jueves, julio 24, 2008

Nanotechnology, transhumanism and the bionic man


Nanomedical and bionic products that could directly improve sensory, motoric and other functions cover all aspects of the human body. A 2002 report by the U.S. National Science Foundation ("Converging Technologies for Improving Human Performance"; pdf download, 5.9 MB) describes several nanotechnology-based areas for the improvement of human health and capabilities in the next 10-20 years. These visions go far beyond the current implant technologies (bionic ears and limbs, neural and retinal implants, artificial muscles, nanotechnology skin for prosthetic arms, etc) under development:
  • Nano-Bio Processor – A device for programming complex biological pathways on a chip that mimics responses of the human body and aids the development of corresponding treatments. An example would be the precise “decoration“ of nanoparticles with a tailored dosage of biomolecules for the production of nanomedicines that target specific early biomarkers indicative of disease.
  • Self-Monitoring of Physiological Well-Being and Dysfunction Using Nano Implant Devices – One outcome of combining nanotechnology with biotechnology will be molecular prosthetics – nano components that can repair or replace defective cellular components such as ion channels or protein signaling receptors. Another result will be intracellular imaging, perhaps enabled by synthetic nano-materials that can act as contrast agents to highlight early disease markers in routine screening. Through self-delivered nano-medical intervention, patients in the future will be able in the comfort of their homes to perform noninvasive treatments autonomously or under remote supervision by physicians.
  • Nano-Medical Research and Intervention Monitoring and Robotics – Nano-enabled unobtrusive tools will be invaluable for medical intervention, for example, nanorobots accomplishing entirely new kinds of surgery or carrying out traditional surgeries far less invasively than does a surgeon’s scalpel.
  • Brain-to-Brain and Brain-to-Machine Interfaces – One goal is to establish direct links between neuronal tissue and machines that would allow direct control of mechanical, electronic, and even virtual objects as if they were extensions of human bodies. Researchers are already closing in on this sci-fi sounding scenario.
  • "'Enhancement medicine' is a new field providing remedy through surgery, pharmaceuticals, implants and other means that increasingly will blur the boundaries between therapeutic interventions and performance/ability enhancement" says Wolbring. "In the transhumanist enhancement model the notions of disease prevention, public health, healthy community, health promotion and the actions they entail, all change substantially."
    Putting permanent, especially nanotechnology-enabled, body enhancements into a broader societal context, the issues of their (legal or illegal) use in sports becomes almost trivial. Wolbring says that the sport regulatory system is not prepared for what is coming. It appears that not only the general legal system but all levels of our society are not prepared either.


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