All posts by Xanthe Barker

The future of prostheses looks cool

Traditionally we tend to think of prostheses as being strictly attributed to the disabled and the impaired. Prostheses get a pretty bad wrap, they are thought of negatively, as a kind of supplement to the ‘natural’ human body – a second best. But there is a new space growing in contemporary society thanks to modern science and technology along with the help of the internet, a space where prosthetics are cool. Contemporary prosthetics and those of the future don’t just mock the ‘natural’ human body – they go beyond the constraints of it potentially making someone….superhuman?

In a pod cast ‘The Internet of Things’ which you can find here, Andreea Borcea talks about, among other things, A foot designed by MIT which adapts to an individual’s gate allowing them to walk ‘seamlessly’ – so to speak. She also mentions DARPA’s touch sensitive artificial prosthetics which are currently being developed (For more cool stuff about linking the body’s nervous system with a prosthetic I recommend that you have a geez at this Ted Talk by Todd Kuiken).

These contemporary technologies not only allow ‘disabled’ people to simulate the ‘natural’ body and ‘normalize’ their body, but they also work to breakdown the distinction between able-bodied and disabled. When a human being who has lost…say their left arm, has theability to do all the same things as another human being thanks to a bionic limb intervention, how can we say they are disabled?? To extend that thought, think about ‘natural’ human legs; they are stuck there, we are unable to change them. Think about someone with one or more prosthetic limbs, they have the potential and opportunity to change and adapt their limbs to suit certain circumstances and situations. Take a look and listen to Hugh Herr for example who has two bionic legs and is the project director for the Powered Ankle-Foot Prosthesis at MIT.

When we think about prosthetics like this, it becomes clear that the future of prosthetic technology will allow people to go beyond the constraints of the ‘organic’ human body. Can we really still label these people as disabled? Will it come to a point where it is fashionable to replace flesh and blood with metal and wires?