gridlike metallic inserts that aid the flow of blood in blocked arteries, in themselves a multibillion dollar industry).There are also cosmetic or vanity bionic additions that replace what accident or nature took away, or genetic inheritance never gave, from false hair and teeth to artificial eyes and breast augmentations (more than 200,000 of which were implanted in 2001 alone).
Cosmetic additions like these might be used in a project to make an artificial creature look human, but bionic alterations beyond the merely cosmetic are significant steps toward building a whole crea- ture.Where once we had only crude prosthetic devices such as a glass sphere in place of an eye, or an iron hook for a hand, now we are developing functional body parts that are increasingly indistinguish- able from the real thing, some with neural connections—not only limbs, but replacements for lost or diseased vision, hearing, and other capacities and organs. Most startling of all, we now look beyond the physical to “bionic brains” that is; “artificial” means to alter or aug- ment mental capacity and emotional states, from implanted drug de- livery systems to computer chips connected directly to the neural network.
The combination of human with artificial components lies at one end of a spectrum of artificiality, depending on how much of the being is made of natural or living parts, or is meant to look natural, and on how self-directed the creature is—from automaton, to robot, to android, to cybernetic organism or cyborg, to bionic human. An automaton is a machine that appears to move spontaneously, although actually it moves “under conditions fixed for it, not by it” according to one definition.A robot is an autonomous or semiautonomous ma- chine made to function like a living entity (here,“machine” includes mechanical, inorganic, or organic but nonliving moving or static parts, and electronic, computational, and sensory components). It can be humanoid, although not necessarily so; most contemporary robots take nonhuman shapes that are useful for their particular applications. An android is similarly entirely artificial but has been made to look human (the word comes from Greek roots meaning “manlike.”). Star
rek:The Next Generation’s Commander Data is a popular example of an android.