"With this in place, when I moved around the cybernetics building at Reading University, doors opened and lights came on automatically. The building's computer even said hello to me when I arrived in the morning.
In the late summer of 2001 it is planned for me to have a further implant. In this case the nervous system in my arm will be short--circuited, via a radio signal, with the nervous system of the computer. We will investigate how my movements can be remotely controlled and how much my emotions can be directly controlled by the computer. We will feed in ultrasonic information and try to bring about extra (human) sensory perception.
In the future I believe we will be able to send signals to and from human and machine brains. We will be able to directly harness the memory and mathematical capabilities of machines. We will be able to communicate across the internet by means of thought signals alone. Human speech and language, as we know it, will become obsolete."
2000 Jan, Kevin Warwick, prof of Cybernetics at Reading University, England
A plastic artificial heart. A pacemaker. If you were to tell your friend that a relative had had an artificial heart implanted would they burst out laughing? Would they tell you to stop being stupid?
If a relative, or a friend, told you that they had lost their arm; and that it had been replaced with a prosthetic limb - would you think it was impossible?
The answers to these questions are no, of course it can happen. Deaf people can have tiny artificial ears implanted - this is one of our major senses.
How many limbs can be transplanted / replaced ? There is no limit. A recent operation was a hand transplant - a person's crushed hand was replaced with a fresh one from the wrist. This operation was more complex and involved more work than a head transplant would. Er ... what? A head transplant is neurophysically possible. The main problem is the unknowns, such as how long would it take the head to regain control of vital organs and glands? The hormone levels would be different resulting in a change of character and possible body-shock.
Current technology allows us to grow manmade parts, sometimes using animals as temporary bodies. Professor Kevin Warwick is one doctor of many working on developments that affect the realm of Cyborg technology ... his Brain-Arm chip interceptor is designed to intercept commands from the brain and then re-send them to an arm. The possibility is of course that brain-controlled body parts could be custom designed.
Replacing hormone glands with cybernetic or perhaps the same ones from the heads original body will help. There will be more unknowns, and more conflicts to resolve no doubt, such as the body having a different blood pressure to what the brain functioned on before (solved with a through-the-neck valve?).
It's all mad isn't it? You can't chop someone's head off and put it on a new body! But imagine this theoretical...
Many of them. Blood type, tissue type, hormone control, vital organ failure, auto-immune failure ... how to perfect it without testing all these problems on people? Perhaps, some problems can be worked out before hand. Many won't.
How many medical practices are there out there? How many countries? How many cultures? Do you think that no-one has tried to do this? Already, some of the unknowns have been seen, already people are working out how to solve them.
Solutions come from technology. Micro technology, biotechnology, genetics and plain chemistry. If we can transplant a hand, we can transplant a foot. If we can build a synthetic arm that moves and grips with prongs and rods, then we can construct anything. All four limbs can be replaced with confidence. The hindrance is cost.
There will be a time when adverts on the TV show great new prosthetic limbs with newer and better features. We can build replacement parts that are stronger than the original, or more accurate, or both. How about a replacement arm that is removable? Conceivably, you could sit at a computer and use your prosthetic limb to type. You could remove it to go to sleep. Then in the morning you could put on a different strong arm, and go do the gardening. Cyborg power tools that attach to standard interfaces on the end of certain limbs.
You could play with that - the standard interfaces could have attachments made for them so they can accept protocols from other standards - i.e., a transformer that would enable a leg to be attached to an arm segment.
As we use synthetic limbs they become cheaper, as the manufacturing runs become larger. They become more complex.
Coupling the massive computer revolution that we are going through with the cybernetics one that is starting, synthetic limbs is a market that will one day be profitable.
There are so many people, and some of them will want to have limbs removed for the purpose of using the new gadgets offered on mechanical limbs. Cripples will have an advantage in that they find these limbs offered to them and they would be foolish to decline.
Telephones were invented for the sole purpose of conveying important messages if there was trouble - it was never considered that they might be used for every day use. Computers were considered a novelty way of doing large sums; no user would want a 100ft monster in their house! The internet was a method for transferring scientific data and was never considered a way of having fun. Prosthetic limbs were invented to produce limbs that looked real. Now a fake leg can hold you up. A fake hip can keep you standing. In the future, they will outlive this novelty like telephones, computers and the internet have.
Philosophy Now. Magazine. Published by Anja Publications Ltd.