Have you seen this?
The news, which heralds a huge breakthrough for both 3-D printing and medical technology also plays into a frequent debate that we have around my house. Cyborgs. Bionic Men. Call it what you will, the technology to modify the human body grows every day. Right now the cost, the invasiveness and the expertise required to implant these things limits it’s use to medically justifiable cases only.
But what happens when the technology becomes normalized? A titanium rib cage would be a lot tougher than bone and there are people that might find that beneficial.
In this case, they used 3-D printing to match the person’s anatomy perfectly. But who says they couldn’t use the same technology to subtly alter it? Remember the story about the woman who had her lower ribs removed to get a thinner waistline? (Yeah, snopes says not true, by the way.)
How many women wish they had smaller ribcages, or narrower shoulders? How many men wish theirs were broader? Who wants to be taller, shorter, etc? Such cosmetic uses are a long time coming, but they’ll likely get here sooner or later.
What about more practical enhancements? My son can give you an endless list of things you can do with the right technology and a little bit of creativity. Like it or not, science fiction cyborgs are coming.
The debate around my house is two fold, how soon will this happen and what changes would you make to your body?
My son is pretty sure he’s never going to die. (Most teens feels this way, I think.) He thinks this generation will be the first to upload to robotic bodies and live forever. I am significantly less optimistic about the pace of progress. In fact, I’m not sure are going to manage to escape environmental disaster in the next few years.
Our other debate is about how much change the average person should, or would make. We’ve both seen plenty of movies with characters that carry a swiss army assortment of tools and gadgets in their cyborg arms, or on their person. We’ve seen bioengineered humanoid bodies that are capable of tremendous feats.
What we don’t agree on is how far men will go, when the technology is within our grasp. He sees a world filled with mechanoids and bioengineered bodies, with human brains uploaded into them. I see tools, in regular human hands, as a much more practical solution. He sees a world where people can, and will, alter their bodies constantly. I see the average person being more comfortable in the human form they were born to.
Some of the debate comes down to age. As a teen, he loves the idea of having superpowers. As an adult woman I end up asking, what would I do with them? Living inside a giant mechanoid robot or carrying around a titanium robot arm doesn’t help me in my daily life. Fixing injuries, improving health and longevity, I like those ideas. Creating a race of super mechanoids? Not sure what the point is.
My transgender status might counter-intuitively influence my feelings on the subject. I spent many years wishing I had a different body. Acceptance came hard. Even now there are plenty of minor things, truth be told, that I would tweak about my appearance if I could. But to give up human form wholly? I find I have little desire for that.
What do you think? When the technology to alter your body becomes available will be advising caution? Or first in line? What changes will you make?
In the meantime, you can read about some of the enhancements I would like to see in my Consortium Saga.