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

Neuroscience
"Off-Switch" in Mouse Brains Offers New Hope for Pain Relief
Pain Relief
Neuroscience
"Off-Switch" in Mouse Brains Offers New Hope for Pain Relief
A newly discovered part of the mouse brain appears to naturally stop pain processing, and it could lead to more robust pain relief options in the future.

A newly discovered part of the mouse brain appears to naturally stop pain processing, and it could lead to more robust pain relief options in the future.

Public Health
Would You Volunteer to be Infected With COVID-19?
coronavirus vaccine development
Public Health
Would You Volunteer to be Infected With COVID-19?
Coronavirus vaccine development could take months. There’s a potential shortcut though: purposefully exposing research subjects to the virus.

Coronavirus vaccine development could take months. There’s a potential shortcut though: purposefully exposing research subjects to the virus.

AI & Privacy
Hey Alexa, Quit Eavesdropping!
audio jammer
AI & Privacy
Hey Alexa, Quit Eavesdropping!
Researchers at the University of Chicago have developed an ultrasonic audio jammer that doubles as a fashion accessory.

Researchers at the University of Chicago have developed an ultrasonic audio jammer that doubles as a fashion accessory.

Public Health
How to Make 100 Million Doses of Coronavirus Vaccine in a Year
coronavirus vaccine
Public Health
How to Make 100 Million Doses of Coronavirus Vaccine in a Year
Creating a new vaccine is slow and expensive. One biotech firm thinks a “plug-and-play” vaccine could change that.

Creating a new vaccine is slow and expensive. One biotech firm thinks a “plug-and-play” vaccine could change that.

Biology of Addiction
We May Have Found a Drug to Curb Meth Addiction
drug to curb meth addiction
Biology of Addiction
We May Have Found a Drug to Curb Meth Addiction
Meth addiction is on the rise, so this team of researchers is working to develop the first FDA-approved medication to treat the use disorder.

Meth addiction is on the rise, so this team of researchers is working to develop the first FDA-approved medication to treat the use disorder.

Global Impact
Uganda Begins Massive New Ebola Vaccine Study
Uganda Begins Massive New Ebola Vaccine Study
Global Impact
Uganda Begins Massive New Ebola Vaccine Study
The Ebola outbreak in the Congo is now the second deadliest on record. How can we stop the devastation? A study in Uganda could hold the key for a new vaccine.

The Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is now the second deadliest on record. The epicenter is in North Kivu, a conflict-torn province which shares borders with Rwanda and Uganda. Ugandan Ebola cases were the first to cross borders from the current Congo outbreak. Now, a new trial study in Uganda could hold the key to stopping the spread of this devastating disease.

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?

Wrong
Beware the Frankenbabies!
Beware the Frankenbabies!
Watch Now
Wrong
Beware the Frankenbabies!
Frightening predictions almost stopped the invention that has helped millions of families.
Watch Now

As scientists began to develop in-vitro fertilization in the ‘70s for parents struggling to have a baby, experts and media piled on with frightening predictions that almost stopped the invention that has helped millions of families today dead in its track.

Superhuman
Meet the Man with the Most Advanced Prosthetic Arm in the World
Meet the Man with the Most Advanced Prosthetic Arm in the World
Superhuman
Meet the Man with the Most Advanced Prosthetic Arm in the World
Johnny Matheny has been working with doctors at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab to test a prosthetic arm that is...
By Mike Riggs

Johnny Matheny has been working with doctors at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab to test a prosthetic arm that is controlled with your thoughts.