Human augmentation and digital technology has impacted humanity in many different ways. This blog post explores the positive effects it has had on therapeutic human augmentation e.g. augmentation for medical reasons and required human augmentation. Technology is used regularly within medicine to augment humans in order to either save their lives or enhance them. An example of human augmentation designed to enhance someone in medical need is through the use of prosthetics for amputees.
Technology and research have allowed the development of high tech mechanical limbs controlled by nerve impulses and microprocessors. Compared to the early stages of prosthetist where prosthetic limbs were crafted from wood, metal and leather todays prosthetics are state of the art designed with space age materials that go beyond physical appearance and enhance amputees ability to live normal lives (Thurston, 2007). The value these technology enhanced prosthetics have on the lives of humans living without limbs is vast. Angel Giuffria a 28 year old self claimed ‘bionic actress’ wears a high-tech bionic arm. She explains how as she’s grown up each prosthetic has become more developed and advanced due to technology. With the use of her bionic arm she has gone onto live a normal life and built an acting career (Giuffia, cited in Lewis, 2018). This shows how digital technology and human augmentation in the name of medicine has first-hand had a positive impact on the way human’s live their lives. What before was something that disadvantaged humans due to lack of technological developments is now something allowing them to lead normal lives.
A further example of human augmentation to fill a medical need is through the use of exoskeletons. Exoskeletons are being developed to provide humans with extra strength and dexterity with the aim in most cases to help the paralyzed walk. LOPES exoskeleton allows patients to not only be guided by the robot but also guide it independently allowing them to walk without the need of others (Veneman, Kruidhof, Hekman, Klkelenkamp, Van Asseldonk & Van Der Jooij, 2007). Clearly, giving the disabled the ability to live independent, normal lives through the use of human augmentation is a positive effect on the world due to the little reliance they will have on others.
Human augmentation through the use of exoskeletons for medical reasons is not the only aim for their use. The desirable aspect of their industrial style strength and technical abilities beyond those of humans makes them an interest of those looking to achieve required human augmentation where technology is used to fill a role. An example of this is where human augmentation such as exoskeletons are incorporated into the military. The need for soldiers within the military to beat fatigue, travel further and carry more has always been an aspiration. A robotic type suit such as the Human Universal Load Carrier allows soldiers to carry more without feeling the effects of the weight. This protype would have major benefits relating to the physical implications of being in the military and help reduce some of the negatives to the job (Exoskeleton Report, 2016). This example shows further positives to human augmentation and digital technology as it has the potential to make life risking jobs less taxing.
Although there are many positive effects to human augmentation on humanity there are also potential negatives relating to how people use digital technology and human augmentation to fil a desire e.g. voluntary augmentation. A main concern with this is the negatives wearable technology can have on the privacy of other humans. Looking firstly at the issue of data privacy fears relating to the use of digital technologies like the fit bit. This digital technology has the ability to record your activity, exercise, sleep and more with its aim to help the consumer develop a healthier lifestyle (Fitbit, 2018). The concerns centre around who has access to this information and what they can potentially do with it (Varonis, 2015). It is a worry that locational information may be tracked and used in a potentially dangerous way. This shows one negative to the use of digital technology regarding privacy.
A further negative around the use of augmented reality is the concerns around the dangers of augmented reality. Augmented reality allows humans to use digital technology to view the world by supplementing virtual objects into their environment (Azuma, Baillot, Behringer, Feiner, Julier & MacIntyre, 2001). Concerns around this specific digital technology relate to the worry of humans loosing grip on reality. If we see a constant version of virtual, augmented reality then at some point it is possible we will no longer know what is real and what is not. Also experiences only being experienced on a screen in virtual form is likely to have a negative effect of humans social abilities. Social and cultural experiences are needed in order for humans to develop emotionally this lack of interaction with the real world will reduce communication skills and social ability within humans showing a negative effect on humanity (Humavox, 2016).
Humavox. (2016). Retrieved from http://www.humavox.com/blog/pros-cons-augmented-virtual-reality/
Thurston, A. J. (2007). Paré and prosthetics: the early history of artificial limbs. ANZ journal of surgery.
Lewis, M. (2018). ‘Bionic Actress’ Angel Giuffria Is Ready for People With Disabilities to Get Their Close-Up. Retrieved From https://io9.gizmodo.com/bionic-actress-angel-giuffria-is-ready-for-people-with-1826081412
Veneman, J. F., Kruidhof, R., Hekman, E. E., Ekkelenkamp, R., Van Asseldonk, E. H., & Van Der Kooij, H. (2007). Design and evaluation of the LOPES exoskeleton robot for interactive gait rehabilitation. IEEE Transactions on Neural Systems and Rehabilitation Engineering.
Exoskeleton Report. (2016). 19 Military Exoskeletons into 5 Categories. Retrieved from https://exoskeletonreport.com/2016/07/military-exoskeletons/
Fitbit. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.fitbit.com/uk/home
Veronis. (2015). 5 Privacy Concerns about Wearable Technology. Retrieved from https://www.varonis.com/blog/5-privacy-concerns-about-wearable-technology/
Azuma, R., Baillot, Y., Behringer, R., Feiner, S., Julier, S., & MacIntyre, B. (2001). Recent advances in augmented reality. NAVAL RESEARCH LAB WASHINGTON DC.