Vanishing senses—restoration of sensory functions by electronic implants

Poiesis and Praxis 2 (4):285-295 (2004)
Abstract
Is the endeavour to restore perceptive brain functions by electronic implants the first step on the way to create bionic cyborgs? Can we augment or multiply our senses by directly contacting computer chips to the brain? Will bio-implants influence and permanently change human psyche?Almost 50 years ago, the foundation of the new field of neuroprosthetics propelled research aimed at devising a seamless connection between the human nervous system and microelectronic implants.The complexity of sensory perception often renders the task of assessing efficacy and side effects of a sensory implant impossible when computer simulation and animal experimentation alone are employed. Historical development in this field has shown that some of the evaluation has to be done in investigations performed directly in the human.The consequences of such a technology will not be confined to medicine alone. This paper describes its development, state of the art, limiting factors, and future possibilities. It offers an introduction into the elementary prerequisites of neural interfacing as a basis for argumentation in the upcoming public debate.The advancement of sensory implants for the restitution or augmentation of impaired brain function requires a moral and ethical position not only of the scientist involved, but of all the society, similar to the fields of psychopharmacology and stem cell research
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