What was pure science fiction years ago has now become reality. People have implants in their bodies to influence their bodily functions. At least so far, they are mainly used to restore missing or faulty bodily functions. However, scientists now want to give the body additional abilities through implants. This raises the question, Are cyborgs the next stage in human evolution? Let’s find out.

Cyborgs in Human Evolution
©DC Comics

Definition of Cyborg

Half-human and half-machine is the general definition of cyborgs. It is derived from the English expression of a cybernetic organism. Accordingly, cyborgs are living beings that have been technically supplemented or improved. Cyborg technology is a form of enhancement, which deals with methods that improve and increase human performance with active ingredients, aids, body parts, and technology. You can easily understand this, if you have seen movies like Terminator, Robocop, Ghost in a Shell or Hardcore Henry.

So far there is no precise definition of how efficient must be the implant technology for a person to be considered a cyborg? The boundary between a wearable medical device and the optimization of the human species is generally blurred. Accordingly, any person who carries a technical implant, artificial limbs, or complex prostheses can be described as a cyborgs.

Who Invented Implants?

The concept was most likely invented by the ancient Egyptians. Two artificial toes, one of which was found at the foot of a mummy, are at least 2,600 years old. The first prostheses hardly or not at all fulfilled the function of the original body part and only had a cosmetic effect. But, over time, more and more missing body parts could be replaced by prostheses.

On the other hand, modern prostheses, for example for the arms and legs, allow more complex movements and even sports. Arm prostheses have a gripping function so that the artificial hand can be used like a natural one.

Bionic Hand
©Mike Urwin / The Engineer

So far, the myoelectric prostheses have been controlled by recognizing the muscle impulses, however, transmission errors often occur. The latest research approach is therefore about connecting the prostheses directly to the nerve endings that were responsible for controlling the muscles that no longer exist.

Joints such as the hip or knee joints have long been artificially replaced if the natural joint is no longer functional. It is even less problematic to replace teeth with prostheses.

The idea of the future is to replace all organs that do not work properly with technical counterparts so that those affected do not have to take tablets or have to accept restrictions. It is already possible today to make the heart fully functional again using artificial heart valves or a pacemaker.

Improved Sensory Performance is Already Possible Today

Millions of people around the world suffer from the loss of sensory perception. Cyborg technology today makes it possible, at least in certain cases, to restore lost sensory perception.

Better Eyesight

There are currently 36 million blind and 217 million visually impaired people worldwide. In most cases, the visual disturbances are caused by eye diseases. With almost 13 million people affected, cataracts are the most common cause of blindness and are responsible for 35 percent of all blindness worldwide.

The lens opacity can be remedied with a lens implant. Lens implantations are performed as outpatient procedures. Such lens implants can not only correct eye diseases but also ametropia. Thanks to modern technology, people who are severely visually impaired or who have completely lost their eyesight due to illness can also be helped by retina implants. However, the optic nerves of the inoperable receptor cells on the retina must form an intact connection to the brain.

Bionic Ear | Cyborgs
©AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

Hearing Implants – Bionic Ear

There are about 466 million deaf people in the world. A hearing aid is not helpful for everyone concerned. In such cases, a so-called cochlear implant can be the solution. Electrodes are implanted in the cochlea in the inner ear and connected to the transmitter and receiver via a transmitter coil, which is attached to the outside of the head.

This detects audio signals and converts them into a digital code that is forwarded to the electrodes in the inner ear via the transmitter coil. The electrodes, in turn, stimulate the auditory nerve and thus pass the signal on to the brain. 

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Optimize Body Functions With Cyborg Technology

Many people dream of making their bodies more efficient. Those who fulfil this wish are called cyborgs or transhumans, biohackers, or body hackers. They have near-field communication chips (NFC chips), magnets, and the likes, implanted in their bodies for self-improvement.

These technological tools give body hackers new skills. They turn their bodies into keys, business cards or health passes. Because it is already possible to unlock a smartphone with an implanted NFC chip, store data, log on to the computer, make cashless payments, open the front door, and measure body values such as temperature, pulse, blood pressure, and oxygen saturation.

The implanted biosensors can transmit the body data via Bluetooth to the smartphone, where they are readout. With the NFC chips, data is transferred automatically and without contact via radio waves to another NFC chip.

Human Exoskeleton
©Sarcos Robotics

Every implant means getting more out of life and becoming a more efficient person. Measuring and controlling the entire processes of the human body may enable eternal life in the future. According to body hackers, progress is essential and important for human development as stagnation is not an option. Mental development alone will no longer be sufficient in the future and there must also be physical development.

Are We All Going to be Cyborgs?

Many people are still afraid of being a cyborg. However, many others are already daring to tackle the matter and advance with the help of NFC chips. The final fusion of body and machine, cyborgization, is only a matter of time. The visionaries are already speculating about what a further amalgamation of man and machine means. According to optimistic estimates, artificial intelligence will be as powerful as the human brain in a few years to decades.

In this state of so-called singularity, man and machine should finally become one. In this step, the movement towards becoming cyborgs seems like the next stage of human development, in which the symbiosis with machines and intelligent systems, makes the human being more and more powerful.

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According to Google, it is conceivable to recreate the human brain or simulate it on a computer as early as the 2030s. That would be another step in the direction of storing thoughts and feelings in a cloud, from which they can be transferred to a new device as often as required, and thus to create an infinite, digital version of humans.

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