The age of sci fi is coming to an end, the medical advances humanity once dreamed of are making their way into reality.
Augmentation, cybernetic limbs, and other medical miracles are slowly becoming science fact rather than fiction. Last week, professors, theorists, and futurists alike, converged on Manhattan’s Paley Center for Media, in order to discuss humanity’s next stage of evolution. Sponsored by Open Bionics, and Deus Ex: Human Revolution, the HumanXDesign conference addressed the many consequences of this new age of technology.
How long should humans be allowed to live? Is immortality a human right in this futuristic age? What are the consequences of such advances (And should Donald Trump be given access to such technology)?
How would this morph our society? Will it be adopted for aesthetic purposes? Can it be hacked? Will it generate a larger wealth disparity among the world’s citizens? These are just a few questions posed by a rotating panel of guests and speakers.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution takes place in the year 2027. The golden age of human enhancement has come and recently passed, replacing the feeling of carefree freedom, with fear and uncertainty. In Eidos Montreal’s not so distant future, augmented humans are interned in camps and persecuted by body-purists. How closely does this mirror the reality we are rapidly approaching? The answer is not as simple as it may seem at first, in order to look forward, we must assess where we are now.
Open Bionics, a U.K. based smart prosthetics lab has been working towards creating a world in which everyone can afford comfortable, beautiful prosthetics. Smart prosthetics in the U.S. can cost anywhere from $60,000-$100,000. Using faster and more affordable methods of production such as 3D printing, that cost can be brought down to a mere $5,000, and that is only the beginning.
A particularly prominent member of the Open Bionics team, Katherine Disney, has been test-piloting a custom arm designed by Eidos Montreal. Bearing a striking resemblance to Adam Jensen’s new Titan armor, Katherine claims the personalized design draws from the stigma, and changes public opinion from pity or unease, to curiosity and fascination.
Public opinion is but one obstacle facing the adoption of augmented prosthetics. Katherine recalled her first fitting for a medically prescribed “dumb” prosthetic, as a mere child. She described it as an uncomfortable and cold experience. By creating a unique, almost storefront-like feeling to acquiring smart prosthetics, where buyers can choose color, style, and texture, wearers will feel empowered rather than self conscious. This could serve to turn prosthetics into just another consumer product, taking away any stigma it may currently carry, but it will also serve the needs of the wearer, as Open Bionics founder stated, the user will for the first time be asked what they want, rather than a one-size-fits all medical approach.
And after we have sufficiently addressed the needs of those who have been left impaired, when and how will augmentation become selective rather than therapeutic? What consequences can we expect from such a shift in our society? We can’t really know, which may be the scariest part about this entire subject.
How can we police citizens with augmented strength? Just how much should we improve things like say, our hearing? How do we place laws and limits on technology that seems nearly limitless? Is the improvement of our human form a basic right?
As it currently stands, at least in America, people are wary of technology making the transition from wearable to cybernetic. A mere mention of such technology can conjure up thoughts of forcibly implanted RFID chips, and a “new world order”, but what fears can be grounded in reality?
It is true that current technology such as pacemakers and insulin pumps can be affected by others in malicious ways. It’s not such a leap to imagine what could possibly happen to an entire limb. Just before the events taking place in Mankind Divided, a virus breaks out among the augmented population, causing users to commit acts of savage violence. While this wouldn’t be possible in reality, it should still be a concern for users whose prosthetics could at the very least be rendered useless by malicious attacks.
While we may not have all the answers yet, things are looking promising for this burgeoning technology. Whether you are limb-different, or a transhumanist, the augmented future may not be so far away. You can however get a taste of what is to come on August 23rd, when Deus Ex: Mankind Divided hits PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.
Also for more information on the incredible work being done by Open Bionics, please visit their site here!