Rolling Without Limits

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The Future of Disability: Will Technology Completely Overhaul the Term?
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The Future of Disability: Will Technology Completely Overhaul the Term?

We cannot know how many people in the world live with some kind of physical need, be it from blindness, deafness or mobility, but that number is probably figured in hundreds of millions. As radical technology advances, all these people will be given a chance to explore new technologies at their disposal. Such powerful technology, though some of it already exists, will come no doubt; but it’ll come with a cost some might be unprepared to pay.

The modern science is already making great strides towards meeting individuals' needs. The Argus II for instance, makes it possible for blind people to, through robotic technology, see some things even better than the natural eyesight. We have every right to wonder what kind of technology will be available in 15-20 years from now. Bionic eyes for everyone, perhaps? 

Likewise, what kind of wheelchairs can we expect in the near future, when such vast improvements were made since the beginning of the century? Nothing less than their complete overhaul I believe, since the exoskeleton technology have taken a massive initiative to become a commonality among those who need it. Moreover, exoskeletons might even become a reality for all humans, regardless of ability. I can already imagine different models of exo-suits being on sale, with different areas of application like sports, mining, battlefield or even an exo-suit that would offer different sex positions than we’re used to!

It’s also a lot better time for deaf people now than it was, say, 30 years ago. Those with hearing impairment are now treated with cochlear implants, enabling them to hear again. Given that the technology leans unstoppably towards such implementation and that the implements are becoming ever more powerful, one might rightly ask for a redefinition of the term disability. If the radical technology advances to a point where most of the people would be augmented and thus more superior to ’normal’ humans (whatever that means), who would then be the one with disability?

This is a good question, and for some even a bothering one. There are worries that too much augmentation would have a dehumanizing effect, that somehow these augmented individuals would become less than human. Some may even refuse treatment on that ground, a decision that ought to be respected.

This line of thinking has basis in logic, but it doesn’t account to the fact that there are millions, nay, hundreds of millions people all over the globe who can be treated with a proper technology. Shouldn’t we care about them first?

So yes, I believe that we will have to redefine the term ’disability’, and will do so on account of which augmentation a person takes or rejects . It’s somewhat similar to how the term ’death’ has been redefining recently. Suspended animation now allows the doctors in Pittsburgh hospital to keep their patients ’dead’ for a few hours before bringing them back. It’s only a matter of time when these few hours would became a few days, would become weeks, become years.

Disability will as well become a slippery term. But if the new name brings the possibility to get rid of all impairment, we should wholeheartedly welcome it.


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