Nikita Ravindran 11G1 | October 20, 2014
A display of a myriad of colours often puts a smile on ones face- it bathes our mind with a sense of outlandish (yet ever so wonted) joy. The very feeling of knowing where we are, or knowing that our presence is acknowledged by our abode, and that our consciousness is a reality- it satisfies our innate craving of acceptance and belonging. A blanket of protection from the unknown cloaks our mind, and when plunged into absolute darkness, our subtle sense of sight diminishes along with the blanket. Yes, the other senses awaken, yet the disability leaves us feeling insecure. Not being aware of what could pose a threat to us is unnerving. It’s not the absence of light we fear- it’s the absence of knowledge of the concealed. Just the thought can be rather discomforting, right?
A gentle ruffle through soft hair; the feel of a tree’s bark against our little digits; the comfort found in holding a parents or partners hand… Touch gives us impetus to experience the world through another remarkable facet. Warmth flows into our souls through our body’s extension into the world around us. What could we possibly do without them? Let alone opening a bag of crisps- how would one eat without their hands? It’s our means of making an impact on anything- words of motivation won’t suffice, doing is required.
Our ability to move allows our curious mind to explore the vastness of our miniscule cosmos. Our legs have taken us places every single day of our lives, and every stride taken by us is taken for granted. Had we not been able to move, our potential as a species would have been buried so deep that we would have found it to be an insurmountable obstacle. We as a species have mapped the world through exploration, conquered the skies and the oceans, and stepped on the moon, to name a few feats that echo with our existence.
Take a moment. Take a deep breath and imagine our life, our very existence, without our eyes- our portal to the incredulous world we live in. There are around 39 million of our kind who experience for their whole life what we only TRIED to imagine for a moment. Care to envisage our lives without an arm or a leg? There are a multitude more of amputees in this colossal world. Let’s go all the way- how would our lives be like if we were completely paralysed?
Victims of these disabilities are psychologically scarred, with almost nil hope of reaching the stars they once dreamed of dominating. Every minute ounce of potential is erased and forgotten while confidence flies out of the window. Depression often accompanies those who face these emotions on a regular basis, quite naturally, while tempestuous behavior is also observed.
What if we could fix this? Most of us would already be aware of prosthetic limbs, but it serves no other purpose other than enshrouding the truth. Every person has the right to see, walk and dance. It simply cannot be a ‘fantasy’ for anyone to regain their sense of touch or sight, yes?
The era of bionics is dawning upon us, and it is worth cherishing and celebrating. Having acquired means of emulating neural processes has empowered us to play with biology and technology. A bionic eye has a retinal implant which receives transmissions from an external camera (usually on a pair of glasses) which transforms the data fed in into nerve impulses, therefore stimulating the dormant optic nerve. It’s a simple idea, but the inordinate amount of potential unleashed along with contentment- marvelous indeed.
Bionic limbs needs extensive study. It delves into the attachment of these limbs using synthetic skins to eliminate pain and to replicate our biological limbs down to the copious, profuse details. The discovery of a material that is flexible naturally and rigid when a small voltage is passed through it is embedded into the synthetic skin and it has aided this. An individual needs to just desire the act of moving their foot up or take a step forward, and a micro-processor would be programmed to do the needful.
The same is applicable to arms, and very recently, a version of a bionic arm that interacts directly with the brain and skeleton was shown to work wonders. Although the leg does not yet give back the sense of touch, this arm does! Not only has it gone to the extent of being able to use the fingers, it allows its user to differentiate between and recognize materials like cotton, sandpaper and smooth metal on the skin of this bionic mojo-arm. This mirroring is achieved by attaching the limb to the artificial nerve bundles to the real ones, and voila!
And lastly, paralysis inspired us to create exoskeletons. Using the same material that flexes and stiffens, in amalgamation with the neuro-interface, the paralyzed can cease the dreams and seize the day, living as extraordinary a life as us achievers. The can run, skip, jog- you name it…
Once we experimented with these, we realized that these advancements were flexible. We could modify these extensions of technology in ways that give us remarkable capabilities as it can be designed to suit more purposes than our natural abilities- it’s implications are mind-boggling.
These wondrous discoveries are pushing us into a time when machines attached to our fragile bodies is making us all stronger, faster and more efficient. Society will not be given a chance to disparage the disabled amongst us. The beautiful complexity of technology takes us so far beyond our imagination, but never forget this- it’s our imagination that brought out the complexity. We can transcend disability through innovation, and that innovation can concoct enough happiness to last a lifetime.