Combinations of Man and Machine.
With the advent of cybernetic technology in our century, a multitude of possibilities have opened up to our race. Crippling injuries are remedied by prosthetic limbs; shattered bones are replaced with iron; plastic surgery is a norm.
At the same time, we're deep in a society where espionage has almost reached its peak. Decades of work on surface-mount technology have given rise to miniscule head-mounted wireless microphones. Primitive "belt buckle" cameras from the 60's are long past. Today a quality image can be transmitted from a tiny wireless camera.
Why not combine the two?
Imagine a wireless mike surgically imbedded in a person's back. Or a tiny camera implanted under the fingernail of one's index finger. A transmitter installed in someone's brain that kept a satellite constantly locked on that particular person. Of course, this is all still science fiction, but I see any of it feasibly possible.
It doesn't have to stop at humans. In fact, it's already begun with the beasts.
The cybernetic spy-roach
Robotic roaches could double as spies: Young scientists in Tokyo are lining up for a spot on special team of researchers. By Eric Talmadge Associated Press TOKYO - A big brown cockroach crawls across the table in the laboratory of Japan's most prestigious university. The researcher eyes it nervously, but he doesn't go for the bug spray. He grabs the remote. This is no ordinary under-the-refrigerator-type bug. This roach has been surgically implanted with a micro-robotic backpack that allows researchers to control its movements. This is Robo-roach. "Insects can do many things that people can't," said Assistant Professor Isao Shimoyama, head of the bio-robot research team at Tokyo University. "The potential applications of this work for mankind could be immense." Within a few years, Shimoyama says, electronically controlled insects carrying mini-cameras or other sensory devices could be used for a variety of sensitive missions - like crawling through earthquake rubble to search for victims, or slipping under doors on espionage surveillance. Farfetched as that might seem, the Japanese government has deemed the research credible enough to award $5 million to Shimoyama's micro-robotics team and biologists at Tsukuba University, a leading science center in central Japan. Young researchers are lining up for a slot on Shimoyama's team. The team breeds its own supply of several hundred cockroaches in plastic bins. Not just any roach will do. Researchers use only the American cockroach (Perplaneta americana) because it is bigger and hardier than most other species. From that supply, they select roaches to equip with high-tech "backpacks" that consist of tiny microprocessors and electrodes. Before surgery, researchers gas the roach with carbon dioxide. Wings and antennae are removed. Where the antennae used to be, researchers fit pulse-emitting electrodes. With a remote, researchers send signals to the backpacks, which stimulate the electrodes. The pulsing electrodes make the roach turn left, turn right, scamper forward or spring backward. Over the last three years, researchers have reduced the weight of the backpacks to one-tenth of an ounce, or about twice the weight of the roaches themselves. "Cockroaches are very strong," said Swiss researcher Raphael Holzer, part of the Tokyo University team. "They can lift 20 times their own weight." The controls, however, still have a few serious bugs of their own. Holzer jolts a roach with an electric pulse to make it move slightly to the right. Instead, the roach races off the edge of a table into Holzer's outstretched hands. "The placement of the electrodes is still very inexact," Holzer admits. But he is optimistic. "The technology isn't so difficult," he said. [copyright 1997, The Detroit News]
Click below to read a short essay on cyborgs.