DIY bionics - making kids smile again.
See the joy in Liam’s eyes as he is grasping a ball with his right hand for the first time. By the time this cute fellow grows up, he will have a bionic hand that will be connected to his neural-system and be indistinguishable from his biological body; but for now all Liam cares about is being able to play ball.
Considered at the societal level, the question is: If we were able, would we move to eliminate large segments of the population and the different ways of experiencing the world that characterize them? Doing so would arise from a judgment that the lives of people with neurological differences are less worthy than the rest of ours — as is already clearly the judgment so many parents are making with respect to Down syndrome pregnancies.
The cases of people with autism, dyslexia, ADHD, and depression who are able to lead successful, productive and well-adapted lives speak powerfully. Advocates with autism and other neurological differences say that they would never eliminate their singular traits — that those are much of what gives them their identity. Temple Grandin, Blake E. S. Taylor, Beethoven, and innumerable others show the kind of contributions such individuals are able to make to society. They show us how wrong we would have been were we to have tried to change them to be other than they are, or worse, never given these individuals a chance at life.
The heart of the matter of neurodiversity is not the hypothetical question of how we might use genetic testing in the future, but the very immediate question of how we are to regard and treat those who are already here. And important though the high-functioning individuals are as examples, the worth of a life should not have to be justified by extraordinary achievements. One of the lessons of H. G. Wells’s story [“The Country of the Blind”] is that the narrowness of our vision easily obscures the value of the lives of others, especially when they seem to us impaired.
Every life has joy and triumph, pain and hardship, aspiration and frustration — all parceled out unequally, and this only in part because of the different biological hands we are dealt. In labeling certain individuals “defective” or “disordered,” we act in part to wall off some people as the unfortunate, tacitly claiming that the rest of us are whole, avoiding the truth that we are all flawed, struggling with deficiencies, working with and against aspects of ourselves we would like to overcome. In labeling others as “disabled,” we must ask whether we are motivated by sympathy and compassion, or by fear and the difficulty of knowing the minds of others.
“There is weather, too, beyond the physical infrastructure. Our “likes” and “favourites” are small prayers to the social network gods to keep safe the photos, spreadsheets and status updates we entrust to their cloudy crypts. (Not all precipitation makes it back to the ground: virga is rain that evaporates (or hail that sublimes) before reaching the ground - the observable spinning bar that never results in a file being displayed on our screens. Our status updates may not suffice as offerings: if we didn’t pay for the cloud service, we’re making a wish.) Service uptime websites are the weather charts. A database fails, creating a ripple of low data pressure.”
Dr. Herr, a biophysicist, designs computerized prostheses and artificial body parts as director of the biomechatronics research group at the M.I.T. Media Lab. He is also the founder of iWalk, which manufactures bionic limbs and joints.
Also, rock climber.I’ve been accused of cheating. I loved the accusation because the day before, I was a cripple, and they were tapping me on top of my head — “Oh, you’re just so courageous.” That’s so demeaning. Then the moment a person with an unusual mind or body becomes competitive, it goes from “Aren’t you courageous?” to “You’re cheating!” The difference is performance.
BIGDOG likes long walks on the beach.