Chinese researchers have successfully developed injectable nanobots, and of course, we started thinking about what will be swimming around in our veins next.
Cyberpunk animes ask the questions we want to know the answers to–most notably those about body augmentation.
Modern technological implants such as nanomachines are growing in capacity, capabilities, and accessibility, but the ramifications of such changes are yet unknown.
How comfortable is too comfortable with body implants and modifications?Nanobots: Becoming Hybrid Gods or Weaker Cogs?Click To Tweet
Cybernetics and Data: The New Frontier
The proliferation of this human-technology genre in literature, movies, and video game development has only increased since the 1970s. Many of the focal points in cyberpunk revolve around how humanity interacts and integrates with technology and how those co-minglings affect the human condition.
Body mods are no longer limited to piercings, tattoos, or making yourself look like a lizard or a cat. In cyberpunk futures, you can replace your less than perfect eyes with cybernetic eyes like Batou in Ghost in the Shell or even have a full cybernetic body like Major Kusanagi. You can even download data into your brain for a living as a “data courier” as in Johnny Mnemonic.
The down side: Batou’s eyes can be hacked and Johnny’s brain would explode if he didn’t make his data delivery.
Oh–and your cybernetic body could be construed as government property.
Incorporating network access into your very body and brain creates some new challenges as you go through daily life. These challenges will rapidly become reality instead of science fiction.
Nanomachines Will Soon Become The Nanobots of Myth
Body modifications that include digital technologies are susceptible to all of the same things your mobile device, laptop, or desktop computer is.
This hasn’t deterred scientists and R&D teams much. Robotic and prosthetic limbs and nanobots are two chief technologies that are on the brink of becoming just as powerful and life-changing as cyberpunk would have you believe them to be.
Nanobots first appeared as “nanomachines”, but the capabilities were nothing like what the movies would have us believe.
The first nanoparticle (in the form of an encapsulated drug) received FDA approval in 1995. Since then, only 30 nanoparticle drugs made it to market despite the FDA approving more than 700.The FDA has approved more than 700 nanoparticle drugs.Click To Tweet
Chinese Researchers Successfully Create Swimming Nanobot
Tianlong Li and his team at the Harbin Institute of Technology in China created several 5-micrometer-long nanobots that can swim 10 micrometers a second. This isn’t very fast, but the bots can fit in your veins.
These gold nanobots have two nickel arms that are stimulated to move by a magnetic field. At best, this is a good start, as the bots can’t swim very fast and are made of materials our bodies would likely reject.
Nanobot researcher Eric Diller from the University of Toronto in Canada points out that the bots are also too small to carry enough medicine to be an efficient, targeted treament method.
“Maybe a thousand of them would be necessary. There’s no way to keep track of all of them, so there are a lot of questions about safety and toxicity,” said Diller.
The ultimate goal is to utilize nanobots as targeted medicine delivery machines made of biodegradable materials. This means that something out of Incorporated, the short-lived Syfy tv series, could legitimately happen.
One of the two major corporations portrayed in Incorporated, Inazagi, “infected” employees with a virus to monitor their vitals, location, activities, etc.
If this type of biocybernetic innovation seems far-fetched, prepare to be disappointed. A company in Wisconsin plans to implant their employees with microchips. Though the company claims there is “no GPS tracking at all”, this type of body modification and commodification raises understandable concerns. How long before your body becomes government or company property?
Becoming Hybrid Gods or Weaker Cogs?
Many people–scientists and cyberpunk fans alike–insist that nanobots and other body tech modifications will completely enhance the human experience. Others have raised concerns of hacking and invasion of privacy. Some even fear biological detriments such as lung damage.