According to the Amputee Coalition, approximately 185,000 amputations occur in the United States each year and 3.6 million people will be living with limb loss by 2050. These are numbers that cannot be ignored and now, MIT is planning to do something about it.
Their solution is straight out of a sci-fi film with the proposal to meld humans with machines in order to address amputations and other physical and neurological disabilities. The newly formed MIT research center is called the K. Lisa Yang Center for Bionics and it has been established thanks to a $24 million donation from philanthropist Lisa Yang.
“The K. Lisa Yang Center for Bionics will provide a dynamic hub for scientists, engineers, and designers across MIT to work together on revolutionary answers to the challenges of disability,” MIT President L. Rafael Reif said in a statement. Reif added that with this visionary gift, Yang was sending a signal to the world that the lives of individuals who experience disability matter deeply.
The center will be led by none other than MIT Media Lab professor Hugh Herr, who is a double amputee himself and a trailblazer in the field of robotic prosthetics. Herr said in the announcement that “the world profoundly needs relief from the disabilities imposed by today’s nonexistent or broken technologies."
The scientist added that we must continually work towards a future where disability is no longer a common life experience.
Herr will be working alongside Ed Boyden, the Y. Eva Tan Professor of Neurotechnology at MIT, a professor of biological engineering, brain and cognitive sciences, and media arts and sciences, and an investigator at MIT’s McGovern Institute and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, who is a renowned creator of tools to analyze and control the brain.
If all this sounds a little familiar it's because attempts to merge the mind with external factors have become rather commonplace in the last few years. Elon Musk's Neuralink is seeking to merge minds with computers and more and more human and machine collaborations are emerging. The future may even see this merging of machines with humans go beyond merely dealing with disabilities to making us more superhuman, giving us superior strength and intelligence. Are you excited about the future?