ROBOTS WITH HUMAN SKIN…AND OH, LOOK, A 3-D PRINTER THAN CAN DO ...March 12, 2017
Yesterday, you'll recall, I blogged about a little house that was built in Russia, on the spot, using 3-d printing or "additive manufacturing," for a little over $10,000. And in recent years we've also occasionally covered stories about the use of the technology to print various biological components: organs and so on.
Well, many readers of this website noticed a significant story that was reported just this past January, of the latest application of the technology to "print" human organs, in this case, skin:
Now, there's a disturbing passage here:
It may be the biggest human organ, but it’s about to become a lot less finite.
That’s because scientists in Spain have developed a prototype for a 3D bioprinter that is capable of producing totally functional human skin.
The skin can be used for research purposes, testing cosmetics and other chemical-based products, and for transplanting onto human patients.
“(It) can be transplanted to patients or used in business settings to test chemical products, cosmetics or pharmaceutical products in quantities and with timetables and prices that are compatible with these uses,” said José Luis Jorcano, one of the researchers behind the project. (Emphasis added)
Note the now-familiar tactic whenever such technologies are being advanced and "sold" to the public, the good old "think of the health benefits" argument. Well, true enough, such skin would be a convenient test bed for testing pharmaceutical products and cosmetics, and this is sure to have the animal rights' advocacy community's attention, for currently, as is well known, animals are use as test subjects for cosmetic products and so on, and as a result, suffer. Getting rid of that would be good. However, it does not take a great leap of the imagination nor much "high octane speculation" to realize that such printed organs could also be convenient test beds for other purposes, such as the testing of skin-absorbed bio-weapons, and so on.
However, my real concern today is the connection between this story and the following story that many people also shared:
And in case you missed that important paragraph, here it is:
Two University of Oxford biomedical researchers are calling for robots to be built with real human tissue, and they say the technology is there if we only choose to develop it. Writing in Science Robotics, Pierre-Alexis Mouthuy and Andrew Carr argue that humanoid robots could be the exact tool we need to create muscle and tendon grafts that actually work.(Italicized emphasis added).
Now ponder that statement in connection with the first article, for if it is now possible to 3-d print human skin, then the possibility of 3-d printing specific human musculature is not far behind, and with that, the "human looking robot." Forget about the humanoid robots of I, Robot of Isaac Asimov's celebrated sci-fi classic or the movie with Will Smith, or C3PO of the Star Wars series with its definitely mechanical robots and "droids". In effect, the robots would increasingly look human, more like the "androids" of the Alien series of movies.
And since we were talking yesterday about the decline of labor productivity, why even bother hiring expensive actors (like Will Smith) at all, when one could design a robot with a certain "look"? Why hire expensive performers for a rock band or symphony orchestra when one could simply create a whole orchestra of robots, which, incidentally, wouldn't make "mistakes"?
Asimov foresaw it all in I, Robot, and one can only hope that the same people who are pushing the "androidization" of human society will also be giving some thought to the three fundamental rules of robotics that Asimov also wrote about.
And it's worth mentioning that things didn't go so smoothly, in spite of the best of intentions and the three rules of robotics, in Asimov's "fiction," which, unfortunately, looks more like it is becoming science fact.
See you on the flip side...