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Cyborgs


Published on Nov 15, 2015

Abstract

The world's first cyborg was a white lab rat, part of an experimental program at New York 's Rockland State Hospital in the late 1950s. The rat had implanted in its body a tiny osmotic pump that injected precisely controlled doses of chemicals, altering several of its physiological parameters. It was part animal, part machine.

The Rockland rat is one of the stars of a paper called " Cyborgs and Space ," written by Manfred Clynes and Nathan Kline in 1960. This engineer/psychiatrist double act invented the term cyborg (short for "cybernetic organism") to describe the vision of an "augmented man,"

From the start, the cyborg was more than just another technical project; it was a kind of scientific and military daydream. The possibility of escaping its annoying bodily limitations led a generation that grew up on Superman and Captain America to throw the full weight of its grown-up R&D budget into achieving a real-life superpower. By the mid-1960s, cyborgs were big business, with millions of US Air Force dollars finding their way into projects to build exoskeletons, master-slave robot arms, biofeedback devices, and expert systems.

It wasn't only the military that was captivated by the possibilities of the cyborg. Now there was the possibility of making better humans by augmenting them with artificial devices. Insulin drips had been used to regulate the metabolisms of diabetics since the 1920s. A heart-lung machine was used to control the blood circulation of an 18-year-old girl during an operation in 1953. A 43-year-old man received the first heart pacemaker implant in 1958. In fact robots, automata, and artificial people have been part of the Western imagination since at least as far back as the Enlightenment

Legendary automaton builder Wolfgang von Kempelen built a chess-playing tin Turk and became the toast of Napoleonic Europe. Mary Shelley's Frankenstein built a monster out of body parts and activated it with electricity. Even the Indian national epic, the Mahabharata, composed about 300 BC, features a lion automaton.

One thing makes today's cyborg fundamentally different from its mechanical ancestors - Information . Cyborgs, Donna Haraway explains, "are information machines. They're embedded with circular causal systems, autonomous control mechanisms, information processing - automatons with built-in autonomy.

The next step towards true Cyborgs?

On the 14th of March 2002 , a one hundred electrode array was surgically implanted into the median nerve fibres of the left arm of Professor Kevin Warwick. The operation was carried out at Radcliffe Infirmary, Oxford , by a medical team headed by the neurosurgeons Amjad Shad and Peter teddy. The procedure, which took a little over two hours, involved inserting a guiding tube into a two inch incision made above the wrist, inserting the microelectrode array into this tube and firing it into the median nerve fibres below the elbow joint .

The purpose of this experiment was to link the nervous system in the left arm, to a radio transmitter receiver; to send signals from nervous system to a computer and vice versa.

THE CYBORG ANCESTRY

The world's first cyborg was a white lab rat, part of an experimental program at New York's Rockland State Hospital in the late 1950s. The rat had implanted in its body a tiny osmotic pump that injected precisely controlled doses of chemicals, altering several of its physiological parameters. It was part animal, part machine.

The Rockland rat is one of the stars of a paper called "Cyborgs and Space," written by Manfred Clynes and Nathan Kline in 1960. This engineer/psychiatrist double act invented the term cyborg (short for "cybernetic organism") to describe the vision of an "augmented man,"

From the start, the cyborg was more than just another technical project; it was a kind of scientific and military daydream. The possibility of escaping its annoying bodily limitations led a generation that grew up on Superman and Captain America to throw the full weight of its grown-up R&D budget into achieving a real-life superpower. By the mid-1960s, cyborgs were big business, with millions of US Air Force dollars finding their way into projects to build exoskeletons, master-slave robot arms, biofeedback devices, and expert systems.

It wasn't only the military that was captivated by the possibilities of the cyborg. Now there was the possibility of making better humans by augmenting them with artificial devices. Insulin drips had been used to regulate the metabolisms of diabetics since the 1920s. A heart-lung machine was used to control the blood circulation of an 18-year-old girl during an operation in 1953. A 43-year-old man received the first heart pacemaker implant in 1958.

In fact robots, automata, and artificial people have been part of the Western imagination since at least as far back as the Enlightenment. Legendary automaton builder Wolfgang von Kempelen built a chess-playing tin Turk and became the toast of Napoleonic Europe. Mary Shelley's Frankenstein built a monster out of body parts and activated it with electricity. Even the Indian national epic, the Mahabharata, composed about 300 BC, features a lion automaton.

One thing makes today's cyborg fundamentally different from its mechanical ancestors - Information. Cyborgs, Donna Haraway explains, "are information machines. They're embedded with circular causal systems, autonomous control mechanisms, information processing - automatons with built-in autonomy.

THE CYBORG ROBO-EEL AND CRITTERS ON CHIPS

On May 8th 2001, in Chicago, researchers fused the brain of a primitive lamprey eel with a robot the size of a hockey puck, creating a living machine that tracked a beam of light in a laboratory ring, like a miniature bull chasing a matador's red cape.

Part biological and part mechanical, the crude cyborg is equipped with the brain stem of an eel, which, kept alive in a saline solution, receives input from electronic light sensors and directs the robotic wheels to move toward the source of the beam.

Changing the location and intensity of the light, the scientists noticed that the eel brain could adapt to changing conditions in its effort to locate the source. The ROBO-EEL

Prosthetic limbs, glowing bacteria

The Northwestern University researchers hope to unlock the mysteries of the animal's nervous system.

Cyborgs

"We are focused on the use of this instrument as a tool to understand the processing of information by a group of brain cells," said Ferdinando Mussa-Ivaldi, one of the primary researchers. "In particular, we are interested in the biological mechanisms by which nerve cells 'program' themselves."

The main part of the silicon chip consisted of a battery, radio transmitter/ receiver and processing unit. Pins connected to the chip pierced the membrane surrounding Warwick 's nerve fibers














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