December 21, 2012

Mechanical Men

When I was younger, I imagined the future having Jetsons style flying cars (or Fifth Element, those would be an acceptable alternative) and mechanical people all over the place. I thought it would be increasingly amazing to live in our planet, to see huge jumps in a myriad of fields, and, most of all, to watch as science and technology fused and created and educated and exciting love baby.

So what happened to that world? All I see is phones getting smarter and people getting dumber. On television, networks play programs that literally freeze you to your seat – the sheer stupidity of what you are processing is so high, you just sit and wonder, “Am I really sitting here, watching this?” Yes, yes you are, and I bet you can list three shows right now that epitomize this sentiment without even thinking about it. You could probably, and most likely, list even more. If you can’t list any, then it is far too late for you – your best bet is to refrain from reproducing. The genetic pool thanks you ahead of time.

Even so, with all the disappointments, there have been moments where the sci-tech love baby has blown my mind. Prosthetics, for example – some of the very first prosthetics were naught but wooden splints. Today, prosthetics are made of much more than just hacked up tree parts. The variety in materials tried and tested ranges from plastics to carbon fiber, and the variety of model types is even more diverse.

The prosthetic that happens to be my personal favorite is the one that runners often use. Runners who have lost the lower extremities of their legs often use half-moon shaped prosthetics that help them run as a “normal” prosthetic would not. It is a tool that has helped its users retain a sense of normalcy in their lives, and it is one of the things that does intrigue me about the future we live.

The incredible part is knowing that prosthetics don’t draw the line at humans. In the last few years there was a film based on a young dolphin that had lost her tail to a fishing net and was fitted with a prosthetic one in order to allow her to swim and develop naturally. Recently, I have seen more and more about an elephant calf who lost his leg to a landmine whose prosthetic has even been painted to look like it is natural. On top of that, for years we have been fitting our dogs and cats with tiny harnesses to help aid paralysis and illness – I think most often of smaller toy dogs with ‘wheelchairs’ replacing their hind legs due to some misfortune or another.

So what happened to the future we live in? Not quite what I was expecting as a kid, but I can easily say a whole hell of a lot happened between then and now – and that’s progress, baby.

Image Credit: John Kropewnicki /

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