Human Augmentation

Human augmentation is a field of research that aims to enhance human abilities through the use of medicine or technology. This may include genetic modification, implants or the use of external tools, such as eyeglasses, “bionic” limbs or other wearable devices.

Human Augmentation

 

Human Augmentation

The line between biology & technology

 

The field of human augmentation (sometimes referred to as “Human 2.0”) focuses on creating cognitive and physical improvements as an integral part of the human body. An example is using active control systems to create limb prosthetics with characteristics that can exceed the highest natural human performance.

These devices provide immense psychological benefits to their users. We’re starting to see more advanced examples of prosthetics every day that get closer and closer to the real thing, creating important new opportunities from the people who need this technology.

 

1. Replication

The first level of human augmentation is replication. This refers to any augmentation that replicates something a typical person can already do. You’ve likely seen examples of replication in your own life—take prosthetics, for example. A prosthetic leg or arm doesn’t provide the individual with an ability that most humans wouldn’t already have. It simply replicates a preexisting human function and provides it to someone who may not have had it previously.

Replication example-

1.1 Naked Prosthetics: A company that creates custom hand prosthetics for individuals who have had their fingers amputated. They are one of the first finger prosthetics manufacturers to provide their users with extremely high levels of dexterity.

1.2 eSight: A wearable device similar to glasses that provides legally blind individuals with the ability to see their environment. The device has cameras on the front that take in the environment in near-eye quality and display it on a screen that sits right in front of the wearer’s eyes.

1.3 MotionSavvy: A platform that translates sign language into speech and speech into sign language, acting as a personal translator for deaf people.

1.4 Cochlear Implants: Cochlear is one of the first companies to develop such a product that restores hearing without requiring an external hearing device to be worn.

1.5 Bioprinting: The process of creating organic tissues (organs, bones, skin, etc.) using 3D printing techniques. While this technology is still in its earliest stages, it has the potential to completely redefine the medical industry and how we typically think of healthcare.

 

2. Supplementing Human Ability

The second level of human augmentation is supplementation. This takes replication one step further by enabling us to do things that are already humanly possible, but better—run faster, jump higher, endure more.

Supplementation Examples-

2.1 Exoskeletons: Wearable, mechanical devices that can be worn on the outside of the body. They typically provide the wearer with artificial strength and endurance. The Sarcos Guardian is an example of an industrial exoskeleton that allows a human worker to lift up to 200 pounds, perform precise operations with heavy machinery, and handle repetitive motions without strain.

2.2 Neuralink: Another project by Elon Musk with the ultimate goal of creating a brain-computer interface (BCI). If successful, the project would allow individuals to interact with a computer on a neural level.

2.3 HoloLens 2: It is a mixed reality headset from Microsoft that allows people to visualize and manipulate objects in holographic form. The device has many commercial and industrial uses, such as 3D computer-aided design and design collaboration, employee training and virtual instruction, and gaming.

3. Exceeding Human Ability

The final level of human augmentation allows humans to exceed normal abilities. Flying, for example, counts as exceeding human ability.While this kind of augmentation is often the most exciting, it’s still the most far off in the future—leaving fewer examples. The majority of current applications involve special use cases, like the military or specific industries.

Exceeding Examples-

3.1 Artificial Blood Cell: While still theoretical, research by Robert Freitas Jr. has explored the possibility of creating artificial blood cells. This idea was born from research into mammals—whales, dolphins, etc.—who can hold their breath underwater for long periods of time. The assumption is that their blood cells are better at storing oxygen, which we might be able to recreate.

3.2 Nanobot: Even though the word rings of science fiction, these have a very high potential of becoming a normal part of the medical industry. According to Wikipedia, a nanobot is “a robot that allows precise interactions with nanoscale objects, or can manipulate with nanoscale resolution.” These bots can be deployed into the human body to perform specific tasks that do things the human immune system can’t on its own, such as targeting and attacking certain diseases and cancers the human immune system struggles with.

3.3 Synthetic Memory Chip: It’s no secret that hard drives are much better at retaining their memory than we are. They are also able to access that memory with greater speed and accuracy. This idea motivated neuroscientist Theodore Berger to explore synthetic memory chips that can be installed in the human brain. While still conceptual, the project could allow people to have “perfect” memories that never forget information.

Augmentation may predictively assist with health issues, creating more efficient healthcare systems. Technological enhancements may furthermore make our bodies more efficient and improve our ability to problem-solve.

-Musaddik Habib

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