The age of enhancement

March 5, 2013

Spiderman (credit: Columbia Pictures)

Technology is starting to give us superpowers once reserved for comic-book heroes, Slate reports.

Human enhancement is happening all the time, largely through incremental improvements on existing technologies.

Wearable technology is taking off. Muscle suits are starting to look more plausible. The military is working on “Spider-Man suits” that let the wearer scale vertical walls.

Devices that interact directly with the human brain can use things like your skin conductance, facial expressions, and perhaps even brain waves to detect your emotions and intentions, albeit crudely. In the medical realm, cochlear implants can restore some hearing to the deaf. Future neural implants could allow humans to manipulate real-world objects with their minds.

In North Carolina in 2008, researchers got a monkey thinking hard about walking — and in Japan, a pair of robotic legs began to do just that, controlled by the monkey’s brain activity via the Internet. And last December, a quadriplegic woman in Pittsburgh used electrodes implanted in her motor cortex to feed herself chocolate with a robotic arm.