I recently finished a short Science-fiction story — “Cody” by Pat Cadigan — that I found in my November issue of Clarkesworld, a Sci-fi/fiction magazine.
They talked about a “courier” who transported heavily encrypted information in his blood. The story is superb, but I find the ethical dilemma it brings to light even more interesting:
When/If we arrive at a level of technology where we can engineer cells to do almost anything, What limits will we set?
Will we still consider the human body as sacred — using biotech only to heal, never to improve –, or will we consider the “body” as just a vessel for our mind, customizable at will ?
There are a few Fiction genres (there’s a novel, Snow Crash — definitely on my Reading list now — that apparently has a superb cyberpunk aspect , like the picture above shows)that focus on the “limit” between man and machine/biotech, but how profound will this limit be ? Will it even exist?
If you lost your legs, would you go the extra mile to not just regain, but improve upon them?
Ok, that’s actually easy –> OF COURSE you would, it’s your legs.
The real question isn’t if you’re ready to accept a semi-artificial replacement that might just be better than the original, but whether you’d go the distance and CHOOSE to replace, for example, your perfectly functional eyes with these:
But this might, in a way, still be described as simply Augmented Humanity, AKA., we’re not adding anything NEW, just replacing old “components” with newer, more functional ones.
It’s when you enter REALLY deep into fiction that you begin so see the kind of modifications where you’re not just passively adding or removing, you’re literally changing the definition of what a human IS.
I’m talking about:
- bionic wings for personal flight — integrated directly into your skeleton and neural stem, of course ! –.
- Augmented respiratory systems (think adding the ability to breath underwater — a classic — or breath differently composed atmospheres, filtering out chemical and biological contaminants)
- “Augmented” metabolisms (One idea I had a few years back : If some insects can digest wood because of their gut bacteria, why not engineer said gut bacteria to be able to live in the human gut ?)
- more limbs ! (… a few tentacular “arms” ? Octopus are known for the flexibility of their limbs, we might be able to use that flexibility in manual work !) + Who hasn’t dreamt of being Shiva 😉
- Symbiotic organisms for filtering harmful chemicals from your bloodstream, anyone ?
Personally, I’d jump at the chance to get an extra (fully functional) limb, or bionic eye, but I’m a future scientist… We’re not known for our mental balance !
Of course, It’d also scare the HELL out of people if I were to suddenly pat them on the head with an actual prehensile tentacle ;).
I’m currently going through the Fizzle introduction courses, and the one I’m in — Finding your Subject — has led me to evaluate a dozen or so possible subjects with a Weighted Decision Matrix (fun little tool, I’ll probably use that again in the future !).
I’ve narrowed it down to one of these (or a combination…):
- Wearable Technology (+- App Development).
The final part of the course is to write 5 blog posts ( + a hypothetical product outline) on each of the ideas.
This is number 3/5 of the Biotechnology subject.
PS: The Fizzle Show is an excellent podcast, go listen !