Tag Archives: cyborgs

My heart no longer beats

HeartMateIIPhysicians have successfully implanted an artificial heart that does not beat:

Salina Mohamed So’ot has no pulse. But she is very much alive.

The 30-year-old administrative assistant is the first recipient here to get a new artificial heart that pumps blood continuously, the reason why there are no beats on her wrist.

An interesting development. I wonder if the efficiency and reliability of such artificial hearts will ever be such that people elect to replace their existing hearts with them even before their biological hearts wear out?

[via Slashdot, from The Straits Times][image from on Technology Review]

Our new cyborg insect overlords

livesilkmothContinuing the robotic insect theme: researchers in Japan are developing the means to recreate the brains of insects in electronic circuits and thus modify existing insect brains to perform useful tasks, like finding narcotics, and earthquake victims:

In an example of ‘rewriting’ insect brain circuits, Kanzaki’s team has succeeded in genetically modifying a male silkmoth so that it reacts to light instead of odour, or to the odour of a different kind of moth.

Such modifications could pave the way to creating a robo-bug which could in future sense illegal drugs several kilometres away, as well as landmines, people buried under rubble, or toxic gas, the professor said.

Kanzaki also observes how remarkably adaptable biological organisms are:

“Humans walk only at some five kilometres per hour but can drive a car that travels at 100 kilometres per hour. It’s amazing that we can accelerate, brake and avoid obstacles in what originally seem like impossible conditions,” he said.

Our brain turns the car into an extension of our body,” he said, adding that “an insect brain may be able to drive a car like we can. I think they have the potential.

It certainly raises interesting questions about how to achieve intelligent machinery: why reinvent the wheel creating strong AI? We can reverse engineer animals that fly or hunt then adapt them to our purposes.

[from Physorg][image from Physorg]

Bionic eye breakthrough

eye_closeUS company Second Sight have developed a bionic eye system that allows a man who has been blind for 30 years to see flashes of light:

He says he can now follow white lines on the road, and even sort socks, using the bionic eye, known as Argus II. It uses a camera and video processor mounted on sunglasses to send captured images wirelessly to a tiny receiver on the outside of the eye.

The Argus II is designed to help sufferers of retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative eye condition.

[article form the BBC][image from Mazintosh – Fotogranada on flickr]

Charles Lindbergh, transhumanist

charles-lindberghIn 1927, Charles Lindbergh became the first person to fly non-stop across the Atlantic. His single-seat, single-engine monoplane – the Spirit of St. Louis – made the flight from New York to Paris in just over 33 hours, catapulting Lindbergh to instant stardom.

Initially, Lindbergh used his new-found fame to extol the virtues of commercial aviation; later, as leverage in the America First campaign against US involvement in the Second World War. In anticipation of the UK publication of David M. Friedman’s book, The Immortalists, journalist Brendan O’Neill highlights on a lesser-known chapter in the Lindbergh story [for BBC Magazine];

In the 1930s, after his historic flight over the Atlantic, Lindbergh hooked up with Alexis Carrel, a brilliant surgeon born in France but who worked in a laboratory at the Rockefeller Institute in Manhattan. Carrel – who was a mystic as well as a scientist – had already won a Nobel Prize for his pioneering work on the transplantation of blood vessels. But his real dream was a future in which the human body would become, in Friedman’s words, “a machine with constantly repairable or replaceable parts”.

This is where Lindbergh entered the frame. Carrel hoped that his own scientific nous combined with Lindbergh’s machine-making proficiency (Lindbergh had, after all, already helped design a plane that flew non-stop to Paris) would make his fantasy about immortal machine-enabled human beings a reality.

But while the Lindbergh-Carrel duo made some significant breakthroughs, including ‘a perfusion pump that could keep a human organ alive outside of the body’ (and precursor to the heart-lung machine), their partnership had a darker side. In a New York Times review of The Immortalists, Kyla Dunn comments on the sinister undertones of these early cyborg dreams;

“We cannot escape the fact that our civilization was built, and still depends, upon the quality rather than the equality of men,” Lindbergh wrote in his 1948 treatise “Of Flight and Life.” As late as 1969, he remained concerned that “after millions of years of successful evolution, human life is now deteriorating genetically,” warning in Life magazine that “we must contrive a new process of evolutionary selection” in order to survive.

Of course, it’s worth noting that eugenicist views were fairly common in the 1930s, and some of the claims made by Friedman in The Immortalists have been criticised as based on circumstantial evidence. Either way, the New York Times has published the first chapter of The Immortalists online, for your perusal.

[Image from the Library of Congress, via Wikimedia]

Australian police boss fears clones and cyborgs

It sounds as if the Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police is a science fiction fan – one who takes it a little too seriously. During a recent conference, he suggested that the police forces of the near future will have to deal with a variety of new threats to law and order, ranging from tech-savvy small-time crooks to rogue clones and human-robot hybrids. Personally, I’m not entirely convinced this isn’t just a viral marketing ploy for the forthcoming Blade Runner re-release.