Skip to main content
Move the World.

Thinking about cyborgs in real life typically conjures thoughts of pop culture works like The Matrix. Terminator. Bladerunner. Hollywood loves to sensationalize merging the body with advanced tech. But will it really be so bad? We sat down with Adam Piore, author of The Body Builders: Inside the Science of the Engineered Human to discuss why we should stop freaking out and embrace our cyborg future.

Spend any amount of time with popular futurist works of art and you'll find that the future is something to be feared, not embraced.

But when Adam Piore, a journalist and reporter who has spent decades covering just about everything, went looking for these stories of our fearful future, he found something he didn't expect: a future of possibilities—possibilities that just a few years ago seemed contrived at best, and dangerous at their worst.

When his research took him into the cyborg future of bodies with advanced tech like bionic arms, finger regrowth, and helmets that can read your thoughts, he learned that many futurists are actually trying to help people and humanity with their inventions and applications.

Inspired by the intersection of technology and humanity, one of Piore's focal points is the life and story of a “real life cyborg” Hugh Herr—a rock climber that lost both his legs below the knees to frostbite while he was still a teenager. His drive to continue climbing led him to engineer prostheses that were more suited to his climbing needs.

But Herr didn't stop there.

His pursued his interest in math and science at MIT, where he earned a PhD and began studying how the human body's limbs work. From there, he built himself bionic legs, which he could control neurologically, instead of mechanically.

The desire to augment the human body, Piore says, represents a shift in human understanding—from the unknown of the outside world to the unknown of the human body and mind. A new cyborg future, if you will. Today, he argues, the most talented minds are pointed inwards to hack, reverse engineer, improve, and upgrade our bodies and the lives of those in need.

But Piore didn't skirt on asking the important questions, such as whether these technologies could be weaponized or used against us, creating fear or heralding a wonderful new era.

As with most questions of this nature, it depends.

Tools are typically as useful as the person wielding it, and powerful tools can be used for nefarious means as well as for helping improve people's lives. Even something as simple as a hammer can be used to build and to destroy, depending on the intent of the person wielding it.

At the heart of the issue, Piore found that most of the inventions and hacks he discovered were being used to help people and could be classified more as human-interest stories than the stuff of post-apocalyptic conflict commonly depicted by Hollywood.

These heartwarming and inspirational stories, he found, illustrated human perseverance and the overcoming of challenges most of us could never imagine, such as the loss of limbs or mobility. Our cyborg future is a story about the resilience of people and the good that can be done, all in the name of helping others.

And that might just be the key. If we have good people trying to do good things with science and technology, the future looks like something that could be better for us all.

For more interesting news about the issues and topics that drive our world, keep it right here on Freethink. We're Freethink Media, and we move the world, one story at a time.

Up Next

Tech for Good
AI Device Helps Wheelchair Users Control Their World
assistive devices
Tech for Good
AI Device Helps Wheelchair Users Control Their World
These assistive devices are equipped with 360 cameras and eye-tracking technology to help those with mobility and speech impairments find independence.

These assistive devices are equipped with 360 cameras and eye-tracking technology to help those with mobility and speech impairments find independence.

Dope Science
Medical Cannabis Explained
medical cannabis
Dope Science
Medical Cannabis Explained
Medical cannabis is everywhere. We're answering your basic questions and unpacking the promises and pitfalls, based on the latest research.

Medical cannabis is everywhere. We're answering your basic questions and unpacking the promises and pitfalls, based on the latest research.

Dope Science
Marijuana and Autism: Removing the Stigma
Removing the stigma of marijuana and autism
Dope Science
Marijuana and Autism: Removing the Stigma
Research is beginning to prove the hopeful connection between marijuana and autism treatment for symptom relief. Here is one man’s inspiring story.
By Kurt Hackbarth

Research is beginning to prove the hopeful connection between marijuana and autism treatment for symptom relief. Here is one man’s inspiring story.

Dispatches
A Hidden Benefit of Banned Antimicrobial Soap: Treating Cystic Fibrosis Infections
A Hidden Benefit of Banned Antimicrobial Soap: Treating Cystic Fibrosis Infections
Dispatches
A Hidden Benefit of Banned Antimicrobial Soap: Treating Cystic Fibrosis Infections
The FDA banned triclosan from hand soap, but new research shows that it can supercharge old antibiotics.
By Chris Waters

The FDA banned triclosan from hand soap, but new research shows that it can supercharge old antibiotics.

Dispatches
The Gut Microbiome Affects Brain Structure
The Gut Microbiome Affects Brain Structure
Dispatches
The Gut Microbiome Affects Brain Structure
What happens in your gut in childhood can change how your brain works later in life.

What happens in your gut in childhood can change how your brain works later in life.

Wrong
What Happened to the Beepocalypse?
What Happened to the Beepocalypse?
Watch Now
Wrong
What Happened to the Beepocalypse?
In 2006 bees started disappearing. Beekeepers reported to losing up to 90% of their beehives. And no one knew why....
Watch Now

In 2006 bees started disappearing. Beekeepers reported to losing up to 90% of their beehives. And no one knew why. Nearly every news outlet raised the alarm, warning of an imminent beepocalypse that would devastate our food supply. But while alarm bells rang, things turned around. And bee colonies are now at a 20 year high. How did we get the beepocalypse so… wrong?

Can an Algorithm Catch a Serial Killer?
Can an Algorithm Catch a Serial Killer?
Watch Now
Can an Algorithm Catch a Serial Killer?
A self-professed data nerd, Thomas Hargrove believes everything around us is following a mathematical formula...including murder.
Watch Now

A self-professed data nerd, Thomas Hargrove believes everything around us is following a mathematical formula...including murder. Hargrove wanted to find a way to use data to solve cold cases and identify potential serial killers that have gone unnoticed. Armed with public homicide records, he created an algorithm that can spot similar patterns across different cases. Each cluster is given an unique identifier -- what he...

The New Space Race
The Market for Tiny Satellites Is Going to Be Huge
The Market for Tiny Satellites Is Going to Be Huge
The New Space Race
The Market for Tiny Satellites Is Going to Be Huge
Fleets of small satellites can gather far more accurate and timely data than conventional satellites. And investors...
By Mike Riggs

Fleets of small satellites can gather far more accurate and timely data than conventional satellites. And investors are taking notice.

Science
Could Your Brain Regenerate Like Skin?
Could Your Brain Regenerate Like Skin?
Science
Could Your Brain Regenerate Like Skin?
Brain regeneration used to be considered a medical fantasy. But research shows that fantasy could eventually become...
By Levi Gadye

Brain regeneration used to be considered a medical fantasy. But research shows that fantasy could eventually become a reality.