As computer aided design becomes more precise and technology advances, we’ve approached the point that we can consider deliberate applications of technology to improve the human body. Up to now most of that body hacking has been limited to achieving better athletic performance with steroids and other performance enhancing chemicals. When it comes to adding mechanical technology, that’s been limited to aiding those with deforming injuries due to medical conditions, accidents or injuries. So far we’ve resisted the temptation to try and improve human beings with the biomedical application of hard technologies, but that may be changing.
There are already people out there experimenting with primitive types of mechanical implants. It’s unlikely any doctor would get permission to attempt these types of experiments, so those on the forefront of body hacking are, literally in some cases, people working out of their garages.
Right now the implantable device hobbyists are starting small. Implanting small RFID chips, about the size of a grain of rice, in their hand or wrist and using them for a variety of applications including unlocking computers or even the doors of their home. The trend has even given rise to a new business dedicated to those who just can’t resist the lure of implanting things in their bodies. The company is completely upfront that doing so does carry some risk, even naming the company Dangerous Things.
Technology Advancing Faster Elsewhere
In countries where the laws regarding cybernetic experimentation are a little looser, experimenting is going to extremes that would likely not be tolerated in the U.S. Body hackers in Russia, China and other countries are pushing the technology farther and faster with implants in a bewildering array of devices for improved vision, modified hearing and even implants tied to networked earthquake sensors.
Sometimes there’s a fine line between assistive devices and enhancement. What is more certain is that what we’re seeing today is only the beginning. The trend even has its own convention in Austin called, appropriately enough, Bodyhacking Con.
Can’t Put The Genie Back In The Bottle
With the research running ahead in other countries, perhaps it’s time to consider changes in our laws to allow those willing to accept the risks to have access to commercially available implants with the supervision of real doctors and skilled medical attendants. That’s certainly better than the garage experimentation we have going on right now. With so many potential applications, there’s no way we’re going to be able to stop people from using advanced technology to improve their performance and change the ways they interact with the world.
Just look around at any store to see the bewildering array of wearable devices that monitor your heart rate, breathing, sleep cycles and athletic performance. Younger people are already measuring the performance of every aspect of their lives and looking for ways to push their personal development. They’re using diets to hack their metabolism and posting blood test results online to collect feedback on every aspect of their lives. Body hacking is merely the next logical step to what’s already common for a brave new generation.