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Body movements

In this step, we explore how AI can be used for medical purposes in the areas of prosthetics and enhancements.

In the video above, Coventry University emeritus professor Kevin Warwick talks about his motivation behind and experience of becoming the world’ s first cyborg. This video covers one of the main themes of this step and we’ll return to him later.

Research and development in artificial intelligence (AI), in addition to applying machine intelligence to the games that humans play, is increasingly focusing on the design of prosthetics (artificial limbs) and medical enhancements.

Prosthetics

For people who have lost one or more of their own limbs through illness or injury, a prosthetic (artificial replacement) hand or leg affords movement that would make life difficult for them to be without.

Furthermore, exoskeletons or robot-body-suits can allow standing and mobility for patients who have suffered paralysis and individuals who are wheelchair-bound. The following link takes you to a specific recent example where a man in France regained some of his mobility through exoskeleton technology Agence France Presse (2019) ‘Paralysed Man Walks Using Mind-Controlled Exoskeleton’.

The key challenge for AI in providing better mobility for some humans affected by injury or illness is for the material of the prosthetic to be engineered lighter and more ‘intelligent’. Smart materials that can react to and change according to the environment could ensure individuals wearing an exoskeleton or possessing an artificial limb have flexible, pain-free movement and high quality of life.

Deep brain stimulation

In addition to external body parts, invasive medical treatments or the possibility for medical enhancements have caught the attention of AI researchers. One application is deep brain stimulation using artificial intelligence in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease (Warwick and Shah 2013). Deep brain stimulation research involves creating an ‘intelligent warning stimulator’ that predicts the onset of body tremors in patients suffering from Parkinson’s Disease, which stops the locking of muscles.

British cyberneticist, and the world’s first ‘cyborg’ emeritus professor, Kevin Warwick reports (2013):

The power of an AI system can be employed to accurately model-specific features of the human brain, even features that the person themselves is not at all aware of. In this way, by monitoring the brain in real-time, an AI system can alter the brain’s performance in many different ways, increasing its capabilities.
(Warwick and Shah 2013: 167).
Where capabilities diminish due to age or disease, for example in dementia, AI technologies might provide a solution to restoring memory or preventing memory loss in the future. But what about human enhancement to boost intelligence giving an edge over others?

Your task

Discuss the morality of developing:
  • Prosthetics to replace missing and lost limbs
  • Enhancement technologies

References

Agence France Presse. (2019). Paralysed Man Walks Using Mind-Controlled Exoskeleton. The Guardian https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/oct/04/paralysed-man-walks-using-mind-controlled-exoskeleton

Warwick, K. and Shah, H. (2013). Selective Deep Brain Stimulation Through the Use of AI. In F. Lucivero and A. Vedder, Beyond Therapy vs Enhancement? Multidisciplinary Analyses of a Heated Debate. Pisa University Press

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