Monday, 8 October 2012

Minor: In-Depth Technology Research

I'm unsatisfied with the amount of previous research I've done exploring technology and its future so I've spent this weekend in overhaul to further expand my horizons of what is really out there. Long post ahead.

Aside from the products I've mentioned before, there is a lot of work going on in the fields of technology and human enhancement. Much more then I realised. It's pretty interesting stuff.

The following will be talking about transhumanity through the use of nanotechnology, biotechnology, and cognitive science. The current studies and theories using these technologies will help shape the purpose of my products.

The exhibit explored human enhancement from 600BCE to potentially all the way up to 2050. There were a number of sections that were discussed and a number of knowledgeable people had also given their thoughts in relation to these sections, some of which I might contact at a later date after creating the ideas for my products. Just for the likeliness and validity of my products coming true. 

Introduction to enhancements with the history behind them, demonstrating articles such as the invention and adoption of roller-skates in 1866, as well as Louise, the world's first test-tube baby, from 1978. This was useful to learn due to it's history down the line.

A section about missing parts, coupled with the idea of cosmetic surgery talked about what is going on today in relation to prosthesis. Cosmetic surgery also runs of top of what is currently going on today in regards to plastic-surgery, nip-tuck, etc. 

Dr Bennett Foddy, an English Junior Research Fellow at Oxford University said on lifespan enhancement "Really it's the project of medicine to extend human life, to enhance life and human youth and to defeat age and death." Useful in regard to thinking that in the future, cosmetic surgery could be coupled with prosthesis, i.e someone who may have lost an arm (or chosen to get a bionic arm?) could purchase additional attachments for different/situational uses. 

Also, John Harris, a British bioethicist and philosopher and Lord Alliance Professor of Bioethics and Director, Institute for Science, Ethics and Innovation has said "I think its inevitable that we will either be enhanced or die out" This could relate to our physical limitations, more of which I talk about below.

A section regarding superheroes or superhumans, The exhibit contained studies from how scientists were developing powered exoskeleton suits to allow paraplegics to walk (iron man?), and how spider silk was being used as a basis for new biomaterials used to repair knee cartilage (spider-man?). 

The army is currently doing something similar in order for soldiers to carry heavy tools. However it's very costly and bulky at this stage. So there's potential at some point in the future for exoskeletons to be affordable and/or streamlined for people who may be old or weak, or need it for specific jobs such as construction.

A section on sports talked about how technology as well as chemical enhancements were being used to provide an 'edge' over competitors. 

Andy Miah an English biothicist who said that on enhancement in sport that "People wouldn't want to go back to wooden tennis rackets today and see how people compete". What this could mean that there can be a product, or a number of products that would be sold to do specific things with ones genetic ability rising the bar in sports above human limit for entertainment. As well as products that can enhance muscle growth or similar for day-to-day use.

 Julian Savulescu, a Romanian–Australian philosopher and bioethicist said on on moral enhancement "What problem could be more important to challenge than our own inherent moral limitations?"

 It's worth mentioning also that the exhibit talked in the future how likely the distinction between Olympics and Paralympics may be erased or blurred out (see: prosthetics above)

Finally a section on the future of humanity. The most thought-provoking section I've seen at the exhibit, and one that provoked me to read much more in-depth about some things they were talking about. Professor Barbara Sahkain, an English Professor at the University of Cambridge, said on cognitive enhancing drugs "If you just pop a pill then do well in an exam, will that make me feel differently than if I studied really hard and I feel like I achieved that from my own hard work?" 

This section mentioned a poll done by Cambridge to their students and finding out that one in ten students used cognitive enhancement drugs, moreover one in three saying they would take concentration-enhancing drugs given the opportunity. 

Anders Sandberg, a Swedish researcher said on Transhumanism that "We might want use normal technology to use nanomachines or nanoparticles to enchance ourselves. We might genetically modify cells so we can send signals to them and control them" This leads on to an interesting idea in that in the future, drugs (via nanotechnology/nanoparticles) can be possibly sold to stimulate specific sections of the brain for a period of time. For example concentration for studies, anger for sports like boxing, sadness for acting, etc. Some work is already being done via Electroconvulsive therapy (See below) for people suffering from depression.

There's also theories I've read through in how Electroconvulsive therapy is used on the brain in order to treat depression (stimulation of a part of the brain to make a person feel better). Epigenetics, which won't be used or created as a product, but involves tailored offspring. Quantum Entanglement which are the first steps towards Star Trek-like teleportation technology. emWave, which allows people to self-regulate emotions and behaviors on command (Equilibrium?). As well as Braingate, an interesting clinical study in which uses the brain to trigger impulses converting to computer actions. Which can potentially be used for people who are disabled but have fully-functioning brains.

 I'm also going through a book titled "Physics of the Future: How Science Will Shape Human Destiny and Our Daily Lives by the Year 2100 is a 2011" by theoretical physicist Michio Kaku, to further my ideas of future products.

I will be cutting down all this information into specific areas while I create my designs. But the ideas I've got now include cosmetic tailoring, cognitive and physical enhancing drugs, and lifespan enhancement. 

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