suggests that I'd need parts fixing at a cellular level. Well, either that or replace pretty much my whole body.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    most disabled people won't be able to afford it

  • I rather expect augmented cyborgism (?) to be a big thing with the next generation or two, much like tattoos, piercings, implants, and gauges today. It'll be chic and trendy. Then it's just one short step from there if you have to replace limbs or organs, so for those that have to, it won't be that radical a change and won't be so outside the mainstream as it is today; and some people might actually choose to do so voluntarily. ("Wow dude, is that the new Cyber-nimbus 2000-? your new arm is so cool!" "Ye
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Because it's suppose to be 50 years in the future? 2014+50=2064?
       
      That's just my guess based on actually reading something instead of looking at about three words and trying to come off insightful.

    • by TeknoHog (164938)
      Why not a round number, such as 2048?
  • by mmell (832646) <mmell@hotmail.com> on Wednesday May 28, 2014 @01:40PM (#47110657)
    Division is futile. You will be approximated.
  • So, say I put my brain in a robot body and there's a war. Robots versus humans. What side am I on?
    • by xmousex (661995)

      which ever part of you wins against the other part will decide

    • It would depend upon where you live. Do you live in the USA, where you are judged by the color of your skin and not the content of your character?

      If you live in the USA, if you look like a robot, you are a Robot. Nothing has changed since World War II where we basically had prison camps for Japanese-Americans -- simply because they were of a particular "race". Or what the USA did to the natives. And don't even get me started if you're black.

      Or a black robot.

      • And don't even get me started if you're black.

        Yeah, next thing you know, we'll be allowing them to be President....

    • You're Killroy [youtube.com]

    • by geekoid (135745)

      Human. You are your brain, everything else is icing.

  • With the advancement AI and advancing cybernetics, I predict that this is inevitible. Human disability and imperfection will be eradicated, along with the whole human race, of course.

  • Computer learning is growing faster than the unintended consequences can be mitigated. It's just a matter of time.

    • As a researcher in machine learning: lol nope.
      • by MrP- (45616)

        As a machine: Soon...

      • by geekoid (135745)

        Wow with a response like that you must be a great researcher.

        We already have computers that figure things out we can't understand but work. so.. I'm not sure where you are coming from.

        • I guess you missed this [slashdot.org] article from two days ago, then? (The classic "mystery" in neural nets is how they distribute weights during learning, the answer to which is "rarely better than a human would, and according to the algorithm they train by.") I know you saw this [slashdot.org] one; you commented on it. Or perhaps you were talking about computer-automated proofs? Those aren't sophisticated, merely long-winded; the result of applying simple propositional logic over and over again.

          If we had algorithms that were actuall

  • by wjcofkc (964165) on Wednesday May 28, 2014 @01:51PM (#47110761)
    My girlfriend and I spend a lot of our TV time (Roku) watching science and technology related programming. It's difficult to watch anything from as recent as 2011 or prior. It is difficult because I can frequently point out how wrong or at best incomplete many things are compared to the understandings and accomplishments of very near recent. This goes for both science and technology. A lot of highly-beneficial technologies never make it out of the lab because they are so quickly replaced, many technologies cannot keep up with themselves. That, and any one of many recent single astronomical discoveries can render an hour of programming from just a few years ago obsolete. Unless of course a documentary is historical in nature, which is always fun.

    On that note, as a nerd who is highly entrenched in following science and technology on a daily basis, I have spent the last few years humbly in awe at the exponential rate of technological innovation. There is so much going on right now it's mind boggling. 2064? At this point I call that selling the human race short. There are so many factors to consider. For example, I see the currently embryonic maker\bio-hacking\grinder movements becoming a driving force behind advancements that will bring a lot of amazing things into our lives as those movements grown and more advanced tools slowly become available to them. The world of 2064 will more likely be the world of 2040. The only real enemy to all of this is the course of international politics.
    • Curiosity: What are some explicit examples from relatively modern media. Anything later than 2005 would be pretty interesting. I don't watch much modern sci-fi these days, my wife just isn't very interested in hard sci-fi and the soft stuff wouldn't really apply (since it's 3/4 fantasy 1/4 technobabble).

  • What a brave new world that will be.

  • The summary specifically calls out physical, intellectual, and emotional. Are they suggesting that in 50 years you'll be able to get a chip implanted because you're depressed? Or stupid? Physical issues are being improved upon markedly. But seriously - fixing perceived issues in how people think seems just wrong. Fixing perceived issues with how people feel doubly so. If this were possible, we'd be squarely in sci-fi AI-controlled-human territory.
    • But, since I can't even be bothered to read the _entire_ summary, I'm going to retract some of my article-bashing, since they clearly indicate some examples of what they're describing, and all of that seems perfectly reasonable.
  • Because when my father was born dyslexia, ADD, addiction, etc. was not considered disability?

    Frankly, if you stick to the 19th century definitions of disability, then I can see 2064 cyborging them away.

    If you talk about late 20th century definitions, no.

    If you exclude the many things I think will end up being recognized as disability in the next 50 years - definitely no.

    But of course, I expect the following to be considered a disability by then:

    non-evoltionism - Failure to believe in Evolution.

    Self

  • by harvestsun (2948641) on Wednesday May 28, 2014 @02:16PM (#47111011)
    I'm gonna have my consciousness uploaded to a robot by then, have fun with your frail human bodies, suckers.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      have fun on the robot reservation, we aren't gonna honor those bogus treaties

    • by geekoid (135745)

      So, there you are looking at your robot with your newly uploaded brain. Then it hits you, that's is a stronger more powerful you, and you still exist in your meat bag.
      hmm.

  • army may want this and before 2064

  • Longer answer is that even though technology cannot eliminate disabilities, it can definitely mitigate the impact. A prosthesis can only make up for what is lost. It can't keep the loss from happening. It is the loss itself that causes the disability.

    Put differently, artificial limbs that are tied into a person's neural system and allows them to function, say as real legs and to walk doesn't eliminate the disability any more than a wheelchair does. Both allow a person to get from point a to point b. The

    • by TeknoHog (164938)

      Put differently, artificial limbs that are tied into a person's neural system and allows them to function, say as real legs and to walk doesn't eliminate the disability any more than a wheelchair does. Both allow a person to get from point a to point b. The artificial limbs may also provide numerous other advantages over a wheel chair, but they do not, in fact, change that the person has lost the function of their legs. That is the disability. The artificial limbs and/or wheel chair are just tools to mitigate the loss.

      Interesting point. Wondering this from a technical perspective, you might ask if it is even possible to fully integrate an artificial limb into your body-consciousness, unless you grow up with it from a very young age, regardless of the technological sophistication.

      However, people have shown surprising flexibility in dealing with this sort of thing. For example, people with surgically corrected nerve damage have reported that their sense of touch is literally out of place -- feeling the touch in a differ

    • by geekoid (135745)

      Is it a disability if it in no way hinders you?

      • by Dcnjoe60 (682885)

        Is it a disability if it in no way hinders you?

        That would depend on what you mean by hinder. Again, using a wheel chair allows somebody without the use of their legs to move from point a to b. I think what you are getting at is whether or not such devices would allow one to function normally in society. Then again, what does normal mean? Many people wear glasses. They are hindered, but are they disabled? Should we replace their faulty eyes with new bionic ones? Or do glasses and contacts mitigate the disability?

        Ultimately, there is a subjective elemen

  • Past expectations and predictions upon science, technology and society have been pretty off the mark. The majority of quality, new, breakthrough technologies never come to fruition. For example we have seen battery breakthroughs every month or so but the actual sales of these new designs is slow, low or nonexistent. After all investors are frightened when an investment might become obsolete before returning any profits. Social conditions stop a lot of progress and a really lousy economy stops e
  • What a rotten fucking disease.
  • We barely understand neurological disorders like schizophrenia, we don't even understand the basics of these disorders, so to believe will have them solved by 2064 is entirely unrealistic.

Organic chemistry is the chemistry of carbon compounds. Biochemistry is the study of carbon compounds that crawl. -- Mike Adams

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