Simplification, Functionality, and Redundancy
Altering man’s bodily functions to meet the requirements of
extraterrestrial environments would be more logical than providing an earthly environment for him in space . . . Artifact-organism systems which would extend man’s unconscious, self-regulatory controls are one possibility __ By Manfred E. Clynes and Nathan S. Kline
ROCKLAND STATE HOSPITAL, ORANGEBURG, N. Y. (Quoted in Cyborgs, MIT PDF)
Genetic modification of body systems is one approach to promoting longevity — particularly in the face of environments which are inhospitable to humans. But another approach is to replace as much of the biological organism as possible with artifactual replacement parts and systems. Arms and legs are being replaced routinely by prostheses, and we are not far off from prosthetic hearts, kidneys, bladders, and more.
The body performs three primary functions: Providing life support to itself and the brain in the form of nutrients, oxygen, waste disposal, blood circulation etc… providing reproductive functions … and providing mobility and manual dexterity to assist in life support and reproduction.
The challenge to cyborg designers is to design and mass produce cyborg bodies which can provide as many vital functions as necessary for the purpose at hand.
The Brain Comes First
It is clear that if most of the physical body (aside from the brain) can be replaced by prosthetic devices and artifactual systems, the parameters for bio-rejuvenation therapies can be fine tuned and simplified to meet the requirements for the few biological systems that remain — specifically the human brain.
If we think of the rest of the human body as supporting the brain, the problem of regeneration for the body will come to resemble the problem of providing replacement parts for mechanical systems. Note that “replacement parts” and systems for the cyborg body may consist of devices and systems made of either advanced organic or non-organic materials.
The brain will require special treatment in any viable cyborg design meant to provide the individual with a long and “fully functional” lifespan.
System Enhancement and Replacement
Consider the prosthetic devices proposed in the video below. These devices are meant to minimise water loss from the body to just a few ounces a day — drastically reducing human requirements for fresh water intake.
The cyborg-like modifications in the video above are meant to expand the ability of humans to survive in settings where fresh water supplies have been harshly curtailed. Other cyborg modifications are meant to facilitate human migration into outer space.
It is easy to conceptualise cyborg systems which replace most of the natural organ systems of the human body, providing functions of life support — including nutrient supply, oxygen supply, and waste disposal — as well as mobility and manual dexterity. We cannot reach that level all at once, of course. At this time replacement prosthetic devices can only provide some aspects of mobility, manual dexterity, metabolic control, and waste disposal.
Some organ systems in future cyborgs may contain human cells derived from the liver, pancreas, or other organs with specialised biochemical, immunological, and glandular function. But these replacement organs will look nothing like their predecessors — and they will be miniaturised into micro-organs so as to allow distribution of their vital functions in multiple parts of the body.
As the micro-organ concept is incorporated and disseminated more thoroughly, instead of saying that the cyborg body “has a liver” we will say that the cyborg body “is a liver.” Instead of saying it “has a pancreas,” we will say it “is a pancreas.”
A New Age of Robust Redundancy
Newer generations of cyborgs will provide distributed life support and waste disposal for the brain, in layered fashion. In other words, one life support/waste disposal system (made up of micro- or nano-organoids) may fail or be knocked out, but several others will continue to function — until repairs can make the cyborg body entirely whole again.
Remember, it is the brain that counts. As long as the brain receives sufficient support from the cyborg body, it will continue to function and make decisions — and interact with the outside world as needed.
A Brain Must Be Embodied
A large part of our brains as they exist today, deal with the homeostatic control of the body. This involves the interaction of an exquisite system of sensory signals from body to brain, as well as a robust set of motor and autonomic signals from the brain to the body.
Without these signals from the body, the brain would go insane. And without a body to control, much of the brain would alter itself to perform other functions. What other functions? Stay tuned.
Put simply, our brains need input — and lots of it. If for the sake of simplification, life extension, and acquisition of abilities to survive in harsh environments, we unwittingly cut off much of our brain’s input, we will soon discover our mistake and we will have to improvise. But I suspect that from the beginning we will build a multitude of sensors into our cyborg replacement parts, out of necessity for proper functioning as well as out of the need to keep the brain happy.
The body performs many more crucial functions than mentioned above. And it is important that as humans walk down the future paths of cyborg design, genetic enhancement, lab-grown organs for replacement, and many other innovative approaches to enhancing human function and lifespan, that we remember how we evolved the way we did, and why. Open mind, open heart.
Hope for the best. Prepare for the worst. It is never too late for a Dangerous Childhood ©.