Action Man bionic eyes coming to an opticians near you soon

At this year’s AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science) annual meeting Eric Tremblay from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL) demonstrated the latest prototype a contact lens with built in optical zoom. Now for someone who’s most used phone app is a magnifying glass so that I can zoom in to read the nutrition information labels this is very exciting news indeed.

Even though I’m confident that the pace of medical technology is going to make life extension possible for my fragile body, there will be an intermediate period when my body is failing and I’m trying to hold out long enough for this exponentially improving technology to kick-in. And that middle decade or so is definitely one I’d like to spend, if not with perfect eyesight, with vision that doesn’t stop be from going about my day to day activities.

Age related macular degeneration alone affects around half a million people in the UK alone so if they can produce a commercial version then there is hope for a lot of people. The first prototype was released in 2013 and since then the team have worked on making them oxygen permeable (so that the eye can still breathe and therefore the contact lens can be worn for longer) and improving the image quality – so I’ll certainly be looking forward to their next release.

EPFL Telescopic Contact Lens

Machine controls human – next step an app to define yourself

EnteroMedics Inc has announced FDA Approval of its new obesity treatment. Probably one of many fat busting procedures and drugs approved in the last few years – so what’s so special about this one? Well, its an electronic device that gets implanted in the body and then disrupts the signal between the stomach and the brain by overriding the vagus nerve.

This may be a relatively simple application but think about what this really means. The patient is consciously choosing, in advance, that a machine should control his or her nervous system – in this case hunger – that then affects one’s behaviour. Now look forward a few generations of this type of device – making them smaller, cheaper and more powerful – able to control a greater number of, and more complex, behaviours and potentially even one’s personality. EnteroMedics’ Maestro System is already wirelessly programmable so it doesn’t take much imagination to envisage an app that allows you to set your desired characteristics – obesity, energy and addiction levels, and maybe sexual desire – which then controls the body’s endocrine system to achieve the desired behaviour.

PS what if you want to behave somewhat unsavouryly, for example ramping up your cravings and addictions?  Will the government allow it, or will there will regulations to limit how you control yourself in the same way as there are restrictions on recreational drugs that temporarily change personality?

Eat or recharge? Soylent doesn’t go far enough for me

I came across Soylent recently with an eye catching question on its company homepage – “what if you never had to worry about food again?”

I was excited for a while. Being one of those people that others envy, that is someone who can eat piles of food and not put on weight, I thought this could be a solution to my eating woes. What woes? Much as a lot of people would love to eat without restriction, I’d prefer not to have the obligation to consume at all. If I want to enjoy a tasty burger or sumptuous chocolate then great, but otherwise I’ll just get on with other things in my life.

So I was rather crazily thinking Soylent really did mean I didn’t have to worry about food – I could replace my stomach with a high power battery and just plug in when I needed more juice – and not of the fruity kind either. Obviously there is a lot more to digestion than pure energy release, we need the nutrients and other minerals as well as the by-products of our gut flora, but maybe one day this will come true.

Assuming large parts of me will eventually be replaced by better performing man-made designs, those will need some sort of power supply – so why not have a USB-style power source for the body rather than having a different standards for each? Let’s start thinking about it early on!

Soylent releases formula 1.2 – Soylent – 10-Nov-14