As humanity battles the Ringhead aliens in our Cold War series, they’re going to suffer losses and injury, same as war in any era.
For most of the wounded vets in our story, medical science can put them back in the field with little downtime with skin, organs, and whole limbs printed from custom stem cell bio-matter laid down with medical grade 3D printers.
Shrapnel tore through your liver? We can print you a replacement in a few hours.
Set off that thermobaric grenade a little too close for comfort? We can print yards of skin to set you back to rights. If you’re not picky about color, we’ve already got reserves in the cooler for you.
Lost an arm or a leg to a Ringhead on a rampage? We’ll lay you down in a state of the art hyperbaric healing chamber, complete with picometer resolution scanning to match your replacement to the remaining limb.
Lost both? Pick from our library of standard limbs, which can be customized to match stature and skin tones.
Most organs can be printed in less than a day. In the field, a portable unit can be used to regrow skin and major vessels to triage and stabilize until the team returns to base. Limbs are printed over the course of one to two weeks, depending on the severity and level of amputation.
(This was inspired by a great article on How Stuff Works. Seriously, none of this stuff is that far off right now.)
I listen to a few podcasts, and one of my favorites is Stuff to Blow Your Mind. They recently did a great show on neurosecurity, and spent about a good portion of the show talking about the possibility of hacking prosthetics!
At first glance, I thought they were going to talk about the neural hacking in Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash, where one of the characters figures out how to access the brain’s underlying ‘machine language’ and subvert your learned, cultural programming. Alas, the show is much more practical, speaking to present day issues, and a discussion of near-future aspects of what is sure to be a prevalent problem in our ever-wireless society.
While I was a little bummed that they didn’t talk about Snow Crash, I was thrilled to hear them talking about quite a few prosthetic devices I have a lot of experience with. They mentioned both the iLimb hand, and the Lynx knee-ankle system, both of which can connect via Bluetooth to your phone to make everyday adjustments.
And for the most part, they got it right. They do make the mistake of referring to the prostheses as “mind controlled” which isn’t quite right. What we have currently is prostheses that are controlled by reading the muscle signals in the remnant limbs.
The real potential for hacking is when the man/machine interface really achieves direct brain control. Then you’ve got something implanted in you that is directly reading your brain signals, and sending sensory data back to your brain as well. (A future post on feedback from your prosthesis!) Having that transceiver in your head opens up a whole world of worrying possibilities, from scanning your mind for data, to influencing you to act in certain ways.
Would you do it? Would you take a neural implant that augments your natural abilities, or returns the function of a lost or damaged limb? Is the risk worth the reward?