July 5, 2015

Could the latest cyborg technology spell the end for humanity as we know it?

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The future could see us seeing more, following successful successful bionic eye implants placed into the retinas of patients blinded by the degenerative eye disease retinitis pigmentosa.

The Argus II Retinal Prosthesis System includes a small electronic eye implant, accompanied by an almost invisible video camera attached to a pair of glasses, and a video processing unit that the patient can carry in a pouch or a pocket. Trials were carried out on 30 subjects in the U.S.A and Europe. 89 percent of patients reported that they received strong images when using the device.

This current technology is limited to helping patients with a specific type of blindness to see again but we can expect to see it expanded to help other types of blindness and eye injury soon but there is even more exciting bionic eye technology on the horizon.

Telescopic vision

Eric Tremblay's telescopic contact lens, compared to a quarter (for scale). (Image Credit: Eric Tremblay and Joe Ford / EPFL)

Eric Tremblay’s telescopic contact lens, compared to a quarter (for scale). (Image Credit: Eric Tremblay and Joe Ford / EPFL)

Several companies, have developed technology that will allow us to push the limits of human vision beyond its natural capabilities. Yes we are talking about true bionic vision as dreamed up by comic book authors and the creators of the 6 Million Dollar Man.

British Columbia based company Ocumetrics have developed a lens that can be injected into the eye with a syringe to replace your existing retina and would currently allow you to improve 20/20 vision by 3x and give “perfect results no matter how crummy your eyes are”.

According to their CEO Dr Gareth Webb, “If you can just barely see the clock at 10 feet, when you get the Bionic Lens you can see the clock at 30 feet away,”. The surgery is said to be painless and takes only 8 minutes. The company will be starting trials on animals and blind humans soon.

At the same time Eric Tremblay of the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne in Switzerland has developed a lens, this time a contact lens rather than an actual implant, with a very thin, reflective telescope which can be controlled with the eye muscles to zoom in and out.

These lenses are very close to being used for medical reasons and probably not too many years away from potential military application. We have to get used to the idea that it’s only a matter of time before humans will be using devices like this and other potential cybernetic advancements to augment themselves. It’s not hard to imagine a world where an elite use this kind of technology to give themselves even more advantages and widen the gulf between rich and poor.

Cyborg cockroaches

In related news the BBC have reported that a team of engineers and entomologists at Texas A&M University have modified living cockroaches so that they can be controlled remotely and used to access difficult to reach areas with small cameras on their back.

Although this may seem small it does become interesting when looked at in context with the above advancements in human bionics. If we can control a living creature and also make modifications and improvements to the human body then the idea of a malicious overlord with an army of cyborg warriors at their disposal, no longer seems like such a fairy story.

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