By Williams Owoeye
One of the factors that determine the success of a species is its ability to explore, colonize and integrate into a new environment, because a large territory equals a large amount of resources and the more the resources available, the higher the chances of survival for that species. The ability to colonise these new territories however lies in the adventure and exploration skills of the species. To conquer a new territory, a species has to be wise, bold, strong and daring in no particular order.
It is these attributes that gives humans and the other groups of exceptionally successful animals an edge over the others. Humans have gone in submarines to colonise the seas; they have gone in aircrafts and spaceships to colonise the air and space; they have gone to defeat the rocky terrains to make mansions out of them – rewards for being a daring species. Sometimes though, these exploits come with a huge price attached to them. As it is a process of trial and error, some of these errors can be so mean and unforgiving, leading to fatal injuries and loss of body parts like the limbs and sense organs. These injuries render some immobile permanently; some end up with life-transforming decapitation; huge potentials get severed along with the body parts. But as resilient beings, through time, we have stood with these heroes of our existence by supplying them an alternative to their missing parts. From walking sticks, crutches, manual wheelchairs, to automatic wheelchairs, humans never gave up on our conquerors. It is out of the art of tending to these victims of our battle against nature that birthed a field in science called bionics, which is dedicated to giving hope to the amputees and those with damaged organs.
Bionics work on the knowledge that the best technological architectures are those modelled in mimicry of nature. When you look at the streamlined design of cars to assist movement, you see its natural doppelganger in the fishes of the sea; aircrafts are obviously modelled after the birds of the sky. People in this field go through the intricacies of natural organs to get an in-depth knowledge of how they work to fashion a replica, substituting the flesh and vessels with ‘metals’ and ‘wires’ respectively to be grafted into the body of subjects by a connection to the brain or an organ that has a function related to the metallic model. This has proven to be a viable option to organ transplant that can get frustrating with the unavailability of donors or organs in the bank. This innovation has found relevance in dialysis for those with damaged kidney, making of artificial heart for those with damaged heart and not fortunate to get a donor, artificial cochlear for those with impaired hearing, bionic arms for amputees, defibrillators and pacemakers for people susceptible to heart attacks, to mention a few.
Despite its allure and beauty, bionics is however not without its cons. The cost of its processes and maintenance is one of these cons, due to the fact that it is still not yet accepted generally. Investors and stakeholders are still wary of its potential. Moreover, there is also the issue about the availability of experts that can deliver on the operation with minimal risk and assured success. Finally, there is also the tendency for the human body to reject anything it considers to be foreign, so metal and bones may not really form a natural chemistry but this can be controlled.
One question, however, lingers in the minds of the futurists. Can we reach a point when we begin to see bionics not as alternatives to parts that have been lost but as a choice of enhancement for our natural organs? Why stick to the natural ear when you can get a mechanical one that is sharper than the hearing of a dog? Why stick to the natural eyes when you can get some with vision keener that those of an eagle? Why continue with your natural limbs when you get more powerful and efficient ones. The questions linger, but let us not forget that the fiction of today is the innovation of the future.