Monday, November 27, 2017

Playing God, or better than Him?

In an article in Scientific American, the author, Larry Greenemeier, presented a case about whether prosthetic legs gave an unfair advantage to athletes like the South African sprinter Oscar Pistorius or the Paralympic long jump champ, Markus Rehm.

Even in today's technology age, a differently-abled person is not expected to perform as well as an able-bodied person, though we have seen enough inspirational stories of grit and determination that indicate to the contrary. These stories are exceptions than rule. Most people in this context will feel less equipped to handle the otherwise routine work carried out by able-bodied people. Well, this is going to change in the near future. In fact, I believe that completely able-bodied people will begin to opt for a prosthetic change instead of the one they were born in. Does this seem like science fiction? Read on...

When my mother-in-law went through a knee-replacement surgery, the difference in her walking stance was stark. Had she been a runner before the surgery, she could have continued doing so after a slight recovery gap. There are numerous examples of marathon runners in every marathon today who have had a knee replacement too. I would definitely want to replace my ageing knees or the entire teeth set to be able to run as well as eat more sweets! Taking these cues further, I could have done this two decades earlier if I was convinced that the new man-made knees would give me a definitive edge in shaving off 30 minutes off the Marathon time.

On the high technology front, a bionic lens could enhance normal 20/20 eyesight three-times! With the existing technology, you could have your natural lens replaced with the bionic lens at about $3,200 and get a super-sight. With this lens, you could see the molecular details on your palm or read a book 10 feet away. I am certain that much more fancy stuff is on its way that will allow you to choose the super-sight features you may want and at a much more affordable price.

The organically grown body parts will become such commonplace within 50 years that a parent might choose to enhance the yet-to-be-born baby's eyesight with hyper-vision and get it changed after child-birth. In a way, it will be a customized accessory that will replace the "factory-fitted" eyesight. And unlike what we might be dreading as a robotic fixture, the body parts will be grown out of the mother's tissues.

What does all of this imply for education?

How and what one could "teach" a child, who has a customized memory-retrieval chip that will not add on to the world's largest memory stick (your brain) but will be far more efficient in retrieving the things you need. Teachers today are already finding it hard to cope with the ever-pervasive Google and the good ones are changing their teaching styles by using Google/ internet as an enabler.

In future, a teacher may become a redundant figure in a child's development and get replaced by a much more involved creative guide to a learner. Technology (read, internet) hasn't really replaced schools or teachers. But that is only because the employers are still hesitant to hire someone without formal schooling/ higher-ed qualification. With this set to change to hiring requirements for thinkers and innovators, the kind of education one needs would need to change too.

We are slowly, but surely, moving to a future with far more complex relationships with machines and robots. To keep our human-ness intact, education will play a very big role. They may take a completely different form but schools and colleges are not really going away soon. The trick is to ensure that they keep current, even in future...

2 comments:

Pawan Dhawan said...

Quite interesting,indeed.

Shilpi Boylla said...

Thanks for sharing!