The Futuristic Society – Responding to Hugh Herr

February 23, 2018

Hugh Herr, scientist and adventurer, recently visited Holderness School, bringing new insights on how innovative biomechanics could revolutionize society. Herr’s work revolves around biomechanical inventions. His most recent project was building a new prosthetic leg that would feel just like a biological one. This leg, he described, would advance the future of prosthetic legs and even break the boundaries of biological limbs. While it was mind-boggling to even think that such astounding technology would be available to the public in a mere few decades, an unnerving reality crept to the surface – the controversial advent of a completely new society.


In twenty, thirty years, what will society be like?


Once these gadgets are made accessible, one of the immediate impacts would be the elimination of “disability” from society. Disability will no longer be a hindrance because those with disabilities can all be helped with technology. In fact, technology will solve the problems so thoroughly, people might attain better physical attributes than their original bodies.


Across streets, the sight of people walking around with different gadgets attached to them would become a common sight. But the medical advances wouldn’t stop there. In the future, diseases wouldn’t stand in our way because, just like with disabilities, diseases would not be an issue. The idea of being burdened with physical problems would sound preposterous. The solution to such problems would be greatly welcomed, but there are many other ramifications technology will bring that would alter mindsets.


The reality is that our society will be completely changed by replacing functioning body parts with bionic ones. In the future society, Herr says, people can modify their appearance, maybe even add an extra arm. Don’t like how you look? Get your ideal face with advanced plastic surgery! Don’t want to stand out? Technology will solve your problems! Let’s face it: in today’s world, appearances play a huge role in our lives. Regardless of whether you consciously care, your appearance will affect your life.


Dr. Patrick J. Byrne from John Hopkins Medicine states, “Thirty years from now, there will be much more demand [for cosmetic surgery].” Imagine how dangerous it would be if that demand is paired with widespread, affordable, fail-safe surgery. With the ability to modify for perfection, people would race against each other to look the most “perfect,” which is frighteningly similar between social groups. This would ultimately lead to people surgically reshaping themselves to look identically beautiful. As terrifying as it sounds, would the people of future society look like Barbies?


Going above appearances, physical abilities and unique skill sets are other things people generally covet. Musicians, athletes, artists, and many others dedicate their time and effort to hone a skill they love. But the advancement of technology can break human limits and change all that.


If you struggle to learn an instrument, Herr believes there will be AI-controlled robots that physically move your fingers to help you learn the notes. Not a good runner? There will be robots that you can attach to your legs to run for you, or even replace for prosthetic legs entirely.


The “ninety-nine percent perspiration” in a “genius” would be unnecessary, and so would that “one percent inspiration.” In future, specific skills won’t be as unique because they will be so ubiquitous. It wouldn’t be difficult to find piano virtuosos or Olympic-level sprinters when all they have to do is acquire a new piece of technology. And while some may think that it’s immoral to take such shortcuts, one question remains: Why dedicate so much effort when there’s a much easier, simpler way out?


It’s not going to about morality. It will be about common sense.


To achieve their version of a perfect human being, the race of who can get the better enhancements will begin. People will try to rid themselves of differences for a conformity of what is considered “perfect.” The world we once proudly claimed as diverse will get whittled down to a uniform society of identical people with replicated knowledge.


The metamorphosis in society will be unstoppable, because what’s stopping reality?



Questions to consider:

  1. What did you think of Hugh Herr’s talk? Did you agree with him?
  2. What do you envision the future society like?
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