Dean_the_Young wrote:Having a mastery of genetics (in this case being able to isolate, trigger, replace, or manipulate a specific gene at will) would cancel out many of these potential problems. There will never be such a thing as cancer with genetic mastery, because you can simply turn off or limit the genetic malfunction that has triggered the uncontrolled growth. There won't be an incompatibility issue if the offered replacement is a genetic clone of the original, or if you go and turn off the piece that detects the incompatibility. Once you fix the degradation factor (and I'm pretty sure they already have leads on how to do that), you won't have to worry about an arm or leg withering on you.
As for errors and mistakes in the process, sure. There would be massive teething problems in getting it all worked out. But as long as you are willing to both take the time and have test subjects (either willing or not), you can work them out. In fact, correcting a specific mistake would be the best way to work out how to make a change in the first place. Something like "So I accidentally changed gene sequence A to B instead of sequence C to D? Let me change B back to A, and I'll have experience for sequence C...". But the overall question was "which would be better", not "which would be easier".
If we are going to use the "if we have enough time tow work out the kinks" argument, then why not do it for cybernetics? One of the big points you have been making is that genetics will give a more familiar product than cybernetics, but if I use your argument then I can say at some time we will have a robotic arm that feels like an organic arm, with improved neural connections that a person's mind will never know the difference and it can withstand a much larger stress than an organic arm can.
Yes and no. My point wasn't about "let's work out the kinks, it'll all be good then". I gave a point to go to consider accomplished, ie being able to manipulate any genetic sequence more or less at will. Which, considering the level of future technologies we're talking about, seems rather modest as we have already proven we can change certain genetic sequences such as the Bubble Boy disease. Having this level of ability (mastering probably wasn't the best word, as mastering applies knowing any and all genetic combinations) seems relatively modest, and covered the simple problems you brought up with a genetics path such as cancer growths or undesirable mutations. Once you can turn on or off a gene, you can turn on or off such problems at will. We know this because genetics is a "hard" science; we know the idea of how it works already, even if the complexity and details are far beyond us. We have the "tools", so to speak.
My problem with uber-prosthetics/cybernetics is more of "how far is possible". I do not believe in the possibility of a true AI/cyberbrain in the same way I do not believe reaching the absolute speed of light is possible. I do not believe in two-way neural connections between organic and non-organic (or at least not on any relevant technological comparison in this debate; by the time such could
be theoretically possible, limb cloning/regeneration would already be accomplished and then what would be the point of packing so much technology that demands outside mantainence when simple organic is there? These could be considered "soft" sciences, things we have ideas for but have no real leads on. They could be possible in the future, in which case I may proudly join the ranks of disbelievers, but then again they could be smoke dreams. I lean towards smoke dreams.
But most of all, I believe in the absolute limits any prosthetic would have to obey; strength, mobility, durability, weight, and appearance. Choose two; that's all I can reasonably expect. I am, surprisingly enough, an athlete. For me, the ability to do push ups, climb over a six-foot wall, go through an obstacle course, and then run several miles without a problem in any is a major issue. But any prosthetic, now or in the foreseeable future, would greatly hinder me. I can't afford to lug around a super-strong but heavy arm when I run, I can't afford a strong arm that can't go from push ups to pull ups to knot tying, and I can't afford an arm that will break if I land on it from a five foot fall. Compared to any current or foreseeable future prosthetic, my current arm is going to serve me much, much, much better than any substitute.
These are the kind of limitations in all mechanics, not just prosthetics. You make a crane stronger, and you limit its dexterity. You make a machine more durable, and the weight changes. And considering how the human body is nice and evolved into just a perfect mix of all of these, saying that a single change is enough to make up for it isn't enough. Not to mention that the size limitation is serious for the concept of everything else. Not only do you have to fit the mechanics inside something that won't loom out of proportion to the body, but any mechanical device on the scale of a human limb is likely to be totaled by anything that would total a human body. A "more durable" leg isn't going to survive a car accident (or won't save you), a mechanical arm will still get mangled from a tall fall, and bullets will still go through a prosthetic arm that isn't four/five inches of solid metal.
Prosthetics are not only clumsy, weak, and somewhat flimsy, they are fragile, just as much or more than a human being.
Once again, I point you to your own argument. We may not have anything that can do that now, but it can be done. We can rework all the mechanical problems, in areas such as flexiablity, strength, and cohesiveness. Even in the present we have ideas of how to achieve, and in flims like Terminator we have designs that we can actually use. While some of those may not be realistic by some standards, they are at least ideas we can think of. Nobody even knows how to make a gene to provide some of the things you suggest, let alone grow an organ that provides that function in the macro scale. So why are you will to accpet things that may be achieveable using genetics, but not things that may be achieveable by cybernetics?
Not really; as I mentioned above, certain mechanical limitations are inherent in being, well, mechanical. Especially mechanical that is limited in size and weight like a prosthetic. And considering that the "designs" in so much sci-fi aren't worth the paper they're written on, they hardly should be counted. We are trying to stay in the realm of realism, after all. There are absolute limitations(strength, mobility, weight), and there are concepts we have no idea if they are even theoretically possible despite the fiction (neural connections, cyberbrains).
But with genetics, we know
what can be accomplished because of the world around us. We know that genetics are what determine and direct growth. We know that a few changes are all that are separate the growth of a tentacle from a claw or an arm. A few changes and we can replace toes with hooves, naked skin for monkey pelts. We know this; it isn't a mystery. We also know that the genetic code changes (evolution, radiation damage), we know that we can purposefully effect it (the intentional changes mentioned in the article). We know that it is theoretically possible, even if we don't have the current means to exercise them. As long as the theory is not disproven, we can develop means to refine and accomplish.
That's the main difference in my mind. One field has the theory laid out (genetics) and needs the practice. The other has the basic theory and practice laid out, but the possibility for the ultimate potential doesn't even rest on solid theory.
That may be what you think, but I think it does a rather good job at providing its function. Sure it looks inorganic, and does not provide all the details, but I have no doubt that if it was not used for combat it should be a reliable piece of machinery. At no time did it breaks on its own for no reason at all, and it did not have all those "problems" that you describe above. If you want a better version, use the GITS cybernetics; it never had those probelms, it looks organic, and it seems to be superior to organic components. I've only watched SAC, but in that show an organic component never out performed a cybernetic part. In the show, a cybernetic arm can easily break an organic arm, but an organic arm can't break a cybernetic arm. I am not saying it is realistic, and neither are the genetics you are talking about, but this is a form that real cybernetics can turn out to be.
Of course it does a good job; it's a steam punk character tool. It's meant to make him look cool and strong, and only has a passing acquaintance with reality. It doesn't matter that it's inorganic, or that it never breaks down aside from rough use in combat. The problem is that it is impossible by any standard of engineering of any time period. It doesn't have electric, hydrolic, or any other kind of real motor to as much as open and close the hand. It has no inner-workings to explain how it even functions. It doesn't even have a power source. Even the idea that it can be directly linked to the nervous system is pure BS; how
is metal going to receive and transmit neural stimuli? In a society that doesn't even have the medical base to realistically understand how the human body functions? What the anime shows is one hundred percent irrelevant, as this isn't a debate about steam punk fantasy anime, but about science and physics and technology. If we were going to go by what the anime shows, shouldn't the genetic freaks that are the undying homunculi be the ultimate verification of genetics?
And as I've already mentioned, GitS also has its own flaws. Starting with AIs and cyberbrains and going down to building-jumping spider tanks and multi-ton cyborgs that can use civilian passenger cars, the series requires a lot of disbelief in areas that I'm not ready to concede. You'll also notice from GitS that the number of actual prosthetic users is small; most of whom who bear the title are in fact full cyborgs. I can't recall a single instance where someone who had lost just an arm gained a prosthetic that suddenly allowed them to pick up other people one handed, or allowed them superhuman ability. The closest I can think of is the sniper with the prosthetic eye, but that was also dependent on the idea of a cyberbrain, which as I've already mentioned I don't buy.
You will also notice that for all their advantages, the cyborgs and prosthetic users remain horribly vulnerable. Car crashes still kill, and guns go through them as easily as through flesh. Plus there were all the cyber threats.
Would you mind defining "foreign" in this case? Are you talking about putting a gun onto ones arm (a stupid idea for biological or prosthetics), or more like growing a blade at one's elbow (which could be done as a bone extension, but would also be a bad idea)?
Neither, I'm just talking about cells that are grown elsewhere, any lace that is not part of the recipient's body. Even if the cells are harvested from the same body, as long as they are taken out and then modified (speed gowth or other imporvements), it will be "changed". Even nowadays, if something is taken out of a person's body in surgery, have something done to it and then put back in, then will still be complications.
But now you're using the same argument you (rightly) accused me of making; of taking current trends and projecting them forward. I've already mentioned the case of the critter who had its paw regrown; that is proof that lost limbs can be replaced. With the ability to simplify complications by controlling and identifying changes, a large number of problems can be rectified. Who knows? Perhaps the limb reattachment of the future will include a specially cloned/grown limb, but work like a (much) better version of those surgeries where a man's second head is reattached after his lover chops it off.
But the point is less people will die, since cybernetics is not invasive at the genetic level. Like I said, if an attachment doesn't work, the base body won't be harmed beyond help. But if a genetic change is done and it is harmful, there are many ways a body can die. And who will you sacrifices in order for us to get to the level of genetics we need to achieve the skills necessary to implement your ideas? Even if both genetics and cybernetics are far fetched, at least cybernetics will be better since less people will die from it and thus have a better/faster/easier chance of completing through the develpoment process.
This gets into the field of morality plays, which isn't the best field to go into for a discussion of ultimate the potential (or about the ends rather than the means).
Who would I sacrifice to master genetics? The simple answer would be whoever and however I needed. The more complete answer would depend on who am "I"? Do "I" care about the subjects? I could be a inhumane or ruthless nation, and could experiment on either my own people or prisoners/captives. If "I" am the US, then I would probably only experiment on the willing, those who are already dying or will be soon. I may provide a little hope to them, and through them more hope for others later on. No one here is advocating a Draka-esque approach to genetic research (take random serfs/slaves/POWs/genetic desirables and practice on them), even if it would likely be faster. Current genetic research, quite frankly, largely is practiced on those who are dead but just don't know it yet. These are people who aren't going to be saved by any sort of prosthetic. And after a point, I would be at a level where I could fix my own mistakes, and thus would be in the clear.
Harder to master? Of course. More time-consuming? Count on it. But I honestly believe that realistic cybernetics are inferior to the natural body, and genetics gives us not only a chance to replace lost parts (they've already regrown a lost paw on one furry creature or another), but you can also make adjustments* and tweaks to improve the human body and life while you're at it.
*Such tweaks that I can believe as plausible include such things as expanding the human vision to more parts of the color spectrum, eradicating diseases, keeping neural pathways healthier and stronger (fighting Alzheimers), producing an ideal hormonal balance/production to promote a healthier and stronger body, slightly (minutely) altering bond density/mass for stronger(heavier) or nimbler (lighter) skeletal system, reinforcing joints to make them more flexible and able to hold more weight, boosting ATP production for more energy potential, stronger lungs, faster/smoother brain synapses (boost thought speed marginally), and so on. None of these would make anyone a perfect soldier by any stretch of the imagination, but they could all be an edge.
If you are willing to imagine all these organic parts, why not imgaine some mechanic parts? None of the things you suggested are any easier to create, if not harder since they may interfere with other organic process. We already have machanical sensors that can see the full spectrum, we already have machinery that are much more energy efficient than the human body, and we already have electrical signal systems that are much more stable than neural pathways, so once we figured out how to miniaturize them and connect them to the human body than cybernetics will have already completed the goals that some of the objects in you list are to provided. I would also like to mention that nobody have a clue about how to start on doing some of the things you are suggest, and even if my own ideas are also hard to conceptualize, at least there are already mechanical system that uses the same ideas so cybernetics is already partway done, where as in genetics no one has yet to use it to engineer anything in the marco level.
First of all, none of the tweaks I suggested are anything remotely new. Most of them, in fact, are things that are normally bred for in domestic animals. They are relatively simple things that could be tweaked first, not least because they are already there. It would be much easier, after all, to improved the eye's vision rather than grow a third one even though we know genetically we can do both. Interfering in organic processes isn't a problem, since that would be one of the things that would stop being an issue after the development and research were completed.
As for why I don't rely on a cybernetic equivalent when a machine can already do it, this is why. Cybernetic, to me, means something like "built in", a (un)natural extension of one's body. It would not be cybernetics to attack night-vision goggles to my eyes; my eyes would have to contain night vision from the start. But most cybernetics require a key component to be something other than clunky prosthetics; a two-way neural link to the brain. In sci-fi/cyberpunk, this is easy with things such as cyber-brains or brain sockets of some sort. But I have never seen proof that such a computer-grey matter link is even possible, and without such a link mechanical eyes and though-controlled robotics with textile sensation remain just another literary invention. The fact that various machines and gadgets can be minimized is not enough; if that were the case minimizing them onto a personal palm-computer would be enough. But without the theory to unify them with the human body (without the ability to even use them as cybernetics), they will always be just machines and not cybernetics. Up until some major advance is made, "cybernetics" will be limited to simple prosthetics.
Having no theory of cybernetics as opposed to the theory (but no practice) of genetics? We know the basic idea of genetics, and we know the ultimate moves of how to go about it. We even have the beginnings of application, with viruses that can effect genetic structure. In short we have the theory, but not the application. And in any contests between an idea with no theory and little practice and a theory and little practice, I'm one who would be on the concept with the theory behind it.
Your arguments are centered on things that could be done, not things that are already done.
And your arguments seem to be centered on what has already been done in separate fields (mechanics, different from cybernetics), and not on what can be done and the ultimate limits in which one can work.
I present a probelm for you to consider; if it is possible to have both mechanical and organic starships, which one do you think will be completed first?
Whoa whoa whoa. This is apples and oranges; this is entirely different. Cybernetics versus genetics is about which is best in a specific area, ie the human body. You know, something that is usually under six odd feet tall, weighs under 300 pounds at the upper end, drives cars and is generally interested in a comfortable and healthy life. Space ships are an entirely different field; first being organic versus technology, not cybernetic versus genetic repair/improvement, and second for the fact that nothing organic known can even survive in space.
This is a strawman argument, so please go back and choose a better question.
I'm sorry this letter is so long, but I did not have time to make it shorter. -Mark Twain
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