In an astounding move forward this week, the University of Minnesota announced its development of a model helicopter controlled by brainwaves. Simply through imagining clenching the left or right fist the user could pilot the device successfully through a series of obstacles with relatives ease. This heralds a fantastic opportunity for people with disabilities of all kinds, from arthritis sufferers to amputees to paralytics. Furthermore extensive work is being done on the enhancement of implants which have already been shown to greatly improve cognitive ability and show a huge potential in the treatment of brain damage, particularly in stroke victims. Yet is this technological revolution restricted to the health industry or could we all one day have our own mind-controlled robots and mechanical prosthetics.
Indeed it seems even now that our smartphones are often more an extension of our own bodies than a simple piece of hardware. In a step further Google readies its revolutionary new product ‘Google Glass’ for the global market. This tiny, convenient headset enables the user to browse the Internet make calls and take video using only voice commands whilst the minuscule, transparent screen remains unnoticeable while not in use. Not only this but researchers at Tokyo university have begun work on a new device allowing a computer screen to be projected on almost any surface, making it possible to turn the palm of your hand into your phone or tablet in an instant! As the boundaries between the technological and the organic are slowly blurred it seems that the science fiction of the past is becoming the reality of the future. With the realisation of chips which allow increased memory capacity and faster thought-processes or muscle augmentations which increase power and protect against damage, how many of us could honestly say that we wouldn’t consider making use of such potentially beneficial technology? Furthermore as thought-controlled devices are continuously refined it becomes more and more likely that technology originally created to enable greater independence for disabled people will be utilised for the convenience of society as a whole.
We have not even begun to discuss the implications of AI or automated robotics, which undoubtedly advances the field even further, yet even in neglecting these schools it seems apparent that the tide of progress is pushing us ever closer to a deeper reliance on our technology than we have ever seen before. With this comes a menagerie of benefits and dangers and whether or not the shift on the whole is a positive one is certainly up for debate. What is sure is that progress moves ever forward and every development impacts our world, our society, our very lives in sometimes the most intimate of ways.