We all were noobs at some point of time or the other for some sphere of life. Then we got introduced to ‘Cool Things’ and voila, the new you emerged. Let me tell you, Human Augmentation is one of those cool things.

Let’s dive headfirst into it!

Human Augmentation 101:

Augmentation is formally defined as ‘the action or process of making or becoming greater in size or amount’. Human augmentation is thus clearly the process of augmenting human abilities thus enhancing them and getting us close to the concept of superhumans we so often fantasize of. Human augmentation techniques therefore are commonly known as human enhancement.

Human enhancement isn’t something new. Technological advancements have made sure that we look for ways to overcome our ‘weaknesses’ or constraints. It began with using biological enhancements such as plastic surgeries for improving features inherited or else providing a better chance of acquiring desired genes in babies by preimplantation genetic testing. All of this, just to make sure that we get the features we desire for. Although biological technology is somewhat dangerous in terms of its side effects, engineering enhancements can prove to be a better option. And that is exactly what human augmentation technologies are aiming to do in future. The focus has shifted to building devices or wearables that overcome the physical and mental constraints of the body. This can apply to both overcoming disabilities and enhancing abilities.

Why do we need Human Augmentation:

Walt Disney said, “if you can dream it, you can do it”. But, can we?

Have you ever caught yourself wondering, ‘what if I could fly’? Well we have made enough technological advancements to make sure that you have a way to fly but what about the people who had these thoughts some 1000 years ago? They are the reason why we can now fly. Our imagination is liberating, in ways it overcomes our day to day constraints and that is why fiction sells. But the human body is bound by constraints, we are all trapped in our own muscles and bones. Anything that gives us the feeling of not being bound, any sensation of motion beyond the ordinary, like bungee jumping or going at extraordinary speeds, gives us that adrenaline rush we all crave for. Why? Because we don’t want to be bound. We like to be in control of the world around us. Overcoming these constraints is what human augmentation aims to do. You might have started to get an idea of the limitless scope this field can have.

Why Human Augmentation is cool:

Superhero movies are all about superhuman abilities. Hulk, Superman, Sabretooth and all others who popped into your mind have one thing in common; they are all superhumans (although fictional). This means their abilities don’t match the normal proportions and are much higher in magnitude than what is considered normal.

One human enhancement technology that allows abilities similar to those possessed by Hulk is lean mass builder drugs. These drugs contain steroids and Growth Hormones that are provided to the body in a water soluble form, inducing growth and density in muscles. The drugs are known to induce both lean muscle growth and enlargement of skeletal muscles. This combined with appropriate strength training is the formula to Hulk. It’s uses and their legality is a debatable issue. Nevertheless, the drug brings us one step closer to being superhumans. Sabertooth similarly is known for accelerated healing, like his archenemy Wolverine. Scientists have lately discovered the strain in our genes which when switched off will allow healing to happen at superhuman rates. Further research is still needed to implement this technology. Biological enhancements are limiting in that way. What’s catching pace is engineering enhancement.

Inspired by Iron Man’s powered armour suit, exoskeletons are the latest human augmentation technology. Much like the Iron Man suit, exoskeleton provides increased physical endurance, agility and strength to the wearer. Sensors are deployed in the suit to detect motion of the wearer and translate it via microcontrollers to hydraulic actuators that amplify the magnitude of motion thus giving the wearer superhuman abilities. The current technology has batteries with enough densities to make them last upto a few hours on a standalone basis. Fuel cells and SOFC can be a good substitute and are under research. There are certain limitations such as exaggerated motion and power supply that can be overcome in future.

Human Augmentation is the prototype of futuristic technology we are heading to. Human augmentation for people with disabilities is acceptable by the society but the concept of increasing abilities is controversial. One proposed use of this technology was in military. But the idea of an army made of super-soldiers sounds like the coming of Dooms Day to many. Biological enhacements in the field of sports are illegal too. The ethical side of this technology may still be fuzzy but that does not make it a pint of less cooler in context of how close it brings our real constrained world to the imaginative one.