IEET > Vision > Contributors > HealthLongevity > Enablement > Futurism > Innovation > Implants
What range of functions should the future body provide?
Eva Linzenbold   Jan 16, 2013   Ethical Technology  

If you could design your own body, give it any shape, size, color, contour, texture and elegant design, what would you choose? What if your body could regenerate healthier, fresher skin and worn out tendons, ligaments and joints with replaceable ones? What if your body was as sleek, as sexy, and feel as comfortable as your new automobile? These are just a few of the questions to consider in the decades ahead. Sit back, take a deep, relaxing breath, follow the Primo Guides, and come along for an aerodynamic ride. Welcome to the future! ’ (Natasha Vita-More) 1

’… in a couple of years, everyone will consider the possession of a soft, hairy, sweating body to be shameful and indcecent. In a prostheticized society, you can snap on the loveliest creations of modern engineering.’ (Stanislaw Lem The Futurological Congress: Vision of 2039) 2

Superlongevity, superintelligence and other enhanced capabilities

By 2050, the human lifespan could be radically extended and we might even gain immortality. The technologies that could make it possible will be mind uploading and cryonics. Transhumanists such as Natasha Vita-More prefer superlongevity to immortality, as living forever sounds more like being imprisoned by life instead of emphasising its potential. Living for hundreds of years would provide the opportunity for people to test themselves in many areas of life and to gain far more diverse experiences.

Stelarc is a performance artist who has visually probed and acoustically amplified his body. He believes that immortality is a necessary step in human evolution: ’Death is an outmoded evolutionary strategy. The body must become immortal to adapt.’ 3 Similarly, futurist FM-2030 in his Countdown to Immortality asserted that we will achieve immortality, technology providing us the means to overcome death. 4

Marie O’Mahony explores the potential of mind uploading in her book, Cyborg: The Man Machine. She holds that to opt for eternal life would go against the very laws of nature. She raises questions such as whether it would be an option for everyone, or only for those who could pay, and if it would mean a world without children. She references William Gibson’s cyberpunk novel Neuromancer (1984) in which he reflects on the endless volume of time we would have and concludes that we would get bored. 5 However, O’Mahony says that human beings change their minds and therefore might find it difficult to refuse, once given the option of eternal life. ’It may be best to prepare ourselves to enter uncharted territory, as a post-human species.’ 6

’What is design, after all, if it doesn't function? Primo, by design, has multi-functions. It is reliable, changeable, upgradeable, and complete with enhanced senses. Primo is the new designer body.’ 7

Transhumanists conceive a future with no ageing and with enhanced intellectual, physical and psychological capacities. Vita-More’s 21st Century Primo Prototype combines bioart and biotechnology, robotics, information technology, nanotechnology, cognitive science and is a theoretical future body prototype based on superlongevity. Primo Posthuman has multiple functions such as the capacity to be ageless, to replace genes, to provide upgrades and error correction, to change gender and so forth. 8

Vita-More’s 21st Century Primo Prototype (2004).

Oliver Curry, evolutionary theorist at the London School of Economics, also believes that the human lifespan will increase, although for him this will ’only’ mean a life expectancy of 120 years in 1,000 years time. 9

Gender changeability

’The idea of there being a men and women, separate genders that are not interchangeable, the idea that you have one sex and forever one sex, and that is it, is outrageous for me. One identity for a lifetime is totally absurd.’ (Natasha Vita-More) 10

Vita-More’s future human body prototype, Primo Posthuman, has the function of gender changeability. On the other hand, Nick Bostrom, Chair of Institute for Ethics and Emerging

Technologies (IEET) and co-founder of Humanity+, suggests that technologically mature life forms might well be asexual.11

Designed organs will replace natural organs. Simultaneously, additional/new organs will be created and ’redundant’ inner systems eliminated

’The biological body is not well organized. The body needs to be Internet-enabled in more intimate ways.’ (Stelarc) 12

’How much more complete might the world have been if Mozart had been treated with renal transplantation instead of dying of kidney disease at the age of 34?’ ( Dr. Thomas E. Starzl , a pioneer transplant surgeon)13


Our organs are now being replaced with artificial implants. Advances in genetic engineering already allow us to regrow severed limbs, regenerate tissues, organs and to implant artificial aids.

Professor Molly Stevens at Imperial College London, has developed an implant for a living bone to encourage cells to repair damage. With engineered organs, the likelihood of the body rejecting the organ is less than with that of a donor’s transplant. Anthony Atala, Director of the Wake Forest Institute of Regenerative Medicine, has developed a 3D printer that uses living cells to output a transplantable kidney. 14

Titanium heart (2012).

In May 2012, Italian doctors saved the life of a 16-month-old boy by implanting the world's smallest artificial heart to keep the infant alive until a donor was found for a transplant. The tiny titanium pump weighed only 11 grams (an artificial heart for adults weighs 900 grams) and could handle a blood flow of 1.5 litres a minute. This was the first time that such a small heart had been implanted. According to surgeon Antonio Amodeo, the device was used as a transition to a transplant but in future, could be permanent. 15

A fully artificial lung is in the final stage of development by a group of scientists at the University of Pittsburgh. An artificial lung, which could be a bridge to lung transplantation, would allow a patient with advanced respiratory failure to move freely and to live at home. 16

Scientists at the University of Sheffield, UK, have created human sperm from embryonic stem cells. If the procedure were commercially applied, infertile men could take DNA from their skin to clone the stem cells and then grow the cells into functioning sperm. The researchers predict that the first child born of stem-cell sperm would be created around 2016-2020. 17

Additional organs

In his ’Ear on Arm’ project Stelarc, ’a reverse van Gogh’, is developing what he calls an internet organ. This is a soft organ attached to the body and enables it to better operate and interact with the world. 18

’We don't have an adequate internal system for the body at the moment. Currently bodies are infected by micro-organisms, and if they don't breathe for a few minutes, they die. How are we going to design future bodies? Or do we just accept this very inadequate body?’ He suggests that lungs occupy the internal space that we should fill with technology. 19

Redundant organs

Similarly, FM-2030 finds internal body organs problematic, as the producing-distributing-consuming food triangle is outdated, a waste of time and resources. ’Is it not time we outgrew the crude process of stuffing grub in our mouth to sustain ourselves? ’ We have to close the nutrient-waste cycle within the body, so no material would enter or leave. 20

Alternative organs

Critical designers Fiona Raby and Anthony Dunne seek alternatives to growing and ingesting food for survival scenarios in their ’Foragers’ project. New digestive devices are tools to eat grass, trees, even dust. They extract nutritional value from non-human food substances using advances in genetic modification to maximise the nutritional value of their surroundings. 21

Designer team After Agri’s speculative future scenarios propose survival solutions for the human species on both short- and long-term bases, so that we could adapt to our changing environment and limited resources. For example, Algaculture suggests a future where humans would be enhanced with algae living inside bodily organs, making humans plant-like by gaining food from the light. The team claims that this semi-photosynthesis, the symbiotic relationship with the algae, is appropriate for the short-term future, whereas in the longer term, the need to find better ways to nourish ourselves will result in new bodily organs. 22

Algaculture by After Agri (2010), courtesy of After Agri.

By having all of our organs replaced with artificial ones, humans will finally achieve immortality by 2045 (Kurzweil).

Extra limbs with multiple functions

Stelarc aims to extend the body’s capabilities and for him, prosthetics play an important role. In his view, prosthetics are not a sign of insufficiency but a symptom of excess.’Third Hand’ augments the body by technology, providing an extra limb with multiple functions. 23 ’Ear on Arm’ similarly has several functions; as well as hearing, it would transmit the sound it hears and would speak to someone in close proximity. A miniature micprophone will provide wireless internet connection and a remote listening device for people elsewhere. 24

Spineless human or human with in vivo fiberoptic spine

In FM-2030’s view, after having all the ’redundant’ organs removed, the human body will evolve into ultralight structures. The body weight of an average six-foot transhuman would be around 80 pounds, making the spinal framework unnecessary. 25

Vita-More’s speculative future body would operate with an in vivo fiberoptic spine. This 1,000,000 terabit/sec optical backbone is a whole-body communications navigation grid with one billion times more capacity than a human spinal cord. The nanodiamond-laced spine would enable us to lift considerably more weight and to have a hyper-conscious perception of internal physical states, including spatial orientation, hormone levels and neural firing patterns. 26

Audible tooth implant

James Auger and Jimmy Loizeau’s speculative Audible Tooth Implant is a future communication device using dental surgery. A wireless receiver could be inserted into any molar and the implant could receive digital information transmitted into radio signals that transport directly from the tooth to the ear. The device could play music and also receive the latest news. 27

Auger and Loizeau argue that Stelarc’s and Kevin Warwick’s approaches are not realistic, because the amount of intervention is far greater than the resultant benefit. 28 They believe that the purpose and intervention should be proportional; this principle governed the development of the ’Audible Tooth Implant’. However, they concede that the experiments conducted by Stelarc and Warwick are very important as critical designs. 29

Four-dimensional sight

We mostly have three colour-producing cones in our eyes: red, green and blue. Scientists at the Medical College of Wisconsin are seeking by 2020 to identify genes for a fourth cone to enable us to see new hues in four dimensions. 30

Smart/transparent/digital skin

Vita-More’s Primo Posthuman envisages a smart skin that would be highly efficient in protecting the body’s inner workings. The smart skin is engineered to repair, remake and replace itself. It would be solar-protected and equipped with biosensors. It couexplld take on all sorts of designs and textures; one could have a taffeta or a chenille skin, a suede-like skin or a velvet one. ’If we become posthuman, a later stage of transhuman, the smart skin could be the vehicle by which an ’upload’ is transported.’ 31

According to FM-2030, the new skins might be transparent for quick access to the body’s microcircuitries. 32

Skinput by Chris Harrison, PhD, would turn the human body into a touchscreen. The project could have far-reaching implications, as we could type emails or undertake any computer function simply by tapping on our hand/arm. 33

Changeable height and replaceable limbs

Will healthy limbs be replaced by artificial devices with better function in the future?

American athlete and model Aimee Mullins chooses her prosthetics according to need; cheetah for super-fast running, silicone ’Barbie’ legs made by Bob Watts MD at Dorset Orthopaedic, which give her a height of six feet, jellyfish legs for purely aesthetic pleasure and a conventional prostheses for everyday use.

On a speculative level, digital artist Franz Steiner’s Bodyshopping photo series depicts body parts sold in exclusive boutiques. Buying a new body or body part would be like buying a new car; the latest design would be highly sought after.

Bodyshopping 01. Series by LA-based 3D Designer Franz Steiner (2007). 34

Franz Steiner, Bodyshopping 03 (2007).

Franz Steiner, Bodyshopping 02 (2007).

Increased strength, protective armour, support to paraplegics and an alternative body: exoskeletons and other prostheses

Intelligent full-body prostheses and exoskeletons might play ] important roles in the following areas:

1. the military and battlefields.

2. industrial, dangerous environments.

ExoHand by Festo is a glove and mechanic exoskeleton which is already in use. It doubles human strength and is an endurance enhancer. 35 The operator’s hand movements are registered and transmitted to the robotic hand in real time. Older employees need power amplifiers for tasks in the construction sector. The company foresees ExoGlove in remote-manipulation scenarios too, where to handle items poses risk. In this instance, the user’s motions would be emulated by the robotic hand away at a safe distance. As such, it would enable performance of tasks in hazardous areas whether because of natural disasters, accidents, or within scientific laboratories.

Rehabilitation for stroke patients has also been suggested as a possible application. If connected to a brain-computer interface, it might help stroke patients suffering from paralysis to get a connection between hand and brain. ’It offers an intriguing example of what the future of automation looks like’. 36

ExoHand by Festo (2011).

3. medical prostheses.

Aimee Mullins in TED talks points to the potential of prosthetics design combined with robotics and bionics, enabling the disabled to become the architects of their own body. Antonio Lopez Peláez emphasises the rapid development of medical exoskeletons which will help disabled people move, making them less dependent on others. 37

4. cryonics.

Vita-More explores whole body prosthetics as a field that combines design and functionality and which will involve a new group of ’body designers’. 38 A whole-body prosthetic could be used in two ways. Its first application would be for individuals suspended in cryogenics; it would provide an alternative body that could be used if the person decided that he or she wanted to return. Secondly, prosthetics could be made available for anyone wanting an alternative body, such as for fashion. aesthetic or practical reasons. 39 For example, we could choose to live in a humanoid robot framework, which would be more durable and it could also be equipped with extra functions for individual needs (adaptation to specific work conditions, such as elongated fingers for computer users or webbed hand for swimmers).

Stelarc’s Third Hand, Stomach Scupture and Exoskeleton projects are different approaches to prosthetic augmentation. His Extra Ear is a manifestation of his long-term interest in creating prostheses not out of hard materials and technologies but out of the body’s own soft tissue and flexible cartilage. 40

Uploadable/meta brain – brain implants as devices of immortality, super/enhanced intelligence and communication with machines

Superintelligent cyborgs communicating with robots

The organic brain will be replaced with a ’carbon copy machine’ (mind upload) and will have an essential role in gaining radically extended lifespan/immortality. Marie O’Mahony outlines two possible ways of uploading. First, the frozen solid brain would be cut into slices and scanned. A computer would then reconstruct the brain in an artificial matter. 41 Secondly, she references Hans Moravec’s book, The Mind Children: The future of robot and human intelligence (2010), in which he explores nanosurgery. 42

According to Vita-More, we will posess artificial general intelligence (AGI); we will be superintelligent. Thus we would not have to fear wars with robots and for her, unlike for many others, it is inconceivable that machines would take over. She claims that presently even the best minds cannot solve the world’s most urgent challenges. Using AGI as an augment, an appendage to the brain would increase mental capacity and problem-solving, providing a metabrain with error-correction and nanotech data storage. 43

Antonio Lopez Pélaez, Professor of Sociology at Spain’s National Distance Learning University (UNED), carried out a study looking into the potential impact of robots on society. Like Vita-More, Pélaez foresees the insertion of robots into our bodies, such as intelligent implants in the brain, which woudl improve our rational thought.44

Researchers at both Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island and at Cyberkinetics in Foxborough, Massachusetts, are working with telekinetic technology to enable us to communicate with machines by around 2016-20. They are developing a microchip implanted in the motor cortex just beneath the skull, which will intercept nerve signals and reroute them to a computer, which will then wirelessly send the command to any of various electronic devices (computers, stereos and electric wheelchairs).45

Enhanced senses

’It is about sensorial experience, wellbeing, self-responsibility of taking care of our body’ (Natasha Vita-More) 46

A new hyper-sensitivity is evolving and the digital world is revolutionising the fundamentals of human behaviour. Our natural senses are no longer enough; we use technology to assist and live in

an augmented reality, which can enhance or distort our sensory experience. Senses can be altered by chemicals, new forms of communication and devices. 47

Areas of sensual enhancement include:

1. New rhythms - from natural to technological. Our full-on, 24/7 lifestyle replaces the biological rhythms with technological ones; we no longer follow nature’s cycle.

2. Self-monitoring - we are focusing increasingly on health and wellbeing, for example, monitoring body fat levels. Medicine and technology are merging; by using body regulators and stimulating devices, we are able to take charge of ourselves.48

Revital Cohen: Emotion Calibrator (2011).

Revital Cohen and Tuur Van Balen’s Emotional Calibrator is designed to measure and orchestrate crying to provide emotional consistency.

Happylife Display by James Auger and Jimmy Loizeau 49

In their Speculative Futures (Happylife Display, 2010), James Auger and Jimmy Loizeau envisage a future in which technology would give us access to information previously unavailable. The project is a provocative idea based on the thermal-image cameras used at airports to read human behaviour. Happylife Display is conceived as a device that would monitor interaction between people; for example, if family members are in harmony and this would affect personal relationships. 50

3. Digital intimacy/empathy

Our co-existence with technology has already evolved into a new kind of digital intimacy and empathy with devices such as our mobile phones.

4. Communication between objects

We could explore new dimensions of communication by observing conversations between objects and machines.

5. New ways of relaxation and spirituality

New meditative practices and ways of relaxation. Sitraka Rakotoniaina’s Beam Me Down triggers self-induced amnesia via hyperventilation to minimize emotional or physical overload.

6. New experiences

Sense enhancers and experience design are playing with perception, by placing people in unexpected contexts, to push the boundaries of self-knowledge, our physical and emotional abilities and our ability to control these. 51


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As soon as we can let the human brain invade a compatible external device, the genie is out of the bottle and the rest will be no different than designing and connecting modern computer systems on the internet.
This requires a complete theory of the human biological brain but would eventually result in it becoming redundant.
When all the cognitive biological brain functions have been informationally diplexed on the larger external part of the brain the redundant parts inside the scull could really undergo any kind of re-purposing.

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