Friday, June 09, 2006

sense the force

Mark Williams found this article about artifical expansion of human senses. They've developed a cheap implant to allow people to sense magnetic fields and changing electric currents. How cheap? It's just a little magnet inserted under the skin at the tip of the finger.

But here is what's really remarkable: this discovery wasn't made by medical researchers; it was made by body-mod artists. That's right, body-piercers. At first, I just thought that was interesting, but then after a moment I realized that medical researchers in the US today probably couldn't have done this at all. The tons of regulations on medical research probably make it prohibitively expensive to do simple things like this. Those body-piercers could get away with it because they don't have to worry about licensing and permissions and reports and insurance.

Try to think of some cool things that would have been possible by now if there weren't so many regulations and expenses that keep most serious people out of body-enhancement. How hard would it be to give someone a build-in compass, for example? Or a radio receiver (or a cell-phone, but we need more minaturization first)? Or the remote-control idea that Michael mentions (although I think you could do it without an active transmitter)? And of course there are lots more way to imagine improving the human body that would require more effort and research, but there seems to be little going on in this direction even though it has been a frequent subject in science fiction for decades.

In a way, it almost seems like medical research in this country has been deliberately handicapped to prevent it from advancing too quickly, much like our energy supplies have been deliberately handicapped by the anti-American activists posing as environmentalists (and we are reaping the consequences today). I wonder if the handicapping of medical research has similar roots or if it is just the chaotic response to fear of the unknown.

UPDATE: Donald Crankshaw is a lot less positive about this idea...

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