Becoming the Bionic Man

Feature

Friday, November 04, 2011

Charlie Neumann is a scientist at a design company. After a gruesome accident destroys his leg, he becomes obsessed with creating a prosthetic limb superior to his old biological ones — stronger, smarter, and better-looking. Eventually, he severs his other leg to get a matched pair.

Charlie is the protagonist of Machine Man, a new novel by Max Barry. But his story has a real parallel in Hugh Herr, a leading bionics developer at MIT, and a double amputee following a mountain-climbing accident. Herr has developed legs that allow him to climb better than he could previously. With a generation of young injured veterans needing prostheses, the need to build mechanical limbs that equal or exceed natural ones is urgent.

Hugh Herr mountain-climbingHerr climbing with prosthetic legs
(Courtesy of iWalk)

Will artificial limbs ever get so good that able-bodied people will want them? “People with ‘normal’ minds and bodies, I predict, will volunteer to use these technologies to go beyond what nature intended,” Herr thinks. “Maybe we shouldn't be cell- and tissue-centric. Maybe we shouldn't view our biological hand as the end-all."

Produced by Jonathan Mitchell, with performances by Ed Herbstman and Chet Siegel.

 

Video: iWalk PowerFoot Gait Animation

    Music Playlist
  1. Soft Trees Break the Fall
    Artist: Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
    Album: The Social Network (soundtrack from the Motion Picture)
    Label: Null
    Purchase: Amazon
  2. Pieces Form the Whole
    Artist: Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
    Album: The Social Network (soundtrack from the Motion Picture)
    Label: Null
    Purchase: Amazon
  3. It Catches Up With You
    Artist: Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
    Album: The Social Network (soundtrack from the Motion Picture)
    Label: Null
    Purchase: Amazon
  4. Penetration
    Artist: Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
    Album: The Social Network (soundtrack from the Motion Picture)
    Label: Null
    Purchase: Amazon

Contributors:

Jonathan Mitchell

Comments [1]

KB from Brooklyn

Your program today used The Bourne Identity as an example of a science fiction movie in which false memories are implanted into the protagonist. This is incorrect.

Bourne did go through some kind of brainwashing process as part of his secret government training, but loses his memory following a traumatic near-death experience which occurred long after his training was over.

Bourne reconstructs his past through assembling the periodic flashbacks he later experiences of moments in his career as an assassin that actually happened. There were no false memories in the film.

Nov. 06 2011 02:45 PM

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