Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies

The IEET is a 501(c)3 non-profit, tax-exempt organization registered in the State of Connecticut in the United States. Please give as you are able, and help support our work for a brighter future.

Search the IEET
Subscribe and Contribute to:

Technoprogressive? BioConservative? Huh?
Quick overview of biopolitical points of view

whats new at ieet

Stambler, de Grey @ Super Longevity Conference

Humanism and its prefixes (non-, trans-, post-, in-, a-)

IEET Audience Divided on Minimum Wage and Technological Unemployment

Visibility of IEET Jumps This Week

Virtual Reality and Reality Augmentation

A Techno-Optimist Movement: For an Evenly Distributed Future

ieet books

Surviving AI: The promise and peril of artificial intelligence
Calum Chace


etienne thillaye on 'Egalitarianism is not Radical' (Oct 3, 2015)

hankpellissier on 'Transhumanist Petition to Disavow Zoltan Istvan Candidacy for US Presidency' (Oct 3, 2015)

Rick Searle on 'How Nature Plays the Lottery' (Oct 3, 2015)

instamatic on 'Envy of the Future' (Oct 2, 2015)

AlonzoTG on 'Technology and Human Dignity' (Oct 2, 2015)

Giulio Prisco on 'The Marxist and Christian Roots of Transhumanism' (Oct 2, 2015)

Giulio Prisco on 'Why I still Support Charlie Hebdo' (Oct 2, 2015)

Subscribe to IEET News Lists

Daily News Feed

Longevity Dividend List

Catastrophic Risks List

Biopolitics of Popular Culture List

Technoprogressive List

Trans-Spirit List


Enframing the Flesh: Heidegger, Transhumanism, and the Body as “Standing Reserve”

Moral Enhancement and Political Realism

Intelligent Technologies and Lost Life

Hottest Articles of the Last Month

Seven Emerging Technologies That Will Change the World Forever
Sep 29, 2015
(101337) Hits
(4) Comments

The price of the Internet of Things will be a vague dread of a malicious world
Sep 25, 2015
(22504) Hits
(3) Comments

This Artificially Intelligent Boss Means the Workplace Will Never Be the Same
Sep 18, 2015
(16402) Hits
(1) Comments

Religion and Superintelligence
Sep 12, 2015
(8330) Hits
(0) Comments

IEET > Life > Enablement > Implants > Vision > CyborgBuddha > Fellows > Mike Treder

Print Email permalink (0) Comments (6298) Hits •  subscribe Share on facebook Stumble This submit to reddit submit to digg

Radical Prosthetic Implants

Mike Treder
By Mike Treder
Responsible Nanotechnology

Posted: Mar 26, 2008

An article in Scientific American titled “Scientists Set Sights on an Implantable Prosthetic for the Blind” tells about a Boston neuroscientist who is “developing a device that may someday help the blind by sending images directly to the brain.”

That’s an extraordinary advance, and seems certain to be just the first step toward near-miraculous prosthetic implants that someday soon not only will allow the blind to see, but could restore healthy function to all manner of disabled people.
For example, implantable deep brain stimulation (DBS) approaches already are being used successfully to treat chronic debilitating depression, as well as Parkinson’s disease and other movement disorders.

According to this article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

It [DBS] is being studied as a treatment of last resort for disorders such as Tourette’s syndrome, obesity, anorexia, stroke recovery, traumatic brain injury, epilepsy, cluster headaches, chronic pain and addiction.

Deep brain stimulation uses electric current to change the intricate communication system of the brain, but while the mechanics of the surgery have been almost perfected, researchers still debate exactly what it is they are doing that makes people better.

But people do get better.

In trials involving patients with severe depression and debilitating obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD, who never left their homes or were trapped in lives constrained by repeated rituals, DBS offered help where other treatments had failed.

Deep Brain StimulationOf course, the next level of such devices might be those that would correct not only disabilities, but also things that might be called ‘defects’. The problem there, however, is who gets to decide what is a defect and what is not.

In the second episode of the “Power of Small” public TV series that I wrote about last week, the idea was raised of using DBS not just for treating depression and other illnesses, but as a voluntary stimulant for “normal” people who just want to feel happier from time to time. Why not allow responsible adults to purchase their own implants for triggering the release of endorphins?

Huxley novelThis, obviously, raises concerns about the possibility of having large segments of society that end up zoned out all the time, as with ‘soma’ in Brave New World.

Perhaps regulations will be introduced to try to prevent such “abuse”—but then imagine the black market potential that would create.

Alternatively, reformers might propose that we use implants to treat offenders with known criminal tendencies or antisocial disorders.

But why stop there? Why not give everyone an implant that would limit destructive aggression? Or another that would prevent harmful lying?

The March 13 issue of Discover magazine includes a story titled “Has Science Found a Way to End All Wars?” It doesn’t directly deal with the near-future scientific probability that humans could be bioengineered to make them less warlike, nor with the huge ethical issues that will arise when that becomes possible, although the research the article describes might lead one to think in that direction.

Maybe now is the time for more large-scale discussion of such questions to begin. With medical technology progressing so rapidly, and—looming over the horizon—with nanomedicine, which could make all other implant therapies look like child’s play, we really need to get people thinking about the new world that shortly awaits us.

Mike Treder is a former Managing Director of the IEET.
Print Email permalink (0) Comments (6299) Hits •  subscribe Share on facebook Stumble This submit to reddit submit to digg


YOUR COMMENT (IEET's comment policy)

Login or Register to post a comment.

Next entry: Poll: Will (post)humans colonize the galaxy?

Previous entry: Peak Oil vs. Global Warming


RSSIEET Blog | email list | newsletter |
The IEET is a 501(c)3 non-profit, tax-exempt organization registered in the State of Connecticut in the United States.

East Coast Contact: Executive Director, Dr. James J. Hughes,
56 Daleville School Rd., Willington CT 06279 USA 
Email: director @     phone: 860-297-2376

West Coast Contact: Managing Director, Hank Pellissier
425 Moraga Avenue, Piedmont, CA 94611
Email: hank @