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Would You Like to Be Superman?

Published: 15.03.2012, Updated: 04.03.2017
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Humanoid robot, artwork

Would you like to be able to run at 60km/h, or toss a car in the air or would you prefer to have an eye with infrared vision and zoom? Which physical and mental super powers would you choose if they were available?

Sci-Fi in Real Life

Would you like to be able to run faster? Have infra-red eyesight and night vision? Or perhaps superhuman strength? Technological upgrading of the human body is a familiar feature of science fiction, and we usually don’t consider that this kind of bodily enhancement is possible in real life. But now the amazing future is on your doorstep…
It is no longer a sci-fi quirk; scientists around the world are doing serious research on the bionic man. Primarily, the studies have so far had a medical focus, that is – to restore dysfunctional body parts or impaired sensory capabilities. Medical science has come a long way, and today nearly anything is possible within the field of artificial body restoration, even the deaf or blind may be able to regain hearing and eyesight. So far, so good for medical research.

Cybernetic implantsCybernetic implants But science has always tended to be a bit ahead   of itself, and as the prospects unfold we may be looking at a brave new world of super-humans.   Like “chipping” a car, scientists claim that within a short time it will be feasible to upgrade, e.g. human strength and endurance, and they see no reason why retinal implants should not have capacities better than the human eye. What if your eyesight included smart-phone properties like recording, zooming, and downloading of various apps?

But there are obstacles along the way. First of all, this is immensely expensive research. Secondly, the human body is fragile and there is a limit to how much we can enhance one feature, e.g. strength or speed, without distorting the bodily balance, it would simply be dangerous. And – there are the moral implications, after all being human is what we are, and perhaps we should simply leave it at that.

Read the article: Is the Six Million Dollar Man Possible?  (BBC News)

 

Topics for Discussion

  1. In which areas do you see positive uses of increased human strength?
  2. How can these possibilities influence e.g. sports and military activity?
  3. Do you see any moral implications of this development?
  4. One of the scientists who is quoted in the article from BBC News says, “I think it is quite likely that humanity will fight back”. What do you think he means by that?
  5. If you have read the book or seen the film Frankenstein, is there a lesson to be learned?
  6. Characters with superhuman powers have been around for a long time in literature and film. Why do you think this is a popular theme?

Summarise

In a few sentences, summarise the conclusions of the three scientists who are interviewed in the news article, Richard Yonck, Dr. Anders Sandberg and Prof. Noel Sharkey, about what will be achieved with respect to enhancement in the near future.

 

Research

How many characters with superhuman powers in literature or film can you name? Find out about one such character, male or female, and present your findings to the class. Include:

  • origin (how, when, where)
  • superhuman powers and equipment
  • appearance, costume
  • moral standpoint
  • special features
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