Gibson: Beware biomechanical improvements

Medical technology is advancing faster than ever before. Each year, new discoveries are made to save lives and prevent diseases. In addition, this technological progression is aiding in extending human ability past the point of normality.

While devices that augment human skills have existed for a very long time, they are purely mechanical, as well as cumbersome. Continued breakthroughs are permitting doctors and scientists the capability to actually integrate technology into humans to permanently enhance their capacity.

One promising new development is the advent of the electronic contact lens. These lenses would be applied like any other contact lens, but they contain microcircuits and LED lights that are powered wirelessly.

Once active, these new lenses could create an augmented reality, not unlike a heads-up display straight out of a video game. Information only visible to the wearer could be displayed on these lenses, such as directions and location or they could even provide translation from written foreign languages.

Another advance in the field of optics is custom laser eye surgery. Using new mapping techniques and incredibly precise lasers, surgeons are now able to completely map and reshape the corneas in patients' eyes to fit specific needs.

If you have the money for it, you can pay a doctor to permanently enhance your distance vision or even your night vision capabilities. Such procedures are popular among members of the Special Forces and Air Force, who need perfect vision to fulfill their duties.

Although this technology sounds amazing, there are inherent risks. Any advance in biotechnology will eventually begin to approach the dangerous subject of genetic engineering.

Scientists predict that at some point in the near future, medical technology will begin to advance faster than life expectancy. The implications of this are startling; if someone is wealthy enough to keep up with all of the new medical technology, they could, in theory, attain virtual immortality.

The worst-case scenario here would be an extremely long-lived upper class of citizens separated from all others by technology. It may sound like a concept out of science fiction, but it may soon become a reality.

As nanotechnology becomes perfected and implemented, even diseases such as cancer may disappear completely from those who can afford treatment.

Nanomachines are exactly what they sound like: microscopic machines capable of independent movement. Primitive versions of these machines are used in surgeries even today, but as they become more advanced, they may be able to completely eradicate currently incurable diseases such as cancer or HIV.

Once again, technology could enhance human ability past normal levels, as these machines would also be able to repair any damaged cells, effectively preventing the human body from aging.

Eventually, the line between human and machine may become blurred, if not disappear altogether. Medical technology is indeed as fascinating as it is invaluable, but there are extreme risks associated with too much tampering with the human body. It is important to keep advancing technology, but it is equally important to keep it in check.