The Bionic Person, One Step Closer

When The Six Million Dollar Man first arrived on the scene in January of 1974, most people thought it was simply another science fiction television show. The addition of The Bionic Woman in January 1976 was just more good entertainment. The only problem is that these shows really aren’t just entertainment anymore. I’ve already discussed the use of exoskeletons to help those who have lost use of their legs in Exoskeletons Become Reality. No, none of the people using these devices can run 60 mph or make incredible leaps—that part is still science fiction, but I’m beginning to wonder for how long. (Just in case you’re interested, there is also a bionic arm in the works.) Today I read an article entitled, “Australians implant ‘world first’ bionic eye” that appears to take the next step in the use of bionics with humans. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that these things would happen when I originally wrote Accessibility for Everybody. I’m happy that they have !

Of course, the bionic eye of today is quite limited. Early bionic eyes have relied on a camera built into a pair of glasses to help someone see. You need a lot of hardware to make these eyes work and the best you can hope to achieve in many cases is to see light and dark. The part I find interesting about this new bionic eye is that the apparatus is actually inserted into the person’s living eye on top of the retina (yes, you still need the glasses, but just for the camera part of the technology)! This is a true innovation because it means that we’re headed in the direction of bionics becoming nearly impossible to detect. Once this technology leaves the laboratory, the doctors envision the person being able to see a 1,024 × 1,024 image. OK, that’s not HDTV standard, but it’s a lot better than someone who is blind has today.

In many respects, the technology advances we’re seeing today are both amazing and a bit scary at the same time. Scientists are literally probing every element of the human body, discovering how they work well enough to help people live better lives, and then using technology to fill in the gaps. I see a time coming when no one will have to suffer with a devastating loss that significantly limits the enjoyment of life. What do you think about the coming of the real bionic person? How far do you think this technology might go? Let me know your thoughts at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.