(c)2013 by alizardx
This article is mainly intended to discuss ideas regarding DIY human augmentation (extending human senses, access to information, access to tools, ultimately increasing effective human intelligence, therapeutic devices) beyond the high-risk fashion accessory level, ideas about possible experiments in this area within the scope of available electronic technology for people already thinking about these concepts, and ways to make such experimentation safer for people who want to do this in the real world.
My perspective on this at this point is as an outsider contemplating future hands-on involvement, so what I know is based on online research. I’d like to hear from people who are doing this.
Advocacy is not enough to bring the promises of Transhumanism to fruition. Spinning visions of a future that can not naturally evolve from the techno-capitalist system as we know it today is not enough to persuade people that change is unnecessary because technocapitalism will bring the Miracles of The Future automatically to your doorstep with the invisible fine print saying “if you’re one of the super-rich who can afford it” That’s why they currently fund it.
Programs that include concrete goals and real-world social and political actions and the people willing to carry them out are required to make “better living through bio-enhancement” available in a real future world to the masses. A Transhumanism without real-world action to make it real is a fantasy live-action role-playing game. That’s why Russian Transhumanists are starting a political party. In a parliamentary system as exists in RU, a small party can influence much bigger ones as part of political coalitions. In the US, one would create an advocacy group aka “special interest group” aka “pressure group” for this kind of goal.
Here’s an article from Fast Company about do-it-yourself biohacking, but note that the writer seems to conflate DIY enthusiasts with venture capitalists. Would-be Transhumanists shouldn’t assume that they’ll benefit from the work of the latter. Why share their research when they can sell it to the highest bidder? Accessing the work of academics poses similar problems. Acquiring papers through major academic publishers is expensive and trying to get them for free through one’s connections or from the original author is in my experience, a crapshoot.
Sometimes, a DIYer is going to have to reinvent the wheel. The good news is that sometimes, one can reinvent a better wheel, and the most important thing about a technology if one wants to do this is knowing that it’s possible.
One big problem area for electronic implants is power. Being cut open for battery changes doesn’t impress me as fun. Permanent through-skin electrode implants seem problematic. Imagine having a lithium-ion cell break open inside. Or explode.
Batteries might be replaceable by the combination of inductive charging (as in those new charging pads for cell phones) and ultracaps -the CNT ultracaps in lab stage should never wear out. It may be possible to create CNT ultracap electrical storage that can fail safely in a human body even if the encapsulation fails. These are areas where DIY research should be possible.
Chemistry resolves toxic concerns about carbon nanotubes. Safety fears about carbon nanotubes, due to their structural similarity to asbestos, have been alleviated following research showing that reducing their length removes their toxic properties.
What could one do with an implanted Raspberry PI? One reason I’ve been thinking about this is that enough power to make truly useful implanted devices would make things a lot more interesting. That’s another reason I’ve been looking at inductive charging + ultracaps. Possibilities regarding indirect I/O coupling to the nervous system via prosthetic have occured to me: It might be possible to couple to it non-intrusively, but my thinking about this isn’t eady for prime time, look up the Neurophone patents if you wonder where I’m coming from.
I also suspect that if the consumer-grade EEG headsets from Emotiv, etc. were hardware hacked for higher analog bandwidth, we might learn some interesting things. What’s out there beyond the P300 wave? My thinking about this not ready for prime time yet, either.
DIY bioprint is interesting, here’s a how-to for converting an ink-jet into a low-res Arduino-controlled bioprinter but more people in the DIY scene should be looking into using pen plotters. (I’d try eBay – make sure they’re HPGL controlled) The convoluted paths and filters necessary in an ink jet don’t exist there, one could print cells and scaffolding materials (multipen plotter) and other things at the same time, and determine what goes where in CAD or graphics software. Precise control of “ink” locations, but size of pen opening tube can fit the particle size of what is printing. Not a new idea, but most of the references I saw in a quick search were academic research. Adding a “z” axis should be possible, too.
Linux HPGL drivers exist for them, for other OSs, there’s Google.
Interesting work in progress on neural implants: Brain-machine Interface: A Multi-disciplinary Approach Shows Progress – Dana Foundation” Note that the goal of the research is control of biomechanical limbs, but imagine the ability to push virtual buttons that exist only in your mind to control internal and external devices.
What are “best practices” in DIY bioimplant design?
Wonder if RoHS including lead-free solder is being used in DIY electronic implant hardware. If you don’t know what RoHS is you should not be designing implantable electronic devices. Murphy’s Law applies to DIY tech even more than it does to the commercial variety. Encapsulations will break if they get into enough people.
RoHS means “Restriction of Hazardous Substances” used in electronics. This is intended for protecting the environment when electronic devices hit landfills, but IMO, should apply within human environments, too.
Downside – dictates use of lead-free solders that are harder to work with. Bad news about RoHS – solders harder to work with and IIRC, more brittle.
I suspect magnet implants will be found to be a bad idea. If a user winds up in an ER unconscious after an accident so severe that she’s popped into a MRI machine after her bleeding is stabilized, what happens when the super-intense magnetic fields meet the implant magnet and it goes somewhere else at high speed? Nothing good. Perhaps another severe injury, the hospital suing the patient afterwards for damaging the MRI, possibly both. And it’s only a matter of time before this happens to somebody.
Then, there are issues with respect to magnet coatings or even the magnet breaking loose inside the body. Or the use case where magnet meet credit/debit card mag stripe. Non-issue on a smart card, but check your wallet before assuming they’re universal. Be glad floppy disks are obsolete. Is anybody collecting instances of problems with implants (including magnetic) to find out what problems users are having? Serious trouble with these implants with the legacy media giving stories on this a high profile could result in bad law/regulations targeted at stopping this entire line of DIY “citizen-science” research.
One can probably get the same EM (electromagnetic) directional effect via a ring using Hall effect sensors and vibration output on the inside of the ring for direction. A ring can be taken off.
DIY transhumanism beyond the high-risk fashion accessory or prosthetic level requires an organizational and legal framework for cooperation between users/ potential users, real doctors, actual biomedical engineers, less traditional software and hardware hackers (like me), wetware biohackers and medical research hospitals for use of facilities. The law and regulatory changes won’t get there without a political agenda and political organization as a “special interest group” to get it. Thinking about an organization to make cooperation easy between interested parties can happen right now.
What kinds of law and regulations do we need?
Why not a universal legally recognized “Biohacked” symbol so that people with experimental implant technology can wear USB thumb drives around their necks with full documentation on what they are, what they do, and what they are made of, with ER personnel trained to look for them under circumstances when device failure is the problem, or the device implants in normal operation might affect other conditions that people are seeking medical treatment for?
An easy way to get non-FDA approved experimental implants involving new law and regulation at the Federal level so doctors who want to work with patients to do implants, engineers who want to come up with cool surface mount implantables assuming informed consent/liability waivers can do so without worry about getting sued or prosecuted, and a voluntary guinea pig can go to the ER without fear of getting anyone into trouble or a massive medical bill If Something Goes Really Wrong.
How about courses in biohack technology from the POV of a medical practitioner? (written by DIY types first, later, serious medical course materials for continuing educational credit and for medical university courses) Good if you’ve got the implant and you’re in the ER, and a good way to prepare doctors to get involved with the creation end of the technology.
An argument can be made for getting at least emergency treatment for people who wind up with DIY biotech medical problems covered under Obamacare NOW and requiring their coverage under employer-paid insurance. People who do this are taking risks on behalf of all the rest of us, the good ideas that come out of this are ultimately going to wind up corporately produced, “off-the-shelf”, FDA approved, and available through routine medical care.
FROM USEFUL TECH TO MASS ACCESS
Delivery of implant tech to the masses has to happen through Big Health / Big Pharma. Building an alternative network that can deliver in volume nationwide is a non-starter. Operating rooms capable of delivering neurosurgical services means big capital investments, they are found in hospitals, not clinics.
Open Source means that incumbent corporations could simply read posted information on devices and build their own versions with nothing to stop them, and no way for developers to prevent them from profiting from their own free R&D unless the corporations hire them. What if the corporations get it wrong? Would the original hackers get sued, too?
Open Source “copyleft” and GNU license models don’t work well for hardware, copyright (software) is fundamentally different from patent law, biggest difference is in copyright, you own your own words, copyright basically recognizes this, even registration is optional
Patents require dealing with the US Patent and Trademark Office and spending several thousand dollars each. Few people can afford to spend several thousand dollars to make intellectual property freely available to the public. So what’s most likely to happen is that we’ll see developers who get somewhere filing for patents and using the intellectual property as a basis for fundraising to create new med tech companies and/or sell their patents to incumbent medical electronics companies selling their products to Big Health.
After FDA approval, then they become Expensive Medical Things You Can Buy, next problem how to require that they be covered by medical insurance to make them truly accessible to the masses.
And that takes us back into politics.