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DIGITAL PEOPLE

biomedical side, we dont know if there would be harmful long-term effects on the body from the implants or if the combination of regen- erated nerve and silicon chip will hold up over a long period. And most important, cutting a nerve is not something to be done lightly. Such a risk might be acceptable for an amputee who wants to replace a lost limb with an artificial one, but it might not be so for an unin- jured person seeking only to be bionically enhanced.

Nevertheless, setting risks aside for the moment, in principle the regeneration-type interface dramatically illustrates how neural science combined with nanotechnology enables the transmission of internal neural signals to and from external digital electronics. The intrusive nature of this approach is an issue, but less invasive methods, which I will describe in Chapter 8, might be more acceptable. Electroneural interfaces have also made it possible to create livingnonliving hy- brids where the living part consists of neurons or low-level animal systems, also considered in Chapter 8.

SMOOTHING THE MOTION

While the successful merging of the biological with the artificial is still under development, in one respect artificial beings have clear biological roots:In gross outline,artificial beings largely resemble natu- ral living beingsif not humans, then animals such as snakes. Even the formless multiunit PolyBot moves somewhat like an earthworm or spider. The reason is easy to see. Many contemporary roboticists would agree with the engineer in Karel Capeks R.U.R. who says, [T]he product of an engineer is technically at a higher pitch of per- fection than a product of Nature. . . . God hasnt the slightest notion of modern engineering.Nevertheless, evolution has produced, in the billions of years of earthly life, varied and workable solutions to the problems of motion and manipulation, from insect legs and mamma- lian limbs to the ribs of the snake and the tentacles of the squid.

This does not mean that roboticists cannot find solutions that go beyond what nature provides.There are natural limits to the strength and speed of animals. But some natural solutions, such as the

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