Recall the mitochondrial singularity–my hypothesis that not only did the singularity already happen, we are evolving into the mitochondria of our own machines? And, like mitochondria, we don’t even notice. From the mitochondrion’s point of view, the organelle just gives up on activities that its host cell performs for it. Welcome to our posthuman future (or transhuman, if you prefer.) People who like the idea call it transhuman, whereas those who fear it cry, “Posthuman!”
So I’ve inaugurated a new feature–a review of this year’s less noticed stories of transhuman improvement. This year’s winner, more bizarre than most, is:
Robot camel jockeys. In the Persian Gulf, where camel racing is a time-honored sport, children as jockeys have been replaced by robots. The robots transmit commands from the masters, hovering nearby in cars. One wonders when the camels–and their masters–will be replaced as well.
Perhaps closer to home, with more urgent significance:
Ebola disposal robots. Disposal of contaminated clothes is the most dangerous part of tending Ebola patients. So why not let robots do the job of removing Ebola-contaminated garments? As we know, robots already serve other health care needs, such as calming dementia patients.
In another realm, our bid for immortality via stem cells advanced this year along several startling fronts. Perhaps the most surprising achievement was the conversion of adult skin cells into primordial germ cells–embryonic-like cells of a type that could produce sperm and egg. Human sperm and egg in a culture dish?
Other stem cell achievements this year:
- Insulin from embryonic stem cells can cure diabetes.
- Stem cells cured a spinal injury, generating axons the length of the spinal cord.
- Blood vessel formation in a mouse brain, from bone marrow stem cells.
- 3D printing of stem cells may form replacement organs.
What’s your favorite transhuman advance of the year? Or posthuman horror?