Cyborgs have existed in popular culture for decades, from Doctor Who's Cybermen to Darth Vader to the Borg, and beyond.
And now, we're finally reaching a place where cybernetic enhancements are within reach in real life. Individuals like Jerry Jalava and Kevin Warwick are already experimenting with their own bodies, becoming guinea pigs for the next version of humanity.
So when cybernetic enhancements become commercially available, which one will you choose?
Top image: Pasukaru76 on Flickr.
Our inevitable cybernetic future
In the course of two decades a massive, half-kilogram cell phone became a six-ounce smartphone, featuring all the accessibility of a personal computer. The absorption of technological devices into our bodies, to improve our day-to-day lives, is an inevitable next step.
We will likely see commercial cybernetic enhancements become available within our own lifetimes. Here's a survey of several possible first-gen upgrades to help you decide which one to pick.
Embedded web interface
Feel disconnected when your smartphone is dead? Now you will never be alone (or bored). Data will stream directly through your mind, entertaining and expounding on your slightest thought, while you stay in contact with the physical world around you. The constant supply of information could make it hard to turn off your web interface, and lead to a new kind of ADD — but there's little doubt this would be the choice of millions of people.
Fast twitch muscle stimulator
Looking to increase your reaction time? Want to jump from rooftop to rooftop with ease, allowing you to fulfill a superhero dream and possibly chase criminals around?
This cybernetic device would be difficult to create (with several animals/test subjects experiencing some crippling injuries in calibration) — but a fast twitch muscle stimulator would either increase the number of fast twitch fibers, or increase their efficiency. Make your dream of fighting crime or playing a sport professionally come true, one limb at a time.
This enhancement would be the cybernetic equivalent of popping several gigabytes of RAM into your laptop. Issues with recalling facts and information would become a thing of the past. Decisions and calculations would become easier overnight, and you'd never feel like you were reaching in vain for a witty retort, during a dinner conversation.
As someone pulling in a -6.50 on his contact lens prescription, I would jump at the opportunity to wake up with corrected vision, let alone optional add-ons like digital imaging and recording capabilities, a zoom feature, and a heads-up display (HUD).
As part of a generation weaned on first-person shooters, the HUD would be a major selling point — important information, directions, and even class notes would float in my field of view at the blink of an eye.
Google is readying a pair of sunglasses with a built in HUD for commercial sale — could an implant be far behind?
Any replacement organ
The 2010 movie Repo Men is all about a health care system that's propped up by replacement mechanical organs. You don't necessarily choose to be a cyborg — the failure of a vital organ makes the choice for you.
So instead of getting cybernetic upgrades to give yourself an additional ability, or a new sense, maybe you'd like to get a backup organ, to stave off death or disability? To steal a line from Liev Schreiber's slimy character in Repo Men, "You owe it to yourself. You owe it to your family."
Not an early adopter? Afraid computer viruses could find a way to infect your wetware? What happens if your advanced optics tragically "brick" while you update their firmware? Forgoing the cybernetic jump for a few years might be the safest choice, if you don't want to worry with pesky bugs.
Exactly how your body will power the internal components of these implants is a bit of an issue as well — but harnessing existing electrical gradients in the body or functioning with a rechargeable battery supply would be options. Regardless of the power issue, which implant would you choose?