New Body Parts

Hip Replacement

As I gear up for Hip Replacement #2, my sister sent this funny comic to me. 


I heard that something like a million joint replacements are now done in the U.S. every year. 


And these procedures are expected to increase precipitously with projections by 2030 of:


– 3.48 million knee replacements (a factor of almost 7 times)


– 572,000 hip replacements (an almost 2-fold increase)


This also means that revision surgeries will start to rise rapidly as replacements wear out or are in need of replacement themselves. 


Thank G-d that they have these procedures to help people–I don’t know how people lived with the incessant pain and degenerative mobility even a generation ago. 


What’s it like to have a body part inserted to augment your own?


Just ask this horse! 😉

High-Tech Dance Shoes

These shoes are called Kangoo Jumps.



They provide the high-tech bounce for dancing, running, or other exercise.



This video is from their 2014 International Festival in Florida that I had the opportunity to watch.



Amazing what the participants were able to do and the fun they had.



I’d like a pair and to be able to kick up my heels like that too. 😉



(Source Video: Andy Blumenthal)

Robot Man

Robot Man

Don’t know exactly what it is about this little robot guy, but I really liked it.

The simplicity of the body and limbs joined by the connector joints and the head as just a clear crown on the rest.

To me, it looked relatively realistic as how robots of the future might actually look.

Humanoid, but so sleek that they are us but in many ways a step up from our aging selves.

Perhaps, someday the brains of humans and the bodies of machines will really come together in a better alternative to ourselves.

Living (indefinitely) longer and even pain free in bodies that carry mind and soul into the future.

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Amazon Delivery – By Crunk-Car, If You Like

Amazon Delivery - By Crunk-Car, If You Like

Jeff Bezos of Amazon is one very smart guy and when he announces that he is interested in drones delivering your next online order that makes for a lot of grandstanding.

But really how is a dumb drone delivering an order of diapers or a book so exciting.

Aside from putting a lot of delivery people at USPS, UPS, and FedEx out of work, what does the consumer get out of it?

Honestly, I don’t care if if the delivery comes by Zike-Bike, Crunk-Car, Zumble-Zay, Bumble-Boat, or a Gazoom, as Dr. Seuss would say–I just care that it gets here fast, safely, and cheaply.

Will a drone be able to accomplish those things, likely–so great, send the drone over with my next order, but this doesn’t represent the next big technological leap.

It doesn’t give us what the real world of robotics in the future is offering: artificial intelligence, natural language processing, augmentation of humans, or substitution by robots altogether, to do things stronger, faster, and more precisely, and even perhaps companionship to people.

Turning surveillance and attack drones into delivery agents is perhaps a nice gesture to make a weapon into an everyday service provider.

And maybe the Octocopters even help get products to customers within that holy grail, one day timeframe, that all the retailers are scampering for.

It’s certainly a great marketing tool–because it’s got our attention and we’re talking about it.

But I’ll take a humanoid robot sporting a metallic smile that can actually interact with people, solve problems, and perform a multitude of useful everyday functions–whether a caregiver, a bodyguard, or even a virtual friend (e.g. Data from Star Trek)–over a moving thingamajig that Dr. Seuss foresaw for Marvin K. Mooney. 😉

Warrior Augmentation

Warrior Augmentation

I love the direction DARPA is going in with robotic exoskeletons for our warfighters.

Helping soldiers perform their jobs easier, more capably, and with less injury using human augmentation is good sense.

Military men and women often carry weight in excess of 100 pounds for long distances and perform other tasks that challenge human physical endurance.

Creating a durable “soft, lightweight under[or over]suit that would help reduce injuries and fatigue and improve soldiers ability to efficiently perform their missions” is an smart and achievable goal, and one that would give us great advantage in the battlefield.

The timeframe of 2012-2016 is an aggressive deadline to form the mix of core technologies, integrate them, and develop a wearable prototype.

I think the goal of having this be “potentially wearable by 90% of the U.S. Army population” is notable as not something that is for just special forces or unique missions, but rather something that can medically protect and make for a superior fighting force for all of our men and women.

This is really only the beginning of human augmentation with sensors, storage, processors, and robotics to make our warriors fight with the best that both man and machine has to offer. It’s not a fight of man versus machine, but of man and machine.

Seeing and hearing farther and with more clarity, connecting and communicating timely and under all conditions, processing loads of data into actionable information, fighting and performing mission with superior skills (strength, speed, dexterity, and endurance) and integrated weapon systems, guiding warriors to their targets and home safely–these are goals that man-machine augmentation can bring to reality.

And of course, the sheer medical and rehabilitative benefits of these technologies in caring for the sick and disabled in society is enough to “pedal to metal” drive these efforts alone.

Like on the prescient show from the 70’s, The Six Million Dollar Man, “We can rebuild him. We have the technology…Better than he was before. Better…stronger…faster.”

And I would add healthier and more deadly! 😉

(Source Photo: here with attribution to DARPA and Boston Dynamics)

Those Are Some Prosthetics

Wow, prosthetics have come a long way–these are tough!

This video from Biodapt shows their high-performance Moto Knee being used in a variety of action sports including snowmobiling, motor biking, mountain biking, horseback riding, water skiing, snow boarding, and jet skiing.

Bloomberg BusinessWeek (11 July 2013) explains how the Moto Knee has hydraulic components that provide “tension and range of motion for intense physical activity.”

They cost around $6,000 and don’t replace the regular walking version, but Mike Schultz, the developer understands the need for these advanced prosthetics having lost a leg himself in a 2008 competitive snowmobiling accident.

I think it’s wonderful that these high-tech devices are being made available for disabled people to be able to do a wide range of exciting activities.

My hope is that as the technology continues to advance that we can have–like a person’s legs–one prosthetic device that is adaptive for use in every day use as well as more intense activities and sports.

It is hard to imagine people voluntarily trading their body parts for mechanical implants–but one day, in the not too distant future, these mechanical limbs will not only be a substitute for repair of real body parts, but will actually provide some superior capabilities–they will be used for body augmentation–and thus even be desirable by those who haven’t lost limbs.

What gives a leg up to prosthetics, as Hugh Herr in the Wall Street Journal (12 July 2013) put it is “that the designed parts of the body can improve in time, whereas the normal body, the biological body, degrades in time.”

With regenerative medicine and replacement parts by design, more than ever our physical bodies will be just the transient vessel that houses our heart, mind and soul–that which really makes us, us. 😉

Virtual Government–Yes or Nonsense

Virtual Government--Yes or Nonsense

The Atlantic (2 June 2013) asks why do we even need a government these days–why not just have a virtual one–where you just “buy” the government you want, the size, the capabilities, and you tailor it for your needs?

The author sees government as menu-driven, like a videogame, by a “rotating dial,” where you choose whatever government suites you best.

In this world of virtual government, people are seen turning to private sector alternatives to get capabilities, customer service, and prices that are better than the government’s–in some cases, this may actually work, like with private insurance.

However, this article goes beyond this notion to where government is not tied to the physical boundaries of the real world, but rather to virtual jurisdictions, citizenship, and even values held or abrogated.

While I agree that raising the bar on government is a good thing–expect more for less–and partnering with the private sector can make government more efficient, the idea of wholesale shopping government around is quite ludicrous:

– Will we hire mercenaries instead of having an armed forces?

– Will we rely solely on CEOs to conduct our diplomacy?

– Will justice be doled out by vigilantes?

– Will private inspectors alone regulate food, drug, and the financial system?

While compared to an iPad wheel for making service selections, Government is not the same as a library of songs or movies that one scrolls through to pick and choose what one likes and dislikes.

Like the old joke about the difference between family and friends…you can choose your friends, but you can’t just choose your family!

While government can provide services virtually, it cannot be a government entirely sliced up by choice–where you opt-in for what you like and opt-out for what you don’t–if that were the case, we would all selfishly take and never contribute to the greater good.

For example, “Hey, I like social entitlements such as Social Security and Medicare, but I don’t particularly care for contributing to space exploration or research and development for certain diseases that I may not be genetically predisposed to.”

There is a civic commons where we must share–the prime example is a fire department. If I choose not to contribute, then the fire department still has to come to put out the fire or else it can spread to others.

In the end, we are not just a collective of individuals, but a nation bound together by core values and beliefs, and shared interests and investments in the future–and where by sharing the risks and burdens, we fall or rise together.

Like anything that you are seriously apart of–family, religion, organizations, and work–we take the good and work on the bad, rather than just immaturely throwing it all or in innumerable parts away.

Yes, government should only do functions that are inherently governmental, and we should avail ourselves of all the talent and expertise in the private sector for the rest, but no, we should not wholly think that we can replace government with loose and shifting ties on the Internet and purely profit-driven private sector players.

If Hezbollah and Al-Qaeda serving as modern virtual governments are the best examples of what can be accomplished, then we should all be running (not walking) to good ‘ol Democracy of the U.S. of A.

Virtual government as a way to provision services as well as competition and augmentation by the private sector is great, but becoming a stateless state will not solve the large and complex problems we must face, not alone, but together.

Even though bureaucratic waste and abuse is bad, the system of debate, negotiation, checks and balances, basic human rights, and voting is good, and we should not just throw out the precious baby with the dirty bathwater. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Kurzweil, Right and Wrong

Kurzweil, Right and Wrong

Ray Kurzweil the famous futurist is an amazing person, but like everyone he has his good and bad days.

When it comes to the Singularity–Kurzweil had a very good day.

With the accelerating speed of technology change, the advent of super intelligence and superhuman powers is already here (and continuing to advance) with:

Smartphones all-in-one devices give us the power of the old mainframe along with the communication capabilities to inform and share by phone, text, photo, video, and everything social media.

Google Glass is bringing us wearable IT and augmented reality right in front of our very eyes.

Exoskeletons and bioengineering is giving us superhuman strength and ability to lift more, run faster and further, see and hear better, and more.

Embedded chips right into our brains are going to give us “access to all the world’s information” at the tip of our neural synapses whenever we need it (Wall Street Journal).

In a sense, we are headed toward the melding of man and machine, as opposed to theme of the Terminator movie vision of man versus machine–where man is feared to lose in a big way.

In man melded with machine–we will have augmentations in body and brain–and will have strength, endurance, and intelligence beyond our wildest dreams.

However, Kurzweil has a bad day is when it comes to his prediction of our immortality.

Indeed, Kurzweil himself, according to the Journal “takes more than 150 pills and supplements a day” believing that we can “outrun our own deaths.”

Kurzweil mistakenly believes that the speed of medical evolution will soon be “adding a year of life expectancy every year,” so if only we can live until then, we can “Live long enough to live forever.”

But, just as our super intelligence will not make us omniscient, and our superhuman powers will not make us omnipotent or omnipresent, our super advances in medicine will not make us, as we are, immortal.

Actually, I cannot even imagine why Kurzweil would want to live forever given his fear-inspiring Singularity, where advances in machine and artificial intelligence outpaces man’s own evolutionary journey.

Kurzweil should knock off some of the pills and get back to humankind’s learning and growth and stop his false professing that humans will become like G-d, instead of like a better humans. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Superabled, Not Disabled

 

This is a video of South African sprinter and Olympic hopeful, Oscar Pistorius–a double amputee fitted with curved, carbon-fiber prosthetic “Cheetah Blades” that can “challenge the fastest sprinters in the world.” 

There was a fascinating article about this in the Wall Street Journal today (2-3 June 2012)–on how high-tech implants are being put in people’s bodies and brains, changing them from disabled to “superabled.” 

The article explains how “the goals for many amputees is no longer to reach a ‘natural’ level of abilities, but to exceed it, using whatever cutting-edge technology is available.” 

And just like body implants are helping spur superhuman abilities, so too neural implants can stimulate brain activity to focus attention, faster learning, hone skills, and augment performance. 

Last September, Tim Hemmes, paralyzed from a motocycle accident, was able to use a brain implant to move a mechanical arm, just with his thoughts! 

“Technology can give us brains and brawn” and those with disabilities and the elderly who have lost mental and physical capacities will be early adopters–“they have a lot to gain and are willing to face the risk inherent in new medical technology.” 

There are many ethical questions when it comes to human implants–especially when it comes to the possibility of people voluntarily substituting technology for healthy body parts–just to have the Steve Austin-like, Six Million Dollar Man, bionic capabilities. 

Another question is once we start replacing our body parts–our very selves–with technology augmentation, at what point do we stop being us?  And at what point, do we potentially stop being human and become something else–half human, half machine–or even more machine than human? 

Like the mythical creature, the centaur, which was half man and half horse–it seems like humans have always wondered about what makes them who they are and ultimately what they might become if they try to co-exist or meld with something altogether different. 

By combining technology into our humanity, we are becoming something different–maybe a super human, if we use it ethically and for the good. Or perhaps we may become something more malevolent, if we go on to abuse our superabled powers to dominate or otherwise harm those less souped-up than us. 

Only time will tell where technological implantation and human augmentation ultimately takes us–it holds both enormous promise that we need to leverage and frightening risks that must be carefully planned and managed.