Noah J Nelson on Tuesday, Jul. 22nd
Advancements in prosthetics–like the DEKA Arm which was recently approved by the Federal Drug Administration— and machine vision (think: Google Cars) seem to finally pushing us towards the cybernetic future that made 1980s action movies so badass.
Yet the recent breakthroughs are still a far cry from the science fiction fever dreams of Gen X’s youth. Which prompts the question: why has it taken this long into the 21st century to see this technology come to the fore? Well it turns out that there are some deep differences in how biological and artificial systems deal with electricity. Check out the lead paragraph of a recent article at Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News:
The electrical activity of living organisms and human-made devices evidence a fundamental mismatch. Living organisms transmit electrical messages by moving positive charges, protons, and positively charged ions such as calcium and sodium. Human-made devices—retinal implants, nerve stimulators, and pacemakers—rely on negatively charged electrons.
So there’s our culprit: machines and mankind just don’t speak the same electrical code. Since we’re not going to rewire human DNA to better suit machines–not yet, anyway–the solution for the cybernetic divide will have to happen on the artificial side of things. Which is exactly what that GE&BN article is about.
Scientists at the University of California, Irvine have found a way to use a naturally occurring protein from pencil squid to create an electrically conductive material that transmits protons efficiently. This could–could, mind you–lead to a whole class of electrically conductive material and devices that interact directly with human biology.
Will it lead to half-men, half-machines who are all cop? Probably not.
All squid, maybe.