Thursday, June 27, 2013

Not a man or machine, just something in between

Talking with a friend one day and the epiphany hit me: I'm a cyborg.
Science has (with varying degrees of success.) replaced organs, bones, hip and knee joints, eyes and ears. Sometimes a video comes across my desk that features a man with a prosthetic limb that functions. Hands with fingers that open and close.
Having been the recipient of some of that technology, the question comes to mind. We have the technology to do this, should we do this? While I'm grateful for the 14 years I have had my hearing partially restored, the last two weeks have been without my BTE. (There's a one month wait to get into the audiologist. I won't see them until July 16th.)
So far I can say things are a little different, but nothing has been impossible to do.
One of the first stories I wrote concerned a man who over the course of his life, has so much of his body parts replaced that he's eventually installed into a spaceship and sent on missions.
Let us say that eventually we figure out how to replace organs such as hearts and kidneys with their bionic equivalent. At what point would we stop being human?
Perhaps it's the margarita talking at this point, but I don't think we're heading that way. Oh sure, there will be mechanical modifications to the human body, but as far as replacing everything with metal? Nah...
The sci-fi author in me says we're going to grow our replacement organs. We will become immortal when we can grow tissue such as muscle and bone. No one will have to donate organs. The only thing donated will be the genetic template provided by the donor himself! Healthy DNA will be extracted and cultivated and finally shaped to suit the patients needs.
Scary, no?
While I'm here, there are a few science fiction tropes that will never come about. Sad to admit, but here is the painful truth.
  • Machines will never achieve sentience: We don't even know how we think. Mankind will develop incredibly smart robots and systems that will simulate sentience, but it will never pass a Turing test. I was looking forward to having Artoo Deetoo around the house.
  • Mankind will never break the speed of light: Although I'd love to be proved wrong, I'm going to side with Einstein on this one. Eventually some poor sap is going to pilot a ship that comes close to the speed of light, but that person is in for a world of hurt. Everyone he knows will be gone. He will make the trip out to Alpha Centauri and back, but generations of people will have come and gone by the time he returns. He might be greeted by his descendants... maybe.
  • Phasers, blasters and light sabres: Nope, no way and highly doubtful.
Here's where I think we're going.
  • Intelligent robots who will be extremely intuitive about it's surroundings, but it won't write poetry.
  • What they're doing with quantum physics is very interesting right now. We're not going to engage the warp drive to get to the stars... we're going to teleport there.
  • Shooting a highly charged gas at people might not kill them, but it would piss them off! Sadly, guns will never go out of style.

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