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Joined: Oct 2002
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Sept. 30, 2003 | Right here, right now, it is virtually impossible to find a human being in the developed world who is not technologically enhanced or modified. Ever been vaccinated? Have a tooth crowned? Wear contact lenses? One does not need a pacemaker to qualify as a bioengineered Homo sapiens.

These examples have profound implications. There is no theoretical difference between a dental implant and a mental implant except that we know how a tooth works and can manufacture a functional replacement. Currently, the same cannot be said for the neural network of the brain. But from a bioengineering standpoint, that is only a matter of time.

Once the structure and function of an organ are elucidated, bioengineers can develop replacement parts. Artificial heart-valve implantation is practically routine. Next-generation pacemakers will come with built-in diagnostics and telemetry to provide your hospital's computer with a constant stream of data on the condition of both your heart and the pacemaker itself. Some designs even include global positioning systems for emergencies. Several tissue-engineering companies produce commercial synthetic-skin products for grafting onto burns. Some use a mixture of biological and synthetic polymers, while others offer the genuine article, natural tissue grown from cells. As these technologies emerge, humans will metamorphose: The first stage of our metamorphosis will, in fact, be the physical fusion of human beings with both the biological and nonbiological systems we are engineering.

But rather than the end, this quasi-cyborg, or "Homo technicus," is just the beginning. While bioethicists wring their hands about the morality of human cloning, and politicians battle about where we may or may not get our stem cells, nanotechnology is moving toward the elimination of the cell as the fundamental unit of life. Yet outside the laboratory, how many people are paying attention?

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Joined: Sep 2003
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I'm paying attention!

Makes me think of "The Preacher" from Johnny Mnemonic... (the movie, he wasn't in the story) Is there a point at which we will lose our humanity and become something else?


Back off, man! I'm a scientist... - Peter VenkMann

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