Man or Machine

Category : Editorial

Researchers in Chicago have now built a half-living, half-robot creature, Astounding as it may sound, the breakthrough is not so much about building man-machines as. it is about investigating the way the human brain functions The experiment connects the brain of on eel- like fish to a computer and forms a closed system between the two entities — one living, the other mechanical. The robot's sensor detects when a tight is switched on and sends signals to the animal's brain which in turn returns Impulses Instruct mg the robot (and the animal attached to if) to move towards the light, In effect, the scientists have been able to infiltrate into an organism's mind. '

The exciting field of neural engineering, as the name suggests, looks at the billions of nerves that make up the human body as parts of on incredibly complex machine. With the advent of nano-technology (which Is basically engineering on the molecular scale and the creation of bio-chips, the neat division mode by Descartes centuries ago between the body and mind Is fast collapsing/The Chicago experiment is only the first step which may pave the way for the creation of advanced, brain-controlled prostheses for people with debilitating conditions like Parkinson's disease. May be as a spin-off, the combination of mechanical devices, with living tissue will also give the world the ultimate vacuum cleaner that will also be able to feel the dirt and grime that troubles the world's humans. Bio-sensors such as electronic noses and artificial tongues ore already used extensively to detect and measure a wide variety of molecules and substances, including blood glucose levels, atmospheric pollutants and toxins used in biological warfare. The new generation of devices already includes bizarre 'critters on o chip' such as bacteria attached to computer chips that map pollution, 'micro- chipped' honeybees and wasps that serve as sensors to detect chemical weapons, narcotics and land mines and rodent brains used to identify new drugs and medications. Short self-life of living tissues remains major constraint as does the need to constantly train and maintain robot-animal colas as servants of mankind. The new cyborgs are also quite unlike older entities such as the purely mechanical proto-robots or automata. Attributed to the Greek thinker Theron, these mechanical gods, dolls and birds fascinated ancient and medieval folks just as the plastic rodents, ducks and puppets which enchant visitors to Disneyland today. There is, however, one crucial difference: as 11 loins bits from life — enzymes and antibodies — with chips of silicon, a bio-sensor, even in its elementary form. This issue specially features story about Cyborg and Cybernetics.


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