In the last two posts of my five part series on revisiting remedies for back pain, I want to concentrate on the trend of body hacking. I know the word conjures up images of horror slasher movies with limbs and organs flying off at regular intervals. But what I’m talking about is the merging of humans and technology. In other words, self-implanted devices for human enhancement.
Meet The Body Hackers
The practitioners are pushing the boundaries of implantable technology by inserting everything from compute chips to LED lights into their bodies. In short, the aim of body hacking is to have a world where technology can improve the human body instead of just fixing what’s broken. We are talking about a future where the human body is augmented by technology—at least that’s the goal of these “body hackers”. They want to push the boundaries of implantable technology to improve the human body.
Consider the following self-implanted devices for human enhancement as you read the part of a transcript from NPR Weekend Edition Radio show
“A huge needle pierces his hand, and a chip that’s a bit bigger than a grain of rice slips under his skin. The RFID chips can hold encrypted information, and their unique ID number can be used to open doors or unlock your smartphones. That’s what the guy with the mohawk wants to do.” 
“UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: No longer do I have to worry about the thumbprint or putting in a password.” 
Meet Artist Neil Harbisson. He is the world’s first legally first legally recognized cyborg.
“He was born completely colour blind. But with the help of a camera-antenna surgically fitted to his skull, he’s able to identify colours through sound frequencies. Neil’s device, called an Eyeborg, also has an Internet connection which means he can receive any type of information directly into his head.” 
It will become normal to have tech inside our bodies or have it implanted. I think it just needs time.
NEIL HARBISSON 
Here is something to think about. Self-driving cars, GPS, and the internet all began as The US military Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA). Now Dr Justin Sanchez the director of its Biological Technologies Office, according to a BBC report, “is focusing on restorative techniques – helping improve memory and giving people suffering from paralysis the ability to control equipment with their brainwaves.” 
Thus, the idea of self-implanted devices for human enhancement seems to be indeed going main stream. Consider what has already been accomplished:
Pocket-sized kits that sample human DNA
Microchip implants that keep tabs on our internal organs, blood sugar levels, and moods.
3D printers that produce tailored hip replacements 
How we got to a future of self-implanted devices for human enhancement
If you think about the devices that you already use and how they came to be then you can start connecting the dots. Consider this:
First, electronic sensors got smaller.
Second, people started carrying powerful competing devices, typically disguised as mobile phones.
Third, social media made it normal to share everything. 
Lets take each in order. With electronic sensors getting smaller it becomes easier to imagine a future were humans are wired up like cars, with sensors that form a similar early-warning system—not to warn of a crash but of an illness. For example, devices that detect epileptic fits will automatically deliver drugs directly to affected areas of the brain. Wouldn’t that be awesome? Well, it’s something that is being worked on as we speak.
With some people using mobile devices 24/7 it’s not fanciful to consider the idea of sensors woven into the body and becoming a natural extension of handheld smartphones and wearable devices.
With social platforms where people literally go to share even the most inner thoughts, it’s not at all “pie in the sky” to think of someone having microchips inside his or her body that allow him or her to share tons of data on how efficiently his or her body is working.
What are the ethical questions of having personal information embedded inside your body? I’ll address that issue in my final post of the series. For now, I just want you to understand a bit of the milestones that preceded what is today an embrace by some of self—implanted devices for human enhancement.
Let’s put it all together and see how these self-implanted devices can help people with severe back injuries
Electronic Cough machine
When was the last time you coughed hard? I bet it wasn’t fun, especially at night. I know how frustrated I would get when my hacking kept me from getting a good night’s sleep. Here is the thing. According to Elliot Roth of the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, the coughing reflex can save lives by helping the lungs clear of fluids, which can impair breathing. “People paralyzed from the neck down lose this vital reflex, and about 20 percent die of respiratory problems, Roth notes.” 
In September, Roth and Robert J. Jaeger of the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago patented a cough stimulator. It enabled quadriplegics to use this pocket size device.
Stimulation With Wire Leads to Restore Cough
Now imagine someone with a cervical spinal cord injury. Often this means a good deal of their expiratory muscles can have paralysis. I bet you can see where I’m going. These muscles are responsible for coughing. If they are not functioning as they should, then there’s no way to have a normal cough mechanism.
Here is Where We Are Now In Terms of Body Hacking
Before we go on, let’s just take a step back and review our discussion on self-implanted devices for human enhancement. We have covered how body hacking is the process in which the human body is augmented by technology. As said earlier, this can mean inserting everything from compute chips to LED lights into their bodies. Body hacking has also led to the world’s first legally first legally recognized cyborg.
We got here because as electronic sensors got smaller it became easier to imagine them inside human beings. It became not such a crazy idea to ask why can’t humans be wired like cars? If sensors can keep cars safe by detecting a crash before it happens, why can’t we have sensors in human beings that can detect an illness, perhaps through a change in blood chemistry or hardening of the artery walls.
Keeping all this in mind, let’s go back to our discussion concerning the problem of people with cervical spinal cord injury. A big question is if electrical stimulation of the expiratory muscles by wire is capable of producing an effective cough on demand. For now, expiratory muscles can be activated by electrical stimulation of the spinal roots to produce a functionally effective cough. 
Here is the result of the latest trial
researchers will study 16 adults (18-75 years old) with cervical spinal injuries (C8 level or higher), at least 6 months following the date of injury. After an evaluation of medical history, a brief physical examination, and initial testing, participants will have wire leads placed — by a routine, minimally invasive surgical procedure — over the surface of their spinal cords on the lower back to stimulate the expiratory muscles and restore cough.
In other words, we are getting closer to a time when technology will interface with the nervous system not only to figure out what’s wrong with us but to also fix it.
I wanted to address body hacking because it’s a smaller but important part of a movement called Bio-hacking. Bio-hacking goes beyond self-implanted devices for human enhancement. “Biohacking” can also refer to managing one’s own biology using a combination of medical, nutritional and electronic techniques. This may include the use of nootropics, non-toxic substances, and/or cybernetic devices for recording biometric data (as in the Quantified Self movement)
I will speak about Bio-hacking on next post in my conclusion to the five part series on examining the latest treatment in managing pain. We will examine the notion that you can engineer the body the way you would a software program. Imagine a world were people could use could open doors and start computers just by waving their hand. Yes, that’s the world of bio-hacking. I hope you check it out.
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I like to hear from the readers so please leave me a comment below to let me know if this post helped you or if you have any questions
“Body Hacking’ Movement Rises Ahead of Moral Answers.” Weekend Edition Saturday, 27 Feb.2016
Duarte, Barbara nascimento. “Entangled Agencies: New Individual Practices of Human-Technology Hybridism Through Body Hacking.”NanoEthics, vol. 8, no. 2014,p. 275
CNN, Madeleine Stix,. “World’s first cyborg wants to hack your body – CNN”. CNN. Retrieved 2017-09-15.
See Note 2
Science News. 146.15 (Oct. 8, 1994): p239.
“Electronic hacking machine.” Science News, 8 Oct. 19194, p. 239