In a very real way, the history of bionics is also the history of mankind. From our meager beginnings, human beings have struggled to enhance our own inadequate physical abilities.
What began as crude, poorly designed mimicry has grown into an exciting field comprised of incredibly high-tech discoveries. As human beings grow closer to understanding the very basic building blocks of life—genetic codes, molecular science, cellular reproduction—we have been able to concentrate on developing increasingly complex bionic systems.
But as our knowledge of synthetic nanostructures strengthens, we must remember the ancient mythical story of bionic experimentation—that of Icarus, whose wax wings melted when he flew too close to the sun. By remaining grounded by ethics, we ensure that bionic experimentation keeps us from accelerating past the point of no return.
Charles Darwin publishes 'On the Origin of Species,' a landmark work on the theory of evolution.
The first kidney dialysis machine is developed by Willen J. Kolff.
Alan Turing invents the Turing test, which analyzes a machine's ability to partake in human-like conversation.
The double-helix structure of DNA is uncovered by scientists James Watson and Francis Crick.
The term 'bionics' is coined by Jack Steele, a medical doctor and Air Force colonel.
The first fully implantable artificial pacemaker was inserted into a human patient at the Karolinska University Hospital in Sweden. The implant stopped working after only three hours.
The MH-1, a computer-operated mechanical hand, is developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
John Charnley creates high-density polythene, which is eventually used in artificial hip joints.
The world's first soft contact lens is introduced by Bausch & Lomb.
A deaf Australian citizen is the first recipient of a multi-channel cochlear implant, which stimulates the cochlea and allows the ability to hear.
The Magnetic Resonance Imaging scanner (or MRI) becomes commercially available.
A deep-brain electrical stimulation system is implanted in a patient with advanced Parkinson's disease.
Lasik eye surgery is performed for the first time on a human being.
The Center for Ethical Bionics is founded by Dr. Steven Caldwell in San Francisco, California.
Scottish researchers clone the first mammal, a sheep named Dolly.
Deep Blue, a computerized chess machine, beats world chess champion Garry Kasparov.
Sony introduces AIBO, the first artificially intelligent pet. It is able to walk, see and comprehend spoken commands.
The first Artificial Silicon Retina (or ASR) is implanted in a human eye. These artificial retinas are made from silicon microchips containing thousands of microscopic light-converting cells.
Jesse Sullivan, an electrician whose arms were amputated following an accident, receives a fully robotic arm developed by the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. A nerve-muscle graft allows him to move the limb by power of thought.
The Human Genome Project effectively maps and sequences all of the approximately 30,000 genes found in the human species.
The first Bionic Assessment Tests begin appearing on the Internet.
The field of bionics has numerous practical applications, some more positive than others. The Center for Ethical Bionics believes that bionic research should focus primarily on the medical community, assisting men and women who are ill or who have been permanently disabled. However, we realize bionics is used for many different purposes, all of them extraordinary.
- To Heal. By replacing injured body parts with mechanical versions, bionic advancements can significantly improve the lives of disabled individuals. Bionic implants, such as the artificial heart or the robotic arm, provide assistance through complete organ or limb replacement. Other bionic developments, such as Lasik eye surgery, greatly enhance the body's natural function.
- To Avoid Injury. Bionic technology can also be used to help humans prevent dangerous situations. Tasks that would be impossible—or extremely hazardous—are now attainable. For example, robots are now capable of disposing of bombs or collecting data from harsh environments (such as the interior of a volcano). In the future, biomechanical insects may be able to detect gas or explosives.
- To Defend. Although The Center considers it ethically irresponsible, there are many nations who continue to work toward the development of a biomechanical soldier. These secret military biomachines would be capable of high-level intelligence work, including reconnaissance and tactical missions. Combat-level bionics can also make human soldiers stronger—by controlling blood loss or by helping them work more efficiently in extreme temperatures.
- To Entertain. In case we forget, bionics can also provide great joy. Toys that mimic natural human or animal intelligence—such as Aibo, the robotic dog that is capable of learning new tricks—blend the line between science and entertainment.