Tuesday, September 3, 2013

First step to being Borg

Humans view prosthetics with varying degrees of alarm. At the moment, eye glasses are considered normal, though with the advancement of eye surgery they become an anachronism. Until very recently, prosthetics to replace a limb have been feeble replacements of of the functionality offered by our limbs, and there is still a long way to go.

For a long time hearing aids were almost worse than poor hearing. Linda's mom often complained that it didn't work very well. In fact, hearing aids have a bit of a bad rap in our society. For some reason people don't like the idea of wearing them. Maybe because there is the association with old age and senility.

I've known for some time that my hearing had degenerated. One day I woke up with tinnitus. It was after a work function at Shanks that was effing loud. At the time I didn't think much of the ringing in my ears. I'd had it before after rock concerts and other noisy experiences. Then it didn't go away. After a while I got it checked out and found out there is no cure. It didn't bother me much; I mainly thought of it as a bit of hiss on the soundtrack of my life.

Over the last couple of years I've noticed it has become much harder to pull voices out of background noise. So hard that often I don't bother. It would just get buried in the tinnitus. Then in a retirement book I read about people leaving hearing aids till it was too late, when even the best of them won't help. In some senses the brain can forget how to hear. I didn't want that to happen so I went for a hearing assessment.

Of course they want to sell hearing aids. (Why don't we call them ear glasses?) But I've taken these tests before, and I knew before it finished I wasn't hearing things I used to. The doctor showed me the graph. My hearing is normal in the low and into mid range. From there and higher frequencies it drops off big time. This is something ear glasses can help with, often quite dramatically.

I was fitted today, and holy crap! I never knew my car keys jingled against my leg when driving. I thought this keyboard was completely silent, but it's not, the space bar rattles a bit, and I've never heard it before. I'm looking forward to my first meeting at work. Lately I've found them a bit frustrating.

The bonus is that these ones come with a blue tooth receiver. I've already hooked my iphone and ipad to it. I can now play music at work directly into my ear glasses, no cord to get in my way. If the phone rings it will switch to that. I don't even need to take it out of my pocket, unless I want to see who's calling. As I read the manuals, I think I can persuade it to tell me who's calling, if the phone knows. I can put music on the phone, since I take that with me on runs, play the music into my ear glasses, and whenever Runmeter has an update it will dim the music for that, and switch back. I"m gathering it will cope with a phone call during a run as well. Not that anyone wants to hear me panting, some of them might get the wrong idea.

It's early days yet. The mechanism is tiny, and so far the ear piece for my eye glasses are jostling for space on top of my ear, and adding the sunglasses is a bit of a complication. When my hat rubs against the ear glasses there is a bit of a hollow rattling sound. But they didn't move even slightly during the run. The hearing doctor wears them during hot yoga. While they are water resistant, they are not water proof, so I can't wear them swimming.

So far, I'm impressed. My own voice sounds different. I might just have to go through my entire music collection and listen to it again. Just the bit I'm listening to now sounds quite different. It's not louder, it just seems more clear, and of course, there is more of the upper range sound. It's much more balanced.

I can easily see where the mechanisms will get smaller and smaller, to the point they are implanted permanently. Already there are contacts that can be worn for extended periods. People think nothing of having their phone remember things for them, look up things they don't know, or can't bring to mind at the moment. It's essentially a prosthetic for our brains. The phones are getting smaller too, to the point where the size limitation is the eyes and fingers that have to use it. Once they reliably figure out how to feed the visual output from the phone directly into our eye, implantation becomes an option.

There is lots of potential there. When people can phone each other just by asking their phone to, and nobody else hears the conversation, that's just the first step. Eventually things like group conference calls, and Webex seminars will happen entirely within our heads, and our implanted technology. How is that different than the Borg?

I mentioned going for a run. Just a short one, 4K, 27 minutes, with a bit of working fairly hard when I was warmed up.
I'm not sure what those big spikes are, I don't remember slowing down there. Overall it felt really good. My legs are a bit tired after, which is a huge change from feeling stressed or all pre-injury-achey.  Or maybe that's just the Borg inserting thoughts into my brain.

How about you? We're generally a healthy bunch, but what prosthetics do you use? Eye or ear glasses, dentures, artificial joints, pacemakers, artificial kidney or liver or heart, limbs, or what?


  1. Glasses, of course! And eventually I will need a new liver, I imagine. :P

    1. You are in luck. They can almost grow them now from skin cells that get transmuted into stem cells, which can turn themselves into liver cells. So drink up, they'll have it figured out by the time you need it.

  2. No need for ear glasses yet, but both myself and Doodle have had our hearing tested ...in the end, nothing needed.

    I will always be a glasses girl. I used to wear contacts in high school, but had a horrible encounter between my car and a tree at age 17 that left me peripherally blind and with a significant scar across my cornea that causes contacts to blink out. Now I look at glasses as my jewelery. Hubby got Lasik this past january and the surgery was less than successful so I have no desire to let them start firing lasers into my eye...I'm blind enough without them let alone paying thousands for the privilege. Not sure they would even attempt to work around the scar, though.

    1. Hi Cori, Keith's wife Linda here - my left eye blew out (retinal wall split) at age 37 - pretty much dead centre of the eye & no fall, accident or warning of any kind. I didn't know it was serious until I went to my optometrist to get it checked some two weeks after the funny squiggle had begun - thought it was my new glasses/contacts doing something funky or a muscle twitch of some kind in my eye. The specialist he sent me to that same day was crystal clear - I'd lose all sight in that eye if he or someone else did not operate asap (he wanted the operation to occur that same day). Bottom line is I too have a scar & laser will not work to fix it as it is behind the eyeball. I'm holding out hope for a high tech retro or nano repair once the medical profession figures out how to swing it. If they can grow a new liver by literally building it via a 3D printer using your own skin cells, I figure the growth of new eyes etc. is possible too:) If the future is possible one of these days we will be going to our optometrist to check out the new line of eyes instead of eyeglasses!


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