It’s weird when you read two stories in a row that connect to each other in a way that no one ever intended. The first story was one about a guy running for mayor in Toronto who had the audacity to suggest that when weapons are outlawed, only outlaws will carry weapons. The second story was about a Scotish team of scientists who have devised a bionic arm that’s more effective than the human arm it’s designed to replace.
When you read the two stories in that context, it’s not difficult to follow my train of thought. The Canadian story is pretty ho hum (at least in the context of this article), but the story from Scotland is simply amazing:
The Livingston-based firm specialises in hi-tech limbs for patients who have undergone amputations or were born with limbs missing. The researchers say their new arm is capable of repeatedly lifting a weight of 10kg up above head height and could do so all day, compared with the average human being who would tire within minutes. The wrists could rotate 360° and anyone using it could perform hundreds of push-ups.
However, the sheer power of the limb means its creators are faced with the problem of deciding which patients could be trusted to use it safely, as it has the potential to be used as a weapon.
Granted, I’m not up on the Canadian bill of rights, but I’m relatively certain they don’t have the American equivalent to the US Second Amendment. Still, it is difficult for anyone to try to make an effective argument that the founding fathers could have possibly conceived a future where augmented human arms could be considered deadly weapons (and that it would be our right, as US citizens to bear them).
If you’ve ever wondered about when exactly the days of Ghost in the Shell would be here, though (Sean Kennedy, I’m looking directly at you), this is them.
This is a limb that can seriously augment human performance. No, I’m probably not going to replace my limbs right away, but that’s because I’m just a lowly Tech. I don’t have much of a need for a hand that can at a whim rotate 360 degrees.
If I had a prosthesis that increased my manual dexterity (and my typing speed), we might be looking at something I’m interested in, though. And a set of hands that can type 1200 WPM can probably be used for some sort of nefarious purpose as a weapon, which means that I can’t duck out of this hypothetical political debate.
There are two basic situations where these prosthetics can conceivably come into use, here. One is where they’re used to replace a catestrophically lost limb (obviously), but the other no less real circumstance is where they’re being used to augment human ability so as to better perform in a sport or profession. Should the law treat both recipients the same? Should they be licensed and monitored? What if the laws change – do their limbs get taken away?
This is the convergence we’re all headed for, soon. Technology, politics, medicine – it’s all coming together.