Bionic technology is changing people's lives, it is about removing physical barriers faced by disabled people while raising profound questions of what it is to be a human.
There is a recurring theme in engineering of trying to match or copy nature. It's hardly surprising, the world and its biological systems have had millions of years to evolve solutions to various problems posed by the environment. One of the biggest challenges comes in healthcare, where engineers literally have to match nature. Engineering some device that will have to fulfil the same function as a natural part of the body or coordinate with natural processes is about as difficult as it gets. And replacing missing or lost limbs provides some of the most striking examples of the progress we have made.
It is known as the 'application of biological methods and systems found in nature' to the study and design of engineering systems in modern technology – and bionics are changing lives across the world. By removing the physical barriers faced by disabled people, these technological advances are making us the first species to influence its own evolution.
The most advanced prostheses available today do have some degree of mental control, but no sensory feedback. Control is achieved thanks to a phenomenon called myoelectricity. The remaining muscles of the stump still respond when the user "moves" the missing limb, resulting in electrical signals on the skin that can be detected by sensors installed into the socket. Although these signals may not correspond exactly to the movements the missing limb would have made, the user can learn how to make the prosthetic move in the desired fashion.
Published by The Guardian, Beyond Bionics: how the future of prosthetics is defining humanity takes a look at the development of bionics. From DIY prosthetics realised through 3D printing technology to customised AI-driven limbs, the video raises profound questions on what it is to be human.