Epidermal Electronics Tattoos The Next Step In ‘Human Evolution’
Not your regular colorful tattoo
“And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.” Revelation 13: 16, 17
Tattoos, or 'epidermal electronics’, could be a regular feature at the surgery to monitor heart and brain functions, and could be used to enhance the body’s well-being
One day soon, your doctor might prescribe you something that looks like a colourful temporary tattoo. But when you apply it to your skin you’ll end up with more than an interesting pattern.
Your epidermis will be coated with a gossamer-thin layer of electronics. In the short term, this tattoo will be used to monitor your well-being. But in the long term it could be used to enhance your body as part of a remarkable new phase in human evolution, one foreseen by Edgar Allen Poe in the 19th century.
The immediate potential of these patches was outlined last month at the annual American Chemical Society meeting in San Diego, by Dr John Rogers of the University of Illinois.
He told the meeting that he sees these rub-on “epidermal electronics” as a new way for doctors to monitor patients. These skin patches can detect and record a series of signals to check the health of brains, hearts and muscles without tethering the owner to bulky machines using electrodes glued with gels and tape, or even needles.
The patches, encased in water-soluble plastic, are transferred to the skin just like a temporary tattoo-transfer, with a backing that peels off. Their wearers can’t feel them because they cling on to the skin by feeble electric forces between molecules (named van der Waals forces, after the Dutch physicist who first described them in 1873).
The latest patch developed by Dr Rogers’s team can both measure muscle activity and stimulate those muscles so they could be used for rehabilitation. But Dr Rogers envisages broader applications – from monitoring sporting performance to seeing how hydrated your skin is with solar-powered epidermal electronics.
These skin patches can detect and record a series of signals to check the health of brains, hearts and muscles without tethering the owner to bulky machines using electrodes glued with gels and tape, or even needles.
A giant step forward for cyborgs
What I find fascinating is the way that cyborgs have stealthily evolved on Earth. In popular culture, humans and machines are usually seen as separate, from the films of Arnold Schwarzenegger to the forthcoming movie Robot and Frank. They are often pitted against each other.
This summer will see the 100th anniversary of the birthday of the British artificial intelligence pioneer Alan Turing, and there will be much talk of his influential test of synthetic minds in which a “chatbot” is deemed intelligent if it can fool us into thinking that it’s human from its written responses (the “Turing test”).
Yet all the while, humans have steadily fused with devices such as pacemakers, contact lenses, prosthetics, insulin pumps and cochlear and retinal implants.
“For years, techno-futurists worried about a doomsday moment when electronic brains and robots got to be as smart as us,” said Dr Andrew Nahum, senior keeper at the Science Museum.
Researchers are now looking at exoskeletons to help the infirm to walk, and implants to allow paralysed people to control limbs. Some are even discussing how to enhance brain power by electronic plug-ins. And, of course, there’s now also the prospect of smart skin, thanks to the efforts of Dr Rogers’s team in Illinois.
Forget about the rise of cyborgs, or indeed the Borg of Star Trek and the Cybermen of Dr Who. Millions of cyborgs walk among us already. Within a few decades, it won’t be so easy to tell humans and machines apart. – Source – The Telegraph