WE HAVE ALWAYS BEEN BIONIC
sources that are more long-lasting, powerful, and compact than present-day batteries.
But to motivated physicians, engineers, and scientists, these barriers are there to be broken, and to them and humanity in general, any technology that eases suffering by repairing or replacing physical dam- age should be pursued. Nevertheless, there are legitimate questions, including moral issues, about the wisdom and desirability of bionically modifying people. On the purely medical side, the unwanted possi- bilities include some already noted, such as infections from the im- plant process and other harmful effects that might develop over time.
Even if we can avoid undesirable physical effects, bionic modifi- cations might have unwanted psychological outcomes or, expressed more poetically, implantation might damage the human spirit.These problematic effects could include a sense of alienation, such as re- ported by some cochlear implantees, but the jury is still out on this issue because other implantees have not suffered such strong reac- tions.For example,the journalist David Beresford,whose severe symp- toms of Parkinson’s disease have been largely relieved by a neural implant, recently wrote,
And then there is the psychological side: what is it like to be a 21st cen- tury cyborg, with wires coming out of my skull? When I think of it— which is not often—the thought of a wire running deep into my brain is vaguely unsettling, nothing more.
Alternatively, unwanted psychological changes might arise from implants that directly impact the brain in the form of neuroelectronic connections or drug-delivery systems that alter emotional states. To the implantee, such reactions would appear as subjective feelings whose effects would be difficult to evaluate by external diagnosis— another complication when weighing the benefits and drawbacks of changing people in this way.
The potential side effects of implantation require long-term study, only now becoming possible, for example, with a new population of