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

Robotics
Quadruped Robot Can Break a Leg and Keep Going
Quadruped Robot
Robotics
Quadruped Robot Can Break a Leg and Keep Going
Dyret is a shape-shifting quadruped robot that can change the length of its legs. This helps it walk across different terrains or account for any injuries.

Dyret is a shape-shifting quadruped robot that can change the length of its legs. This helps it walk across different terrains or account for any injuries.

Robotics
Robot Made of Ice Can Repair and Rebuild Itself
robot made of ice
Robotics
Robot Made of Ice Can Repair and Rebuild Itself
A team of researchers wants to build robots out of ice and send them to space. The icy bots can use found materials to rebuild themselves.

A team of researchers wants to build robots out of ice and send them to space. The icy bots can use found materials to rebuild themselves.

3D Printing
3D Printed Homes Could Soon Be Made Out of Dirt
3D Printed Homes
3D Printing
3D Printed Homes Could Soon Be Made Out of Dirt
By transforming soil into a construction material for 3D printed homes and other structures, researchers hope to slash concrete's environmental impact.

By transforming soil into a construction material for 3D printed homes and other structures, researchers hope to slash concrete's environmental impact.

DIY Science
Hackers Build a DIY Satellite Tracker to Eavesdrop on Space
satellite tracker
DIY Science
Hackers Build a DIY Satellite Tracker to Eavesdrop on Space
The NyanSat guided challenge asks hackers to build a satellite tracker, making low-earth-orbit satellites more accessible.

The NyanSat guided challenge asks hackers to build a satellite tracker, making low-earth-orbit satellites more accessible.

Future of Medicine
New Drug Could Provide Long-Term HIV Prevention
hiv prevention
Future of Medicine
New Drug Could Provide Long-Term HIV Prevention
HIV prevention typically requires a daily pill. A new, injectable drug may be able to work for over a month at a time.

HIV prevention typically requires a daily pill. A new, injectable drug may be able to work for over a month at a time.

Dope Science
Healing PTSD with MDMA Therapy
mdma therapy for ptsd
Dope Science
Healing PTSD with MDMA Therapy
New hope for PTSD sufferers is coming from an expected quarter: MDMA.
By Kurt Hackbarth

New hope for PTSD sufferers is coming from an expected quarter: MDMA.

Coded
Meet the Artist and Activist Who Wants You to Erase Your DNA
Meet the Artist and Activist Who Wants You to Erase Your DNA
Coded
Meet the Artist and Activist Who Wants You to Erase Your DNA
Heather Dewey-Hagborg wants to make sure people understand the hidden secrets in the DNA they leave behind...
By Michael O'Shea

Heather Dewey-Hagborg wants to make sure people understand the hidden secrets in the DNA they leave behind everywhere they go.

The New Space Race
Who Owns the Moon?
Who Owns the Moon?
The New Space Race
Who Owns the Moon?
Throughout history, different organizations, governments, and even individuals have attempted to establish rules...
By Mike Riggs

Throughout history, different organizations, governments, and even individuals have attempted to establish rules for, and ownership of, outer space.

Science
A Regulatory Fight Is Brewing Over Experimental Stem Cell Therapies
A Regulatory Fight Is Brewing Over Experimental Stem Cell Therapies
Science
A Regulatory Fight Is Brewing Over Experimental Stem Cell Therapies
New proposed regulations from the FDA would effectively shut down private stem cell clinics in the U.S.
By Mike Riggs

New proposed regulations from the FDA would effectively shut down private stem cell clinics in the U.S.