Updated March 14, 2013: Check out the video below on the new artificial retina scientists are working on. Mind blowing stuff!
It didn’t take long once I started writing and researching The Lunar Chronicles for me to realize that there is nothing, and I do mean nothing, that I could imagine for my futuristic world’s technology that modern-day scientists aren’t already working on or have already managed to create. Truly, most of the technology you see in the books is available today (even if much of it is extremely expensive and inefficient and not yet available to the general public). Or, if we don’t have it today, it’s at least relatively plausible.
“Cyborg” was a term coined in the sixties referring to any creature that is both cybernetic and organic. Some theologists say that we are all cyborgs already. Take, for example, our reliance on cell phones, which have become so ingrained in our society that many people consider their cell phone an extension of themselves. Have you ever left home without your cell and felt uneasy and disconnected all day? Is it that different than if the cell phone were literally a part of your body, say, imbedded in your spinal cord? I’ll let you make that call.
Cinder’s cyborg parts are, of course, physical components of her body. They work in harmony with her brain and nervous system. Her hand and foot function just as biological limbs do (though without physical sensation) and her brain-machine interface is really just a smart phone, computer, and television combined into one… only in her case, it’s all included inside her head.
Believe it or not, such technology isn’t entirely the stuff of fiction anymore. Check out these videos that show how scientists are controlling insects through cybernetic components, how a bionic eye has helped a blind woman see crude images again, and how one professor has constructed a robotic hand that he can control with his thoughts.
It’s pretty amazing stuff, especially when you consider that many of these videos are already years old!
Warning: some videos contain graphic and eerie images. Viewer discretion is advised.
Learn more at http://artificialretina.energy.gov/.
World’s First Bionic Eye:
Man Controls Robotic Hand with Mind:
Androids and Robots
Robots are all around us. They paint cars, vacuum carpets, even assist doctors with performing very delicate surgeries. But what about robots that can move and think independently from their initial programming? What about robots that learn? What about robots that look and move like people (androids in the technical sense)?
Well, scientists are working on that too. Here’s one example of a dancing android girl in Japan. While her movements are still preprogrammed, her ability to stand, balance, and move is impressive in its own right:
Singing and Dancing Japanese Robot:
Whether or not artificial intelligence will ever match or surpass humans is still under debate, although I think most scientists would agree that we’re getting closer. The question, therefore, becomes: do we want our computers to think for themselves? This is a question that science-fiction writers have been addressing for decades.
Warning: the robot in this video is ADORABLE and will probably make you want one.
ASIMO is Learning:
This robot is less cute, but it can understand and respond to verbal questions from a crowd:
An A.I. Robot Developed by Ford:
Portscreens and Netscreens
We pretty much already have portscreens and netscreens! Do you have a smart phone or tablet? There isn’t much the portscreens of my books can do that our handheld devices can’t. There are some differences in how we use them, though. In The Lunar Chronicles, the characters use less text-based communications (emails and text messages), and more visual-based conferencing, which is similar to modern-day Skype or FaceTime.
Additionally, in my futuristic world, televisions have been entirely replaced with netscreens, which are really just larger portscreens that people hang on their walls or imbed in their desks. Have you watched your favorite TV show on your computer or downloaded a movie from Netflix rather than waiting for the DVD to arrive? It’s pretty much the same thing.
In The Lunar Chronicles, most information lives on the net and can be pulled up on any netscreen or portscreen, and the devices can “talk” to each other when necessary, kind of like how they do in this really awe-inspiring video.