Back when Dr. de Hart and I were having our discussions when we were writing Transhumanism: A Grimoire of Alchemical Agendas, one of the things we talked a great deal about was the promise of new technologies in the realm of prosthetics, and of the long term implications. Well, with that in mind, here's one for your "tranhumanist scrapbook" as yet another technology appears poised to come on line, one huge with long term implications:
Now, personally, I view the ability to restore some level of sight to the blind as a good thing, provided, always of course, that we allow those individuals who might benefit from such a technology the choice of whether or not they want to utilize it.
What interests me here is really two things: (1) the relative "klunkiness" of the device, and (2) the description of how it operates. First, the klunkiness. Many of you are probably not old enough to remember the first home computers... Commodores and Ataris and - for those who were desperate for a word processor - Radio Shack's TRS 80 (ah, I can hear those Daisy Wheel printers clattering away like a gattling gun even now). Then there were the first computer games, a black screen with a blip bouncing back and forth... then missiles, PacMan and Ms PacMan...
Compare those dinosaurs to what we have now. Smaller, more compact. Or recall too the first portable phones, nearly as big as a World War Two "walkie talkie" and only capable of making or receiving calls (barely). Now they fit into your hand, and you can do virtually anything with them.
So project the curve of this device forward a few years, a few decades. Soon, it will be miniaturized to the point it will fit directly on the retina, and people will not even know who has, and who doesn't have, an artificial retina.
We'll get back to that point.
Then there's the way the device works:
"The device, called the Argus® II Retinal Prosthesis System, transmits images from a small, eye-glass-mounted camera wirelessly to a microelectrode array implanted on a patient's damaged retina. The array sends electrical signals via the optic nerve, and the brain interprets a visual image."
Now again, project the development curve forward: no longer will the camera be external to the eye, but internal to it. One will, in the best DARPA-esque fantasy, be able to snap pictures and file them away in the brain, to be downloaded onto disk later.
Now imagine the extension of this technology: the incorporation of "extended frequency vision" (EVF we'll call it, given the penchant for the people involved with such things to speak in anagrams and abbreviations). With EVF, these sensors could be made to see into the infrared and ultraviolet range, and beyond. One might envision the ability to tune or select which frequencies one wished to see, and, of course, such a technology would constitute a "cure" for color blindness. The camera could be "networked" so that an individual could transmit real life images and audio recordings to a remote location where others could surreptitiously look and listen in...the ultimate transhumanist spy.
And of course, all those new security businesses that will spin off from it and a bevy of new slogans from Madison Avenue: "Be safe, be sure: have your fiance scanned for cyber implant interfaces today for the nominal fee of..."
The brave new world is coming folks.
See you on the flip side.