Sven Johnson reports back from the Future Imperfect once again, rounding up the hottest body-mods, elective surgeries, prosthetic add-ons and extensions of the human condition from a year that’s probably less distant from our own than we suspect.
I don’t normally care for lists, especially at this time of year when we’re inundated with “Best of the Year” lists, “Worst of the Year” lists, and of course the obligatory “New Year’s Resolution List” lists. However, as a pre-emptive strike, I thought I’d jump in with my own contribution; something perhaps a bit different than the usual fare. So without further delay, here’s my “Top Ten Substitutive Pieces List”. Continue reading The Top Ten Substitutive Pieces List
Here’s an update for those of you who, like me, eagerly await the availability of your cyberpunk implant suite – experiments with using silk as a substrate for miniaturised electronic circuits show that they can integrate with animal body tissue without any adverse effects or biological rejection. [via NextBigFuture; image by Automatomato] Which means we can not only make better neural interfaces, but aesthetic gadgets like LED ‘tattoos’ to live under our skin:
To make the devices, silicon transistors about one millimeter long and 250 nanometers thick are collected on a stamp and then transferred to the surface of a thin film of silk. The silk holds each device in place, even after the array is implanted in an animal and wetted with saline, causing it to conform to the tissue surface. In a paper published in the journal Applied Physics Letters, the researchers report that these devices can be implanted in animals with no adverse effects. And the performance of the transistors on silk inside the body doesn’t suffer.
The biocompatibility of silicon is not as well established as that of silk, though all studies so far have shown the material to be safe. It seems to depend on the size and shape of the silicon pieces, so the group is working to minimize them. These devices also require electrical connections of gold and titanium, which are biocompatible but not biodegradable. Rogers is developing biodegradable electrical contacts so that all that would remain is the silicon.
The group is currently designing electrodes built on silk as interfaces for the nervous system. Electrodes built on silk could, Litt says, integrate much better with biological tissues than existing electrodes, which either pierce the tissue or sit on top of it. The electrodes might be wrapped around individual peripheral nerves to help control prostheses. Arrays of silk electrodes for applications such as deep-brain stimulation, which is used to control Parkinson’s symptoms, could conform to the brain’s crevices to reach otherwise inaccessible regions. “It would be nice to see the sophistication of devices start to catch up with the sophistication of our basic science, and this technology could really close that gap,” says Litt.
In other words, we’ve pretty much got the hardware capability to interface machines and computers with our brains and nervous systems, what with these silk circuits for basic actuators and the previously-mentioned optogenetic technologies for deep duplex information channels. Now all we need to do is reverse-engineer the nervous system’s protocols and write a programming manual for the human brain… simple, right?
File under “elective implant technology that I don’t need but really wish I could afford anyway”: the bone-anchored next-generation hearing aid with audio jack input options.
Older-style hearing aids amplify all sounds, making it almost impossible for wearers to hear conversations in noisy environments. They also interfere with frequencies used by mobile and fixed phones and often emit high-pitched whistling sounds. But the newer processors, costing about $6000 each, shut out background noise, giving users up to 25 per cent better hearing, and can be attached directly to MP3 music players or wireless headsets for talking on the phone, Cochlear’s territory manager, Katrina Martin, said.
They were useful for people with congenitally blocked middle ears, chronic infections that had eaten away tiny bones in the middle ear used for sound conduction, or babies born with closed ear canals, she said.
The processors must be removed for showers or swimming but can last up to 15 years.
Once you’ve got that basic hardware installed, the sky’s the limit for crazy bolt-ons and extras. Real-time digital signal processing, on-board recording and playback… the first person to write an open-source filter for screening out people on public transport talking loudly into their phones is going to be very popular. [via BoingBoing; image by jessicafm]
This month’s fiction offering here at Futurismic is a little darker than our last story. In “Glassface”, James Trimarco takes the theme of repressive immigration control and weaves in a story of personal redemption.
It’s moody and noir with a bitter-sweet flavour, and I like it a lot – we hope you do, too.
by James Trimarco
The sun burns off the last of the yellow morning fog as the crane drops the shipping containers onto the pier. The pavement shudders with the deep boom of metal on asphalt, then the sound bounces off some buildings and hits us again, softer now. Then the hook lifts away and we head over for the usual routine.
Mackenzie hauls open the gate on the first container. Inside, it’s dark as a tomb.
“Okay, bionic boy,” he says. “You see anything?”
The joke hasn’t been funny for a couple months, and I let him know it.
“Uh oh!” he shoots back. “He’s cranky—better check his batteries!” When he laughs it sounds like he’s choking. I crawl into the container just to get away from it. Continue reading NEW FICTION: GLASSFACE by James Trimarco
It’s the first of July – time for your monthly dose of Futurismic fiction! This time, we’ve got a story that probably comes closer to the sort of thing we try to achieve with our blogging output than anything we’ve yet published. “Homeostasis” is a plainly-told story about real people adapting to a plausible piece of tomorrow’s life-saving medical technology; Carlos Hernandez understands that science fiction can pitch hard and still have a heart. Enjoy!
by Carlos Hernandez
Eight seconds of footage, from a security camera so old it surrounds every object in the picture with rainbows. Man at a gas station robbing the attendant. Pantyhose flattening his nose. Waving a knife like a snakecharmer’s pungi.
Customer walks in. Good-looking guy, California hair, white as a country club. Has no idea; walks in texting. The robber runs over and slams the knife through the top of his head. In to the hilt.
On 4chan’s boards, someone posts an animated gif that infinitely loops the last two seconds. The word “pwnd” flashes at the end. Dozens of people respond with “lulz.” Continue reading NEW FICTION: HOMEOSTASIS by Carlos Hernadez