Function x Form: Should we strive to keep looking human?

edited March 2016 in Everything else

Hello everyone, I would like to ask something that has been bothering me for some time.

For a while now I have been building up a business proposal to start a company dedicated to biohacking and augmentation, hoping to be one of the first in the market. I will make a topic for that later when I feel I am ready to pitch the idea to start-ups and investors. But while working on that I came up with a pertinent

Every time I started to think about really advanced augmentation (New legs, arms, eyes, organs) I saw the obvious difficulty I would have to make the mainstream public accept the idea. After all, even if this new mechanical arms let me punch with the strength of a world record strongman and these new legs run at 30km/h, why would I need it?

Then it hit me: We shouldn’t just try to improve the design, we should try to create something new.  Instead of legs that just look exactly like our regular ones but a little sturdier, if you could have a completely new design that is even more efficient? Maybe some things like a foot that can rearrange itself to a different shape, so you have different settings to climbing, swimming, running and plain walking.

Hands that have fingers that split in half, giving you double the amount of
appendages to hold onto stuff, or a hand that changes into something else
altogether. Maybe tools like picks and knifes.

Eyes that see into normally invisible spectrums: Infrared, ultraviolet, gamma, radio.

Organs with amazing new capacities: Lungs that can handle 4 packs of cigarettes a day and filter all the bad stuff away, leaving only the nicotine to pass. Livers and kidneys capable of processing more toxins in an hour than their biological counterparts in a whole day.

Why keep these augmentations as simple reproductions of the originals with a sturdier material? They can be so much better!

Sure, it is all very farfetched. It would take at least 70 years of constant R&D to get to such level, but all good ideas start as just that: Ideas. Besides, I am
totally not the first person to think of such a thing. You guys know that.

I was quite pleased with my line of thinking until I came back to the reason I started it and realized how much I had failed.

As amazing  as these things sounds, they would not look human. At all.

People with facial piercings are shunned in society already (Tough that comes less from the piercing itself and more from the idea of type or person that chooses to have a piercing, but the point stands), imagine what sort of shunning a man with a leg with a forward bending knee would face? Or a person with hands of pure metal? Or one who’s left eye look exactly like a Borg eyepiece?

As most of you can tell from looking at my profile pic, I am a huge fan of the Adeptus Mechanicus from WH40K. When I was coming up with ideas for projects, I kept thinking about stuff that would not look out of place with them. But they barely look human.

Has anyone ever done studies or research on the impact such thing would have? Even a little pondering? I can imagine quite the social division happening. I don’t really see the human body as a form I wish to keep if there is a better alternative, but I am pretty sure the average person would freak out at the idea of having asymmetrical eyes, or arms with alien looking hands.

I think that, even though it is something that is so far away from our reality today, we should already start thinking about this stuff.


  • edited March 2016
    Wait, what the hell happened to my formating?

    Edit: I fixed it a little. Still looks hideous. For some reason the site keeps tuning the 1st or 2nd space in every paragraph into a new paragraph.
    Edit 2: It looks presentable now.
  • By the time you have any of that tech developed it would be a completely different argument. Like discussing the morality of chemical weapons in the civil war era. There are too many unknowns and culture shifts completely in 15 years, much less 70.
  • That is a good point: Society, culture and tech all change with times. But the idea is still fascinating to ponder.
  • When you come up with the eyes I'm 1st okay. ;)
  • Speculation is fine. . but too often fruitless.
  • A fair reasoning for this argument would be. "Is it socially acceptable to prance around wearing extra arms?" For a welder something like that would have its applications. However that's in industry, it's not like walking down the street with them. Also for what it's worth I used the arms because I remember someone posted a thread about a 3 armed drummer.

    John Doe
  • I can imagine a schism of sorts happening throughout society - those who think this is the most interesting possibility in the world, and leap at the chance to alter their bodies into something more efficient, and those who don't.

    Political parties would have to start covering what they would and wouldn't allow should they get into government. Parents who discover their children are experimenting on themselves in secret would throw them out or take them to a 'specialist'. Activist movements would exist to argue for the right to modify our bodies how we want.
  • So basically the same thing as any other mainstream political movement/social change?
  • I really think you have an inflated sense of drama. People on the more extreme edge of piercings and body-mods, which half of our stuff is an offshoot of, garners no attention outside of being regarded as 'weird'; and they get crazy with their mods.

    Actual REAL biohacking like you are talking about has already had precursors. How about LASIK? That's an advanced body modifying technique with benefits. No drama. Cochlear implants for the deaf? No drama. Liposuction and plastic surgery? Moderate to low drama.

    My point is that these procedures will always start off as a method to restore something lost, unless you're doing it yourself. The procedures will be slow and spaced out, and no one is going to complain about a procedure to implant a neurally linked speech processor to help someone with severe aphasia.
  • The most obvious, and common, biohack is glasses, and they're completely accepted. Contacts are closer to an implant and no one thinks they're weird, although people used to.

    In my opinion the real change is going to happen the first time someone intentionally replaces their eye with technology. People will be squeamish about limbs but having an eye removed and replaced with an obvious implant will be jarring to people in a very visceral way. Add to the the backlash similar to what we saw with google glass and it could lead to some real problems.
  • Neil Harbisson has talked about some of the less than favorable responses he's received because of his very visible technology.
  • Technically eyes have been replaced but are non functional (as far as I know).
  • Like, someone pulled out their perfectly good eye and replaced it with something?
  • My grandfather suffered an accident and had is left eye replaced with a glass one, meaning he was blind out of that eye. I believe he had a metal plate put in to secure it in place. The procedure was probably done mid-90's.
  • Same with the friend of the family. He had his right eye taken out and got a glass one.
  • I was thinking along the lines of someone who had no problems with their eye and took it out anyway. I've only seen people who replaces their eyes because the original was damaged in some way, not replaced an eye that worked.
  • Societal change and acceptance of new norms is always something that always takes time. It's entirely possible that with the advent of cosmetic or functionally better prosthesis there'll also be a surge of sentiment against it - both by people who fear or misunderstand change and by those who find it indefensible from a moral or religious point of view. It opens up a can of worms, but -- and I'm sure a large amount of you will kneejerk at this, but hear me out -- it is going to raise some valid points against them.

    What happens to war with the sudden surge of things like augmented soldiers, on both sides? Is it right to force or even offer to recruits these kinds of things? What happens when they come back from war, or are discharged? Do you let them keep their military implants? Do you take them back? How much is this going to hamper readjustment into society?

    How is society going to react if there's major life-extension that a select few can partake in, but others can't? Is it going to be a good thing to have the most influential and richest part of society live to 300 while others die at 100? At which point can insurance companies and hospitals deny hyperexpensive implants, even if they could save a life? (If you're thinking that could never happen; it will. Don't kid yourself.) 

    Then, you're forced to consider the prospect of work, too. It's entirely possible that a large amount of technical and machinery-centric jobs could start requiring augmentation for workers to keep up -- how is that going to factor into society? What if it's against someone's religious beliefs or moral guidelines to be augmented; can he be fired from his job because of this? If it's "choose or be replaced", how is that different from press-ganging people into augmentation? Is it right to essentially force people into human enhancement, even if they don't want it? If not, how are we going to handle this?

    They're all valid questions - not unanswerable, mind you. They're things that we're going to have to tackle once this comes, and it's not unlikely that these discussions and conflicts will take a turn for the worse. I think that things that go outside of human function and form will probably exacerbate and make things happen worse, sooner, but that's not something that should stop us. Nothing should stop because people fear change.
  • In agreeance I will copy and past this previous post:
    "After a lot of thought on if what I want to say is fair and justifiable, here we go. IMHO in civilization there are clicks of people with similar skills. Maybe not everyone likes everyone else, but they have that comment thread and therefore make a flock. Every so often another click comes along that threatens there flock. Like welderes to the a assembly line tech, it scares them and as the wheel would turn they feel threatened by this new flock. We aren't just another flock we are a wolf pack, we threaten (by testing the limits) all fields of science, technology, ethics, philosophy, and even who we are as humanity. People who do things like this will be accepted we do break molds but it takes time. While this could forever remain a underground thing that is only know to few who dare peer into the window, but who knows only time will tell. People here are really the last breath of a breed that is not extinct, but rapidly heading that way. People who seem just smart enough to not get themselves killed on the surface, however once you dig deeper you see they have a theory and a ideal (I would even go as far as to call it a constitution) that keeps them from getting ourselves or others killed. People like this think openly about and to the world around them. That has proven itself to be the greatest fear of humanity through out history. In the end we are all wolfs or sheep, there is no in the middle. If you are curious as to what I mean by the breaking of the mold look at the civil rights movement or even the dame American Revolution, those all had massive social impacts, none of them also happened overnight. Wow that sounded like some new age rant....

    To Long Didn't Read?
    If you care to much about what others think of you or how they look at you, your in the wrong place. Like I said above we are the last of a dying breed. You (as has anyone who has taken a sincere interest in any fringe culture) have taken at least the first step to escaping the mold and for that I congratulate you. Humanity has always wanted to move forward and it will, just slowly vary vary slowly. If you want the machine to move faster go find away to paint it in a positive light. Like saveing babies or altering the economy for the better, get creative.

    John Doe"

    Felt like it was relevant.... Look at the "social reaction to implants"- thread
  • I would love to replace arms and legs and when mainstream media attacks us we come up with a new species name for us something cool and techy
  • "It's entirely possible that a large amount of technical and
    machinery-centric jobs could start requiring augmentation for workers to
    keep up -- how is that going to factor into society?"

    It arguably already is, and has been. How many people get into nootropics (or coke) because they either want to sleep less and work more, or they want to get some form of edge at the office? Long-haul truckers don't stay awake through force of will and CB chit-chat.

    The change doesn't have to come as an explicit demand from the higher ups, they just have to create a workplace where you can't compete unless you're enhanced, and count on the employees to make their own decisions. Granted, there are other decisions the employees could make (unionize, sabotage, quit, etc.), but as long as the choices are "work" and "die in a box under a bridge", people will pretty much always choose work.
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