The world is advancing in technology faster than anyone ever imagined. It was just over a century ago that the first lightbulb was invented through trial and error; now we fly in huge metal planes with hundreds of tons of cargo and have touch-screen phones that need fingerprints to open. Just recently, another extreme scientific advancement that’s been dreamed of for decades is in very near reach: bionic prosthetics. We’re not talking the usual arms or legs that just replace what was lost and can almost move assuming one’s next action rather than knowing. We’re talking bionic limbs that read electrical and chemical signals from the brain to move like a normal limb. The only promising bionic parts that are almost available to be used are arms, consisting of “eight bones, seven joints, and fourteen muscle branches” using “more than 8,000 spiking neurons and 500,000 synaptic connections” (“Evolutionary Prosthetic Arm”). To do this, a program is put through reinforced learning exercises to learn like Artificial Intelligence. Simply put, an arm is attached with very small wired connections to the brain where motor control is located. A goal is then given to the person: to touch an object. They think to move the arm just like a normal arm. However, if the arm moves farther away, those synapses are punished with something like a spike of electricity. Synapses that advanced the arm closer to the object were not punished. Through this process, the brain learns its new arm very quickly and efficiently with low error. In a matter of time, any limb either lost or paralyzed from brain damage could be brought back to life. There are multiple veterans from Iraq that need limbs replaced that not only could improve way of life, but even improve mental health. This huge progression could also be helpful to those with paralyzation from strokes or even reinforced limbs to decrease chance of injury. Overall, this technological breakthrough could be a sign of a bright, healthy future for all of the world.
June 11, 2017