Will the future of the human body correct human imperfectness by leveraging power of artificial intelligence?
With the advancement of cybernetics, we are not far away from witnessing the transition from a human to a cyborg and then eventually to a robot. In the long term, AI will enable the complete human-robot transformation. Human-augmentation is continuously progressing thanks to development of 3D printing, advanced machine learning algorithms and quantum computing.
My prediction is that in the future there will be a huge demand for body enhancement, where people try to attach reprogrammable biomechatronic devices to, or insert them into, the human body. I believe this will be one way for humans to compete against robots, at the same time allowing humans to become more advanced in their daily routines by leveraging the power of cybernetics. This will enhance the productivity and efficiency of humans, thus challenging robots in the long run. However, there will be other consequences. For example, attached body parts could be hacked and then humans would lose control. Also, in long term, as your brain synchronises with the attached biomechatronic parts, it will be hard to recover the damage if you lose them.
Human-Cyborg-Robot Transformations (HCRTr)
The HCRTr (Human-Cyborg-Robot Transformations) can be explained using 4 interfaces from a human to a robot and vice versa.
- Interface A : Human to Cyborg
- Interface B : Cyborg to Robot
- Interface C : Robot to Cyborg
- Interface D : Cyborg to Human
The advancement of technology will speed up the process of the transformation from human to robot and from robot to human. To understand these transformations, the characters in the science-fiction movies and the robots we have in the market are used as examples. The expected outcome for the transformation of robot to human is similar to Eva in the Ex Machina movie or the modern-day Sophia. The transformation between human to robot is similar to Alex Murphy in the Robocop movie. However, in my view, to complete the human-robot and robot-human transformations we have to go through a middle space which will be a cybernetic organism known as a cyborg. You can imagine a cyborg as a hybrid; part human and part robot. To visualise a cyborg, imagine attaching a reprogrammable mechanical part or biosynthetic device into your body. In the future, our favourite robot characters in movies will come to live with us.
This article focuses on the technological development in interface A by providing some interesting examples. A lack of technological development to implement interfaces C and D is explained. Finally, anticipating problems is discussed.
Let’s see how we can leverage technology to correct human imperfectness, thus leading to the creation of a super human. We have already started to develop human organs one by one using 3D printing. My prediction is that due to the fast pace of development in AI and robotics we will be able to create the first artificial bionic human in the near future. This is similar to what we have seen in movies; the advanced version of Sophia. There is a lot happening in the cybernetic space. The technologies that drive the development of Interface A are:
- 3D printed prosthetics
- 3D printed human organs
- Bionic implants
- Bionic tattoos
- Rehabilitation gadgets
Nanobots and other tiny robots are routinely used in medicine. They can be used to clear bacteria and toxins from blood. The advantage of using nanorobots is they can be programmed to deliver results in medical emergency situations; general antibiotics take a longer time to cure patient illnesses. For example, nanobots can be used to deliver molecular payloads to remove the blockages which occur in tumours, thus ensuring continuous blood supply to cells. Here are some interesting examples;
Case 1: Scientists are testing the use of tiny robots to cure infections. They believe that the results will be a breakthrough in the future of medicine .
Case 2: Researchers are developing spermbot to deliver drugs to assist fertilization. The video in Ref  shows a nanobot finding a sperm cell, delivering it to an egg, and inseminating it.
Case 3: Synthetic cells or Syncells could help scientists to collect and record data faster in order to fight diseases. MIT researchers are developing a method to protect and separate syncells without damaging them .
My prediction is that, in the future, these technologies will have a big impact on the future of medicine. They will assist in curing diseases which have been impossible to cure before.
3D printed Prosthetics
3D printing enables the design of prosthetics which will be cheaper for people who need them. This market is growing. With this technology we can fabricate hands, arms, legs and feet artificially. Here are some examples;
Case 1: As shown in Ref , the technology has now been developed where you can use your mind to control your newly connected prosthetics.
Case 2: Companies like “Unlimited tomorrow” are leading in the area of developing scalable and affordable models for empowering amputees. ‘e-Nable’ provides free-of-charge 3D-printed prosthetics for children . The e-NABLE Community works as a collaborative platform involving various individuals around the globe to create free 3D printed hands and arms for those in need of upper limb assistance devices.
I believe 3D printed prosthetics bring hope and smiles to people who lose their legs, arms and knees as a result of sudden accidents.
3D Printed Human Organs
This is commonly known as bioprinting. It makes use of bioink or biomaterials to create human tissues or human cells or body parts such as kidneys, livers, hearts, cornea and bones. Here are some promising cases.
Case 1: Research scientists successfully 3D printed an artificial heart which is made of silicone. It works similar to a human heart. This will lead to the replacement of damaged human hearts without the need for heart transplant surgery .
Case 2: With the help of 3D printing, scientists now are working at creating new cartilage and stem cells to cure arthritis .
Case 3: The University of Utah scientists are developing a method to print human cells. Surgery recovery time can be sped up using these printed human cells .
At the end of the day, the development of these kind of artificial body parts will make the transition between humans and robots smoother.
Bionic implants are not a new concept. They are used extensively by Para-athletics in various sports in the form of carbon fibre blades. Here are some examples.
Case 1: The McAlpine research group at the University of Minnesota is working on creating a bionic eye by using 3D printing technology. The creation of an eyeball is already underway .
Case 2: The University of Washington is developing bionic contact lenses . These lenses will provide you with black-mirror vision. Real-time information such as people, places, and roads are fed into these lenses.
Case 3: You can attach a reprogrammable chip into your chest to go beyond your five senses. The chip is called the North Sense . It is mounted onto your chest with piercings. Around 300 people have this implant in their bodies.
Case 4: MIT Media Lab is running an experiment to see whether we can record our memories and retrieve them . The idea is to collect information such as heart rate, body temperature, oxygen level in the blood, and brain electrical activities via a cap.
In the future these technological advances will enhance people. These emerging technologies will ensure that we are ready to fight against the new capabilities of robots.
Bionic tattoos are used as an interface to obtain information about your body like heat, pressure, chemical levels and more. These tattoos can be reprogrammable and adjusted to your body conditions. Some come as a sticker, where you can stick them onto your body, not permanently, but as a reliable temporary solution. Here are some of the good examples.
Case 1: Smart tattoos can be used to signal changes in the body’s condition by showing different colours . As an example, if the sodium concentration of the body changes, the tattoo changes its colour. However, this is still a concept and one which it is hoped can be one day used by patients.
Case 2: The University of Texas designed an ultra-thin health monitor which you can attach to your body . It is the thinnest wearable health monitor in the world.
My prediction is that, in the future, bionic tattoos will be fashionable and trendy with young people. Not only that, we will be able to blend augmented reality with modern day tattoos.
Technology can be used for human rehabilitation. Exoskeletons are being designed for disabled people. Here are some selected cases.
Case 1: Smart gloves can be used to enable stroke patients to work smoothly . They will improve their movements. The improvement is measured using data, and in turn will motivate patients to use them.
Case 2: Exoskeletons can be used for people with limited mobility . They also can be used to improve the posture of workers.
These examples show that exoskeletons can be used for different purposes. Many automobile companies see the value of these and are leading the development of these exoskeletons.
A lot of research institutes, tech companies and start-ups are working in this area to improve communication between machines and humans. However, there are some challenges in developing algorithms that are mature enough to understand human behaviour. Robots are lagging behind in the following:
- Interaction with the feelings of another person
- Communicate naturally
- Feel empathy and sympathy
- React to human feelings such as love, sadness, happy or anger
Researchers are working to develop linguistic skills for robots. However, the areas above need to be further developed in order to successfully implement robot to human transformation. Having said that, due to the power of super computers and AI driven algorithms, my prediction is we are not that far away from achieving this.
As well as the advantages of using these cybernetic parts to fight against robots, we have disadvantages too. Scientists believe that in long term our brain will adapt to the attached enhancement in our body. Therefore, if we lose them, it will very difficult to recover the damage cause by them. There is a chance that a body part will be hacked and the consequent loss of control of it. In current market, cybernetic enhancements are expensive. Therefore, only rich people will be able to become more advanced cyborgs. There is a chance that these enhancements will become cheaper with time as popularity and usage increase. I also predict that we will need to discuss security protocols, governance and ethics around cyborgs soon.
I speculate that we will able to see successful human-robotic transformation as we approach singularity. However, before that there will an era of further developments in cybernetics in order to reach the stage to reach the human mind uploading stage. Until then, technology will continue to develop.
About the Author:
Dr Kash Sirinanda is the founder of Elite Futurists. Kash´s vision is to engage, partner, and collaborate with leaders and decision makers to transform a business into a best-in-class, advanced AI and sustainable-enabled competency company.