Human advancement technologies such as brain stimulators and exoskeletons could be routine in workplace of the future


Steve Connor
Wednesday 07 November 2012 01:00

An eye implant that allows you to see in the dark, an external extension to your skeleton to help you lift bone-crushing weights or cosmetic surgery that means you don’t look the oldest in the office.

These are just some of the physical enhancements to the human body that could be in routine use in the workplace of the future, according to a report by Britain’s four leading academies.

Improving the performance limits of the body with technological aids is nothing new but there will be a new age of physical enhancement resulting from the advance of science and engineering, says the joint report by the Academy of Medical Sciences, the British Academy, the Royal Academy of Engineering and the Royal Society.

In the past, human enhancement has focused on restoring functions lost through medical problems but in the future there will be an increased emphasis on augmenting the natural abilities of healthy individuals, it says.

Implants placed behind the retina of the eye could allow people working at night to see in the dark, or to see in ultraviolet wavelengths that are currently not detectable by the human eye, the report says.

While tissue engineering and regenerative medicine could repair damaged or diseased organs, “bionic limbs” could augment muscle strength and help those engaged in physically demanding jobs, it says.

“Cosmetic enhancement could be appealing to some members of an ageing workforce, in which younger appearance might be believed to have implications for one’s employment prospects,” the report says.

Many of these enhancements will be targeted at individuals and so many employees may feel under pressure to agree to them for the sake of keeping their jobs, said Professor Genevra Richardson of King’s College London, one of the report’s authors.

“There are a range of technologies in development and in some cases already in use that have the potential to transform our workplaces – for better or for worse,” Professor Richardson said.

“Scientists and engineers will need to work together with social scientists, philosophers, ethicists, policy-makers and the public to ensure that the benefits are realised while the risks are minimised,” she said.

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