sábado, 20 de marzo de 2010

Natural-Born Cyborgs

The human autonomic nervous system, it should be clear, is just such a
elf-regulating homeostatic engine. It works continuously, and without
onscious effort on our part, in order to keep key physiological parameters
ithin certain target zones. As effort increases and blood oxygenation falls,
e breathe harder and our hearts beat faster, pumping more oxygen into
he bloodstream. As effort decreases and blood oxygen levels rise, breath-
ng and heart rate damp down, reducing the intake and uptake of oxygen.
With all this in mind, it is time to meet the first duly-accredited-and-
beled cyborg. Not a fictional monster, not even a human being fitted with
pacemaker (although they are cyborgs of this simple stripe too), but a
hite laboratory rat trailing an ungainly appendage—an implanted Rose
smotic pump. This rat (see fig 1.1) was introduced in the 1960 paper by
lynes and Kline as "one of the first cyborgs" and the snapshot, as Donna
araway wonderfully commented "belongs in Man's family album."7
Sadly, the rat has no name, but the osmotic pump does. It is named after
s inventor, Dr. Rose, who recently died after a very creative life
devoted tothe search for a cure for cancer. So let's respectfully
borrow that, calling the
whole rat-pump system Rose. Rose incorporates a pressure pump capsule
capable of delivering injections at a controlled rate. The idea was to com-
bine the implanted pump with an artificial control loop, creating in Rose a
new layer of homeostasis. The new layer would operate like the biological
ones without the need for any conscious attention or effort and might be
geared to help Rose deal with specific extraterrestrial conditions. The au-
thors speculate, for example, that the automatic, computerized control loop
might monitor systolic blood pressure, compare it to some locally appro-
priate reference value, and administer adrenergic or vasodilatory drugs ac-
As cyborgs go, Rose, like the human being with the pacemaker, is prob-
ably a bit of a disappointment. To be sure, each incorporates an extra arti-
ficial layer of unconsciously regulated homeostatic control. But Rose remains
pretty much a rat nonetheless, and one pacemaker doth not a Terminator
make. Cyborgs, it seems, remain largely the stuff of science fiction, forty-
some years of research and development notwithstanding.
C.I :16.959.604

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