“AI is a human right,” theoretical neuroscientist Vivienne Ming said in 2018. Her professional career is focused on exploring ways to improve human potential with artificial intelligence. Ming is not just a firm believer that tech will become a more integral part of our existence but proving it by turning her autistic son into a cyborg.
Ming wanted to help her son after he was diagnosed with autism. Ming built a face- and expression-recognition system for Google Glass that will in real-time interpret people’s facial expressions.
Most neurotypical people are born with this skill, but it’s totally a “superpower” in the life of someone with autism. Ming raised provocative questions about the technology’s impact on her son’s humanity in her Quartz piece.
Autism is a complicated neurobehavioral state that involves impairments in the social interactive capacity of a human; slow or no developmental language and communication skills. The condition makes it difficult for patients to comprehend even simple languages. It is also difficult for autistic people to communicate how they feel using facial expressions or gestures.
The use of tech to support various parts of the human body is unarguably not new. There are people with mind-controlled prosthetic limbs, cochlear implants, and bionic eyes living among us. And while these devices may differ in their various functions, they all point to a primary goal of enhancing their ability to, at least, an average human. Hence, Ming’s social supporting device for her son is by no means in a different category.
Nevertheless, it is still possible to deploy tech that would make someone arguably better than the average human. Could we say they are “superhumans”?
Of course, this is not the first time Ming will put her career up for personal benefits. The idea of playing the “mad-neuroscientist” role first came when her son was diagnosed with type-1 diabetes. She tweaked his insulin pump and developed an AI that adapted with his insulin level to match with his emotions and daily activities.
“I’ve also explored neuro-technologies to enhance human sight, memory, creativity, hearing and emotions” she claims.
It is left to be seen what other potentials the cyborg-making mom would develop in the coming future and who can afford it.
Imagine a situation where we all have to subscribe to upgrade our systems each time the latest cyborg tech is released. How about those that can’t afford it? Will they simply become low-class humans?
On a sad note, economically privileged people will soon be able to offer their children a biological advantage through gene-editing technology. It’s becoming difficult to imagine a future where technology won’t create problems with “superhumans.”