Futuropolis: Building A Bionic Human

We have the technology (or at least some of it)
Futuropolis podcast about the future
Zach Gilyard

Could humans one day scrap our flesh-and-blood limbs for bionic ones? High-tech prosthetics are improving in leaps and bounds, so bionics seemed like the perfect topic for the fourth episode of our Futuropolis podcast. In the past few years, researchers have developed bionics that can act on signals from muscles–we talk to actress Angel Giuffria, who uses one–and even the brain. And we speak with a researcher who’s working on prosthetics that give the wearer a sense of touch.

We also look at prosthetics from the past, when they were far less advanced. For that, we turn to a couple of 1940s stories in the Popular Science archives.

But for the future, bionics could go beyond replacing body parts–and start augmenting them. As inventor Dean Kamen reminds us, this idea is not that crazy: If you’re reading this thanks to corrective lenses, you’re already participating in such a world.

Hugh Herr, who co-directs the Center for Extreme Bionics at MIT and is a member of the IEEE, helps us see what that future will look like if bionics go even further. Plus, we dive into the philosophical questions of the difference between human and machine.

What do you think extreme bionics will enable? Let us know on Twitter or Facebook, or email us at futuropolis@popsci.com. And be sure to subscribe on iTunes, SoundCloud, or search for Futuropolis on your favorite podcast app.

Futuropolis is a biweekly podcast on the Panoply network. Tune in every other Wednesday for more sneak peeks at the future.