week 4/Cybernetics/Akhil Rangaraj

This week’s topic of medicine was very interesting, especially the movie clips. The concept of a dystopian future that is caused by technological advances that have been used for evil purposes is fascinating. One of my favorite movies of all time, Gattaca, pursues this theme with the ideas of genetic engineering taken to the extreme. Genome sequencing technologies are advancing rapidly, and there is talk of insurance agencies requesting genetic profiles to receive coverage. It actually might not be far fetched that in 50 years we will be living in the world of Gattaca where everyone’s flaws are engineered out at conception.
One of the more interesting links I saw on the class website was Kevin Warwicks’ site. Kevin Warwick is a professor of cybernetics in the United Kingdom. Although he has done much work in the fields of robotics and artificial intelligence, he is most well known for implanting various electronic elements into his body. He started out by implanting a simple RFID chip into his skin, which he used to control the lighting, heat, and other proximity based systems. He then implanted a neural sensor into the nerves near his wrist which was able to pick up detailed nerve impulses going to his hands. One of his colleagues was able to build a robotic hand that would mimic the actions his flesh and blood hand. He went even further and implanted a chip into his wife that allowed her to “feel” what he was “feeling” at a time, or a digital form of telepathy.

This research garnered quite a bit of controversy because it kind of changed the definition of humanity. Through the use of neural implants, the world could see a network of humanity, not just a network of humans. This research is also very important in that it can be used to help persons with physical disablities. One could replace or recreate limbs at will. This would improve the quality of life for the vast majority of people with disabilities. However, the ethical implications of this are very complex as well. Do we let people who are otherwise healthy replace their bodies with mechanical parts that are stronger, better, and faster than their flesh counterparts? What happens if the software used to drive this is corrupted or compromised? These questions are very interesting.

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