The Bionic Man – Paradigm of the Great Taboo?

I read a most interesting narrative of the world’s first “bionic man” assembled from prosthetic body parts and artificial organs donated by laboratories around the world. While it is interesting to note that the world’s first “bionic man” weighs in at a cost of almost $1 million to build, anyone who has taken a look at the cost of building a car of its spare parts purchased at retail knows that this amount is actually an incredible bargain, explicable only by the fact that the “bionic man” is by no means complete but represents only two-thirds of the entirety of the anatomy of living humans. Still, it does contain an artificial heart, blood, lungs, windpipe, pancreas, spleen, kidney and a circulatory system, some brain functions, and prosthetic implant parts of sensory organs. There is little doubt that the number of human “spare parts” will in time grow to approach the original asymptotically – likely in direct proportionality to geometrically rising cost. And let’s not forget that the component artificial body parts were, well, donated. It was their cost of assembly that amounted to a cool million.

After some breathless accounts of technological details, the anecdote reaches the intangible points of the experiment:

“The bionic man brings up some ethical and philosophical questions: Does creating something so humanlike threaten notions of what it means to be human? What amount of body enhancement is acceptable? And is it wrong that only some people have access to these life-extending technologies?

The access issue is especially troublesome, [Roboticist Rich Walker of Shadow Robot Co. in England] said. ‘The preservation of life and quality of life has become basically a technical question and an economic question.’”

True. But is it possible that Walker overlooked the fact that life extension has always been a technical and economic question?