Tue, Jun 18, 2013 - Page 9 News List

Bionic transhumanism making Superman a proximate reality

By Mark Honigsbaum  /  The Observer

“It’s not only question of human enhancement,” said Anne Eckhardt, the author of a recent report on the opportunities and risks of the human enhancement market for the Swiss Centre for Technology Assessment. “It’s also about medicalization and changing definitions of disease and disability.”

For the moment, this posthuman future still lies some way off. We do not need a brain implant to use Google — Google’s glasses, iPads and mobile phones are, at the moment, more than sufficient for most people’s needs.

“In the long run, technology will surpass our biological nature, but we should not underestimate the technical challenges in getting to that stage,” Bostrom said.

It is an assessment with which Meyer concurs. Since being fitted with his i-limb, Meyer says that actions that used to be unimaginable — such as wheeling a suitcase through duty-free while talking on his mobile phone — he now performs with confidence and ease. However, although the i-limb has enabled him to transcend his feelings of inadequacy and shame, he is a long way from considering himself transhuman, let alone superhuman.

The only point in the Channel 4 documentary at which Meyer appeared to balk at the brave new transhuman future was when he came face to face with “Bionic Bertolt” — the robot bearing his hand and a prosthetic version of his face. He was clearly appalled by the transformation.

“It really freaked me out,” he said.

Meyer’s visceral reaction drove home the extent to which these posthuman technologies provoke visions of dystopian futures, or what Miah pithily calls “the yuck factor.”

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