Some of the typical and most frustrating signs that I’m aging manifest themselves as achy joints and other pains. Luckily most seem easily remedied by exercise and an occasional visit to a gifted chiropractor and healer. Looking down the road, part of me wonders what the future will hold beyond knee replacement surgery and cortisone shots. Cyberpunk is one my favorite sub-genres of science fiction, where man melds with machine and often becomes superhuman in the process, and I can’t help envisioning myself sporting bionic limbs, taking the stairs like a kangaroo. For those with limited exposure to the cyberpunk genre, I urge you to read the source materials to find some true treasures of futurist writing.
My first glimpse of the possibilities for mechanized enhancement came courtesy of The Six Million Dollar Man. Today, Steve Austin’s and Jamie Sommers’ bionics would not be nearly as affordable (something like $60M for his and hers cybernetics). Short of volunteering for experimental surgery, it’s unlikely most of us will ever see such medical technology made publicly available in our lifetimes. Since reality isn’t somewhere I usually spend much of my free time, please indulge my imagination.
A spinal replacement would likely be my top choice. I’ve had a bad back for years, and it’s limited me on several major occasions in my life. It also seems like a logical choice, though I’m ignoring the complexity and recovery time involved, hoping that the technology would also exist to make these minor inconveniences. Replacing my spine would be a good start to further overhaul most of my joints and skeleton, not to mention I could easily end up taller just by eliminating unnatural curvature. Once I got started, I wouldn’t want to stop until I could enjoy new, pain-free shoulders, knees, and elbows. I’d spend my first month post-recovery on the tennis court and the the first winter skiing.
Some of my favorite cyberpunk fiction involves software that can be run in one’s brain, knowledge immediately accessible: language fluency, computer expertise, and interfaces with the nervous system to allow me to play music like a virtuoso or perform stunts like Jackie Chan. I could say goodbye to my GPS, since it’s incapable of staying suctioned to my windshield anyway, and access all of the same data with a thought.
My vision upgrades could allow me to see across the light spectrum. I promise to use my X-ray vision like a complete gentleman. Having eyes that could function like a microscope, binoculars, and light-gathering goggles could allow me to perceive the world around me to the very edge of my abilities to comprehend it. Augmented senses of taste and smell would allow me to truly appreciate all of the world’s marvelous cuisine and beverages beyond my currently stunted palate’s abilities. Surely there would be times when I would need to switch off these senses entirely, too.
Finally, breakthroughs to allow me to defy age-related mental deterioration would make aging far more exciting and less dreadful. Adding memory like a new hard drive on a computer, accessing names and other information like light-speed database searches; how might these things provide a quality of life for my aging self that I can only dream of?
What if youth were no longer wasted on the young? What if you could replace those bothersome knees with state-of-the-art joints to let you take the stairs three at a time? What if we could enjoy active lives as long as we wanted to live them? Like any technology, cybernetic body parts could be used for evil just as much as good. In fact, that’s usually what makes great conflict in cyberpunk fiction, but I hope we get to see an equally awesome revolution in the quality of people’s futures as well.