Monday, 21 March 2016

Science Fiction Future

I am a follower of a number of scientific trends and patterns, mostly in the areas of exo-skeletal function and robotics. The whole exo-skeletal device arena, or even thought control prosthetics, offers people like me, people with failed muscles, people with paralysis, people with body form and function issues, a tool to support themselves physically until science finds a way to restore full functionality to our failed bodies.

Exo-skeletal function would be things like clamp on machine leg devices which could be actuated by brain waves, allowing me, for example, to stand, walk, and perhaps even run. These devices would supplant my dead muscles with machinery which responds to the cues of my thoughts, or perhaps even my base reflexive actions. This same technology could be used to allow people with upper body paralysis to have use of their arms, and perhaps, one day, even allow them machine assisted fine motor coordination in their hands and fingers. There could, quite possibly, even be "replacement muscles", where these machines are directly interconnected with our bodies, a bionic muscle system of sorts.

Of course it would be better if we could just find a way to defeat ALS. Medication for muscular restoration beats artificial synthesis any day, assuming that medication doesn't have a world of outrageous side effects. And even though we seem to be getting closer and closer to treatment, if not a cure, it could still be a long way off. Plus, exo-skeletal devices offer opportunities in a great many other areas, including robotics, aeronautics, space exploration, deep sea exploration; the list goes on and on.

Robotics offers someone like me a whole different approach to dealing with my illness. My life would be so much easier if I had a robot to drive my truck, or perhaps even a self-driving truck; so much easier if I had a machine to put away my groceries and get them out when I needed them; a robot to cook, assuming it could deal with my tendency to micro-manage things. That's what I really need; a robot to do the things I can no longer do. That way I wouldn't be a burden on other people. I don't mind the idea of being a burden on a robot, but I hate it when other people have to do all those things I cannot.

Today all of this is just far enough away that I will never see it. Today, it sounds like science fiction, but then again, only a few years ago the whole idea of a single hand held device which could provide communications, translation, access to global information, and even entertainment was all science fiction. Now we call it a smart phone. The future is not that far away. I'm sorry I will miss it.

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