Advances in bioelectronics raise ethics concerns

By Tiffany Thorne, Staff Writer

The Terminator might find his match at the U.

Cynthia Furse, associate vice president of research and professor of electrical engineering at the U, spoke to students, staff and others about breakthroughs in the field of bioelectronics and the impact that research will have both scientifically and ethically.

Advancements in bioelectronics have enabled scientists to create artificial vision using retinal implants, artificial hearing through cochlear implants and a prosthesis capable of precise movements called “The Utah Arm,” Furse said, adding that the most impressive advancement was an experiment performed in 2006 by U researchers that allowed a paraplegic to move a computer cursor using only his mind.

The developments open up a whole new world to those with disabilities, Furse said. For those without disabilities, the technology is being used to create weapons, which soldiers can use to gain an advantage.

The advancements are especially evident in the Exoskeleton, a U-researcher developed a suit that would allow humans to lift incredible weights repeatedly, run great distances and even dance without breaking a sweat.

“The Exoskeleton is the Terminator,” Furse said. It’s also been compared to Tony Stark’s Iron Man suit.

The introduction of the Exoskeleton does raise concerns8212;if speculative science fiction is any indication, terminators spell bad news for human survival rates.

These inventions will not necessarily make mankind better, only provide us with different choices, Furse said. She added that it is up to mankind to deal responsibly with this new information and decide where to go in the future.

“It was incredible,” said Lawrence Schlitt, a sophomore in electrical engineering, who was more fascinated by the scientific possibilities than by ethical dilemmas.

Furse said she is proud of the developments and contributions that the U has made, and hopes that the U will continue to be innovative in the field of bioelectronics.

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