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MIT Prof Predicts the End of Disabilities In Next 50 Years

samzenpus posted about 2 years ago | from the gentlemen-we-can-rebuild-him dept.

Medicine 190

judgecorp writes "MIT professor Hugh Herr describes how technology can end disability in 50 years — with a big incentive from the need to support injured war veterans. A champion climber, Herr lost both legs below the knee, returned to climbing and designed improved climbing prostheses. From the article: 'Herr believes the work he is doing won’t just have humanitarian benefits. There’s money to be made too. And if there’s a market here, it means more people will receive help. Despite all the horrors and injustices the Iraq and Afghanistan wars spawned, they have helped make the biomechatronics industry a lot more viable. Back in 2007, Herr gave Garth Stewart, a 24-year-old Army veteran who lost his left leg below the knee during the conflict in Iraq, a bionic ankle. It used tendon-like springs and an electric motor to provide support for Stewart.'"

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190 comments

And flying cars and moon bases too, yeah, yeah (5, Insightful)

crazyjj (2598719) | about 2 years ago | (#39474933)

I predict that 50 years from now, we'll realize that all long-term predictions made in 2012 turned out to be wrong.

As for the bionic limb prediction specifically, I've been hearing that my whole life. We always seem to be right on the edge of every amputee having bionic limbs. And yet decade after decade passes and, with the exception of a few prototypes here and there along the way, they all still seem to be wearing the same basic hooks and passive limbs that they've had forever (albeit much improved and lighter versions). Steve Austin, with his bionic limbs, is like a mirage that's always just up ahead--but never seems to actually get any closer.

Re:And flying cars and moon bases too, yeah, yeah (1)

Yvan256 (722131) | about 2 years ago | (#39475011)

Steve Austin, with his bionic limbs, is like a mirage that's always just up ahead--but never seems to actually get any closer.

But of course! Don't you know that when you run in slow-motion, it looks like it's taking forever?

Re:And flying cars and moon bases too, yeah, yeah (5, Insightful)

Sir_Sri (199544) | about 2 years ago | (#39475033)

Apparently, despite all of the people who are injured in road accidents, left over land mines, general mishaps that befall the population etc, the key to moving technology forward is to have 30 or 40 000 soldiers injured.

Re:And flying cars and moon bases too, yeah, yeah (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39475105)

Yes and Motor Neurones, Spinabifida, MS and a whole load of other conditions aren't disabilities now.

The MIT guy is talking about one small part of a massive group of conditions.

Heres a cheaper and easier way to end disabilities from wars... Stop sending soldiers into war over other people's greed.

Re:And flying cars and moon bases too, yeah, yeah (2)

DarenN (411219) | about 2 years ago | (#39475225)

Well, yes. And if you think about it you can see why.

A large number of people in their prime productive years get mutilated in a short space of time. And these people work for an organisation that has the resources to spend on looking for a solution. I read recently that 1 in 5 single amputees can return to active duty, and those numbers will rise as solutions get better.

Re:And flying cars and moon bases too, yeah, yeah (4, Insightful)

jeffb (2.718) (1189693) | about 2 years ago | (#39475445)

Perhaps the key is to have 30 or 40 000 amputees with a health-care plan that isn't dedicated to maximizing profits.

/ducks and runs

Re:And flying cars and moon bases too, yeah, yeah (4, Insightful)

Sir_Sri (199544) | about 2 years ago | (#39475705)

No, that wouldn't do it, because the civilized world have health plans not dedicated to maximizing profits and we don't have some magical solutions either.

It's all politics, the US especially but others generally are willing to invest a huge amount into R&D for soldiers who get injured, but many thousands more people who suffer similar problems every year seem to not get the same priorities.

Re:And flying cars and moon bases too, yeah, yeah (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39475473)

General mishaps and accidents are scattered, "unfortunate events". The public sees a disabled soldier as someone that lost their arms or legs as someone that sacrificed their own body in defense of our nation... for better and worse.

That many active, healthy, celebrated men and women in their prime, all pouring in over a short period of time, missing limbs... that's hard to ignore. Doubly so since there are already organized, well-funded efforts to both raise awareness and care for veterans after service.

But hey, dealing with a real human problem like we mean it... that alone isn't a bad thing.

Re:And flying cars and moon bases too, yeah, yeah (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39475885)

Obviously you have never read anything about ww11? Don't worry I know what site this is.

Re:And flying cars and moon bases too, yeah, yeah (5, Insightful)

Qzukk (229616) | about 2 years ago | (#39475147)

they all still seem to be wearing the same basic hooks and passive limbs that they've had forever

That's what their insurance covers.

Re:And flying cars and moon bases too, yeah, yeah (4, Interesting)

glop (181086) | about 2 years ago | (#39475475)

Actually, Wired has an article on this this month. And it turns out the classic hooks is still better in some respects and are preferred for some occasions where strength, speed and feedback are best.
I suppose when you are outside your home (i.e. where people can see you and gather anecdotal statistics as the ones we discuss), you might want the most reliable, fast and simple gear.
So some of the people we see with old style gear might have more advanced prostheses at home or at work for tasks that benefit from them.

Re:And flying cars and moon bases too, yeah, yeah (4, Insightful)

jamstar7 (694492) | about 2 years ago | (#39475651)

they all still seem to be wearing the same basic hooks and passive limbs that they've had forever

That's what their insurance covers.

And therein lies the problem. Anything more expensive than the basics, and the insurance companies weasel about paying for it. Medical insurance companies are still for-profit companies, and any payments come off the bottom line. Even with the unnecessary 'bailout' that the so-called 'Obamacare' legislation jammed down our throats, healthcare in the US hasn't been determined by qualified medical professionals (i.e., 'doctors') in decades, it's been determined by beancounters. For some serious giggles, google up the profits of the health care insurance companies and see for yourself.

Re:And flying cars and moon bases too, yeah, yeah (3, Insightful)

ILongForDarkness (1134931) | about 2 years ago | (#39475243)

There is too many ways of getting disabled. Amputated limbs okay, but how much leg is left? If it is past the knee you might be okay but what if it is mid femur? What if it is neurological? Again how far up is the neurological problem? Are you a quadropeligic or is it just a local nerve in the leg? Do you have a degenerative neural disease so even your currently working nerves are weird? Too many variables I think an expanding portion of people will be candidates but I don't think we'll ever get everyone. I'm sorry sometimes the most reasonable thing to tell little Timmy is that he'll never walk again, and no really he'll never walk again. There isn't some miracle just around the corner etc. medicine tries too much to give hope to the hopeless it is becoming more of a religion every day. Same thing happens in cancer were I work.

Oh cancer will be cured in 20 years, yeah we've been hearing that since cancer was discovered. There is too many ways that your cells can go bad. Too many regions of the body, too many where cancers are really close to the normal tissues etc. We'll cure some, we'll prevent some, but there will always be cancer of one form or another and we need it: mutations are necessary for evolution.

Re:And flying cars and moon bases too, yeah, yeah (2)

Luckyo (1726890) | about 2 years ago | (#39475775)

No, we hear that cancer treatment will be improved so that what's lethal today will be treatable in 20 years. This prediction has so far been more or less true, we can treat cancers at more and more advanced stages successfully. Problem with cancer is its propensity to keep on coming back, so you can never truly "cure" it, merely remove the life-threatening tumour and monitor for new growths.

Same thing with prosthetics. They are improving fast. 20 years ago Pistorius' success story would not have been possible. We also are slowly starting to get actual neural interfaces for people who have neurological damage rather then just physiological one.

Re:And flying cars and moon bases too, yeah, yeah (2)

ILongForDarkness (1134931) | about 2 years ago | (#39475925)

Exactly, we continue to expand the things that are fixable but there is always more. As people live longer they live long enough to have different problems. So today's #1 cancer gets cured only to have the population live another 5 years to die of some weird heart problem. We fix that and all of a sudden the #1 killer is skin cancer say, fix that then it becomes pneumonia. It is a game of wack a mole which by definition we'll never win since we all need to die.

Re:And flying cars and moon bases too, yeah, yeah (4, Interesting)

Baloroth (2370816) | about 2 years ago | (#39475289)

We always seem to be right on the edge of every amputee having bionic limbs.

Have we? I mean, true bionic limbs require tactile feedback, which in turn requires some kind of biological-machine interface. We are getting closer to it, but I wouldn't say we are anywhere near being on the edge of that (even now). Without that kind of feedback, even a sophisticated robotic limb is pretty well worthless, since you won't be able to use it for all that much. Granted, for someone without a hand, even that limited use is an improvement. The real problem isn't creating a robot hand or limb: the problem is controlling it. Simple motions are possible: complex ones, such as moving individual fingers on it, are not, and until we get that, losing a limb will always be a major disability.

Re:And flying cars and moon bases too, yeah, yeah (1)

CrowdedBrainzzzsand9 (2000224) | about 2 years ago | (#39475461)

I predict that 50 years from now, we'll realize that all long-term predictions made in 2012 turned out to be wrong.

Agreed, unless we first learn to skin Schrodinger's cat.

Re:And flying cars and moon bases too, yeah, yeah (1)

mark-t (151149) | about 2 years ago | (#39475741)

Not all... but certainly many, if not most.

Some long term predictions have turned out to reveal almost a spooky level of prescience.

I seem to recall that almost ubiquitous cell phone usage was predicted over a hundred years ago (although not by that exact name... they talked about it in terms of radio).

Re:And flying cars and moon bases too, yeah, yeah (1)

Fujisawa Sensei (207127) | about 2 years ago | (#39475893)

I have a long term prediction for you. No matter how good technology gets, there's one disability that is not going to get fixed:

You can't fix stupid.

The end of disability? (5, Insightful)

mcgrew (92797) | about 2 years ago | (#39474979)

I don't see any indication that spinal cord or brain injuries or birth defects will be gone in fifty years.

Re:The end of disability? (1)

Kenja (541830) | about 2 years ago | (#39475013)

Its not that they'll be gone, but that they will result in our cyborg overlords when we swap out the defective parts.

Re:The end of disability? (5, Interesting)

mcgrew (92797) | about 2 years ago | (#39475117)

I already have a defective part swapped out. I got a steroid-induced cataract in my left eye, and its lens was replaced with a CrystaLens, which sits on struts and can actually focus. After wearing thick glasses all my life I now need no corrective lenses at all, not even reading glasses -- and I'm 60.

You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile? You'll BEG to be assimilated.

Re:The end of disability? (1)

SomePgmr (2021234) | about 2 years ago | (#39475321)

That's pretty awesome.

I've often wondered when prosthesis will be good enough that we'll prefer them over our natural, otherwise functional parts. I guess it's just a matter of time and effort.

Oscar Pistorius (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39475695)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oscar_Pistorius

Re:The end of disability? (3, Insightful)

vlm (69642) | about 2 years ago | (#39475065)

I don't see any indication that spinal cord or brain injuries or birth defects will be gone in fifty years.

Lack of medical care for all but the 1% means they'll be dead, not disabled.

There was a day when middle class people had houseservants, maids, etc. That sounds kinda laughable today. In the future thats how they'll look back on pensions, social security, medical care for all but the 1%...

Re:The end of disability? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39475747)

No... The 1% doesn't need pensions or social security. In the future the things the middle class will look back on is car and house ownership.

Re:The end of disability? (1)

0123456 (636235) | about 2 years ago | (#39476009)

In the future the things the middle class will look back on is car and house ownership.

Who needs a car when they have bionic legs?

Re:The end of disability? (1)

niado (1650369) | about 2 years ago | (#39476015)

Well, we've only really had legitimate 'medical care' available for the last 100 years or so. There are large areas of the world still without good medical care, but those areas are shrinking rapidly.

In the US (and assumedly other rich nations) practically 100% of the population has access to very good emergency medical care, though poor decisions are still often made. Effective care for some especially rough conditions (HIV etc.) and 'quality of life' improvements are often cost prohibitive for most of the population, but much of these types of treatments/procedures have only been available for the last few decades and availability is improving.

Availability and quality of medical care has been improving drastically for years and continues to do so. Barring apocalypse I do not see a future where only the 1% have access to it.

Re:The end of disability? (2)

canajin56 (660655) | about 2 years ago | (#39475257)

He said the effects of most disability would be mitigated by the end of the century, but that a lot of that work would be done in the next 50. Besides which he's clearly talking about physical disability, not brain damage. He's not suggesting that in 2060 there will be fully working bionic brains, just that the bionic limbs, that are already quite good, are going to be very good by then. He has two below knee amputations, and his bionics let him run and climb and dance. He says he's not disabled anymore, and by 2100 almost nobody will be, because even above elbow bionic arms will be good enough to do just about everything a meat arm can do. As for spinal damage, there's already impressive work being done bypassing the nerves and sending signals straight to the muscles. Such people wouldn't have feeling from their limbs, so they would still be limited in what they can do, but it's totally possible that in 90 years they wouldn't really be considered disabled anymore, they just have to be careful when walking around due to limited sensation. From a non-bionic point of view, there are also constant strides being made in inducing nerve regeneration

Re:The end of disability? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39475265)

I thought the same thing.

Amazing advances have been made in prosthetics and the like, but the brain is still relatively mysterious and thought even more so. This MIT professor might be right about physical problems but the "I can count to potato" types will still be a problem.

Re:The end of disability? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39475509)

birth defects

The category known as "birth defects" will expand greatly over the next fifty years. The technology (and societal willingness) to enable the survival of previously-unviable fetuses and sustain life will continue to outpace the technology to solve the much more difficult issue of curing/correcting the issue.

If you think you've seen some weird allergies lately, you have no idea what's coming in fifty years. Get ready for headlines like: "Doctors miraculously save baby that couldn't breathe"...and ten years later: "Schools unable to cope with kids that are allergic to oxygen"

Re:The end of disability? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39475559)

Not to mention the whole list of virtual disabilities caused from various illnesses, whether it is major depression, anxiety, lethal levels of stress, autoimmune disorders and countless others.

I have an autoimmune (Crohns). I consider myself lucky, despite being SE with the sleep-day synchronization straight outta Mars.
I have had to make my own way in to the future with very little help, doctors just prescribing generic crappy pills that only work most of the time and ignoring the now 7 years of rejection and even worsening of illness due to one particular compound (mesalazine destroys me)

50 years? We'll still be having resource wars, political shit-fits and more predictions of flying cars.
And that's if the threat of external planetary object collision doesn't come true and wipe us off the face of the planet in whatever decade it was again, 2030-40 or something. Actually I don't even know if that rock was life-destroying or not. Still, crash, boom, serious wake-up maybe. Oh, wait, humans, I keep forgetting.

Re:The end of disability? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39475601)

They'll have brain optonic chip implants. You'll have a choice of models, such as:

A) Einstein-Shakespeare-Beethoven-Jordan-Astaire ($500 dollars in today's prices)

B) Einstein-Shakespeare-Beethoven-Jordan-Astaire Premium ($25 million in today's prices)

The difference is that Option B will be delivered free from messages from corporate or union sponsors.

Really? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39474987)

Herr lost both legs below the knee, returned to climbing and designed improved climbing prostheses.

Did he took an arrow to the knees?

no (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39474997)

Technology will end autism?

No. That will take changes to society.

Re:no (-1, Troll)

Darkness404 (1287218) | about 2 years ago | (#39475069)

It is quite possible to eliminate autism (if in fact it really does exist) via genetic screening.

Re:no (1)

Sarten-X (1102295) | about 2 years ago | (#39475231)

So let me get this straight... First you doubt a condition's existence, then make assumptions about its cause?

It's quite possible to eliminate HIV (if in fact it really does exist) via distribution of clean needles to drug users.

It's quite possible to eliminate osteoporosis (if in fact it really does exist) via enforcing a maximum age.

It's quite possible to eliminate gravity (if in fact it really does exist) via forgetting to fall.

I hope you're as sarcastic as I am.

Re:no (-1, Troll)

JockTroll (996521) | about 2 years ago | (#39475367)

Of course it's possible to eliminate a genetic defect through screening. The Down population in most of Europe, for instance, is dwindling because screening is widespread and upon detection, the vast majority of women elect for abortion. Since Down are rarely able to reproduce and their life expectancy is about 50, in about half a century they will be gone throughout the EU (apart from some fanatical Catholic states but they're seeing the light as well). We can do the same with autism.

Except for the pretend condition, "Asperger" which can be cured via a thorough beating.

Re:no (1)

Sarten-X (1102295) | about 2 years ago | (#39475537)

Down syndrome is known to be completely a genetic disorder, though. Autism's full cause is not known. It's suspected to have a strong genetic component, but the correlation isn't strong enough to claim it's the only cause, and certainly not enough to justify genetic screening. Real Asperger's syndrome (as opposed to the far more common "I'm a little different so it must be a medical thing" syndrome) is also connected to certain genetic characteristics, but the connection is even weaker.

Autism's causes are complex and not fully known. Unfortunately, it's spent some time as the "disorder du jour", so it's commonly assumed that with so much publicity, it must be well understood. Sadly, that's simply not the case.

Re:no (3, Informative)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | about 2 years ago | (#39475675)

Autism researcher here. (Well, I'm not actually an autism researcher, but I do their computer stuff.) It's now generally believed that, whatever the genetic component of autism actually looks like (and it's now believed that there are many, many subtle mutations working in concert), a significant portion cases are triggered by environmental conditions. Like cancer, the incidence rate of autism is pretty much correlated with how horribly contaminated our world is. Here's an opinion piece by David Suzuki [labbusinessmag.com] (PDF; scroll to page 8) on the matter. It's possible that the data set for people with autism will never be large enough for us to actually do statistically useful genetic screening.

Also: try not to be too hard on people with Asperger's. Certainly there are people out there who are just socially maladaptive and use it as a label to hide behind, but just from a short conversation with someone suffering from AS, you simply can't tell. There's a lot going on behind the scenes, however, in how they think, plan, feel, and perceive, and the apparently-normal facade is more of a testament to determination to fit in than anything.

Re:no (1)

AngryDeuce (2205124) | about 2 years ago | (#39475935)

The Down population in most of Europe, for instance, is dwindling because screening is widespread and upon detection, the vast majority of women elect for abortion. Since Down are rarely able to reproduce and their life expectancy is about 50, in about half a century they will be gone throughout the EU (apart from some fanatical Catholic states but they're seeing the light as well).

Except for the part where Down Syndrome is not a hereditary condition and rather the result of random genetic mutation. That means that you're not going to "breed it out". The fact that there are less Down Syndrome children in Europe is due to changing social mores regarding terminating unhealthy pregnancies there.

Even if abortion were to suddenly be universally accepted overnight, there would still be Down Syndrome children being born because some parents will choose to give birth to their child even if they are going to be disabled. Short of state mandated eugenics programs, there will always be children born with these conditions, unless we come up with some way to cure Down Syndrome in vitro. IANAD obviously but it seems to me that Down Syndrome would be almost impossible to "cure", due to being the result of an extra chromosome due to random genetic mutation. How would they "erase" that chromosome throughout all of the DNA without killing the fetus?

Bionic Limbs? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39475021)

I didn't ask for this...

No cure for... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39475029)

stupid is sight still. We will simply have to wait.

Re:No cure for... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39475645)

stupid is sight still

Don't worry, there will be a cure for your ailment at some point soon.

Magical technology is just around the corner... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39475039)

Sure.

Is he measuring in Friedman units?

Greathouselabs custom wheel chair (0)

fluffythedestroyer (2586259) | about 2 years ago | (#39475041)

I watched the Daily Planet on discovery channel and I got this guy name Lance who makes custom wheel chairs [greathouselabs.com]. pretty cool chair. If I had to use a wheel chair, he would be on my list of guys to visit to get a wheel chair for sure.

hmm. (1)

CosaNostra Pizza Inc (1299163) | about 2 years ago | (#39475043)

Anyone here ever read "The Forever War" by Joe Haldeman? I think the ability to regrow limbs is a longtime coming, if ever...certainly longer than 50 years. Without that, I don't think we can do away with disabilities. Sure, prosthesis potentially can improve quality of life but its not the same as having a real limb.

Re:hmm. (1)

canajin56 (660655) | about 2 years ago | (#39475387)

If you RTFA, he says he can climb and run and dance, so he doesn't consider himself disabled. He does make the distinction between "cured" and "not disabled". And also, he said 90 years, with most of the work being done within 50. Besides which, they are making impressive strides regrowing limbs using biodegradable plastic substrates and patent-extracted stem cells, and 90 years is a long time for modern science.

Parking (2)

SJHillman (1966756) | about 2 years ago | (#39475055)

Does this mean there will be more parking spaces open close to the stores? Walmart seems to be the only place that ever fills them all up anyway.

Hmm... (5, Interesting)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 2 years ago | (#39475061)

I'm inclined to wonder whether the roboticists will manage to crack their problem before team "you grew the leg once, now grow it again" manages to get their pet stem cells from turning into hideous doom cancer all the time...

I'm also inclined to wonder what the outcome will be if we manage to crack the (highly complex; but comparatively simple) mechanical problem of replacing the function of limbs; but still have a load of people running around with neural problems, whether inborn or caused by concussive damage and the like. Robotics is hard; but it appears to be very nearly a toy problem compared to neurology.

Re:Hmm... (4, Insightful)

MozeeToby (1163751) | about 2 years ago | (#39475515)

I'm inclined to wonder what people will do given the choice between a truly advanced robotic prosthesis and regrowing a limb.

"Well Mr Johnson, we can fit you with a robotic hand with full tactile feedback via a 2 way neural link, wireless charging (though a mat that we put under your mattress), and have you back to 90% functional with a couple weeks training and therapy and greater than before your accident long term. Of course, as technology improves we can upgrade your arm accordingly. We even offer a "utility" mode with greater than human strength, durability, and dexterity, though for safety reasons this is disabled through limiters during normal use.

Or, we can give you a series of treatments to regrow you arm. It'll be a long, and probably painful process as the bones and muscles regrow. You'll need months, if not years of physical therapy to tone the muscles and strengthen the joints. But in the end, you'll have an arm that is actually "you" in every way, right down to the genetic level (minus a few tweaks we made to make the arm grow in faster).

The choice is yours."

Re:Hmm... (1)

networkBoy (774728) | about 2 years ago | (#39475521)

There is a guy who lost his finger to a model airplane. He regrew his finger through the use of a magical powder made from the intracellular membrane of pig bladders. (not kidding, I'll try to find TFA about it).
-nB

Re:Hmm... (2)

networkBoy (774728) | about 2 years ago | (#39475575)

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-563099/The-amazing-pixie-dust-pigs-bladder-regrew-severed-finger-FOUR-weeks.html [dailymail.co.uk]
http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,353636,00.html [foxnews.com]
there we go, easier to find than I thought.
Now, this guy only lost about 1/2 inch of his finger, but I wonder what would happen if bone was involved...
Still speaks to your comment of "you grew the leg once...".
-nB

Re:Hmm... (2)

MozeeToby (1163751) | about 2 years ago | (#39475895)

You can lose everything up to the growth plate in the first joint and it will grow back. This guy just got as close as is physically possible to that boundary, unless the miracle powder can regrown joints and whole bones, I won't be holding my breath.

Re:Hmm... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39475599)

Robotics is hard; but it appears to be very nearly a toy problem compared to neurology.

Robotics is easy...it's the mimicry and miniaturization that's hard.

Building a device that types 1000 wpm is a high-school challenge.
Building a device that types 3 wpm and looks like a human hand is a PhD thesis.

Not all disabilities are created equal... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39475067)

... and to say that all disabilities will be solved by tech in the next 50 years seems to be an overly broad statement. We may be able to eliminate physical disability due to lost or missing limbs within 50 years, and possibly even many spinal core injuries, but there are many other forms of disability, especially traumatic brain injury and disabilities due to genetic anomalies that are still not well understood, and likely will never have a "cure". In many of the genetic cases, even if diagnosed in utero, there really isn't anything that can be done.
   

In the future, healthcare will be free! (1)

jandrese (485) | about 2 years ago | (#39475095)

So long as people insist on being paid for the care they administer (including building expensive prosthetic), there will be no such thing as "the end of disabilities". Especially mental disabilities. There is already a treatment available for a great many conditions today: A full time aide, it's just that few people can afford such an extravagance.

Re:In the future, healthcare will be free! (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | about 2 years ago | (#39475449)

Yeah, this was my first thought. The cost of research and development, along with all the man hours which go into these kinds of products, is staggering. In 50 years, when it becomes commonplace, though, it will still not become free.

Send drones (3, Insightful)

captainpanic (1173915) | about 2 years ago | (#39475101)

If you can make robotic legs, arms, eyes, hands, etc., why not put all that together and send the drones to do the fighting? Then you have no more veterans to fix up when they come back missing a limb.

Re:Send drones (1)

Ambassador Kosh (18352) | about 2 years ago | (#39475159)

Even better lets get rid of the fighting entirely and give people robotic bodies that want them and go explore space. The human body is really not very well designed or built so it is time for upgrades. Evolution may have gotten us this far but I am all for going in another direction.

Re:Send drones (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39475317)

The one thing the US doesn't understand about drone warfare is that:
* Here soon when large nations fight it might be drone vs drone and long term stalemate might ensue if both have large amounts of resources, that until a supply chain is broken on one of the two sides.
* Dirt poor nations will resort to asymmetric warfare, terrorism will grow as a result.

Re:Send drones (1)

JoeMerchant (803320) | about 2 years ago | (#39475835)

The one thing the US doesn't understand about drone warfare is that:
* Here soon when large nations fight it might be drone vs drone and long term stalemate might ensue if both have large amounts of resources, that until a supply chain is broken on one of the two sides.

Wasn't that the WW-I / WW-II scenario (except we were throwing farmboys at each other instead of drones)?

* Dirt poor nations will resort to asymmetric warfare, terrorism will grow as a result.

Feels like we've been there since, oh, Korea?

Re:Send drones (1)

jamstar7 (694492) | about 2 years ago | (#39475357)

Because people are still a helluva lot cheaper than drones, that's why. A completely mechanised military would cost a helluva lot more than what we in the US have now. And yeah, all those high tech toys are cool, but people did without them for millenia. You want to hold a piece of ground, a person dug in with an AK-47 can do that nicely.

Woohoo MIT Cyborgs! (2)

blackicye (760472) | about 2 years ago | (#39475127)

From TFA:“But what if you were doing it for athletic purposes?” Doctorow responds. Herr says if the need is there, then why not? He has some controversial opinions. A future devoid of disability? Many would agree that’s an amazing prospect. But a future where people can upgrade themselves as if they were DIY machines themselves? Is that something people want?"

Interesting, this guys seems pretty extreme but I'm of the opinion that if technology is starting to play such major roles in almost all sports why shouldn't cyborgs be allowed to compete in track and field?

Sports is all about "cheating" or if you prefer gaining the upper hand with technology anyway these days (Golf, Swimming, Archery, Sports Medicine etc.)

Re:Woohoo MIT Cyborgs! (2)

JoeMerchant (803320) | about 2 years ago | (#39475807)

Interesting, this guys seems pretty extreme but I'm of the opinion that if technology is starting to play such major roles in almost all sports why shouldn't cyborgs be allowed to compete in track and field?

Spring-foot prosthetics are a clear unfair advantage in long distance running, they need their own league to compete in, otherwise truly competitive athletes would have to cut their feet off to have a chance of winning.

Too First-World - USA Centric. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39475149)

I am so sick of these professors and technophiles claiming that this tech will solve X problem around the world.

I've got news for you. The world extends beyond affluent USA. There are still people worried about where there next meal will come from, and trying to stay at peace with their machine gun carrying overlords.

The ultra poor in many portions of the world do not care that rich bastards in the USA can strap robotic legs to themselves to "cure" disabilities. The people who could benefit from this the most will never be able to afford it.

Re:Too First-World - USA Centric. (1)

MozeeToby (1163751) | about 2 years ago | (#39475581)

"Never" is a long time, and quite frankly, the source of the article strikes me as a techno-optimist "singularity is near" kind of guy. I'd be willing to bet if you asked him what the world would look like in general in 50 years time you'd receive some answers that would make this prediction seem like someone saying "the next generation of processors will be faster and more energy efficient". I'd guess part of his "eliminating disabilities" dream includes an end to scarcity in general, which is the kind of thing that might be possible if brain computer interfaces develop to the point that all physical disabilities are cured.

true, but still (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39475965)

true, but still. I am so sick of these ultra poor in many portions of the world do not care about science but rather eat melons, dance, light candles and live a happy unhappy ignorant life.

Money? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39475151)

This should not be a market, health care should be free (like in some of the more advanced countries in Europe). The best way to stop disabilities is to prevent children being born with them (just like ancient Sparta).

Re:Money? (2)

Skidborg (1585365) | about 2 years ago | (#39475615)

Yes. Abort everybody who might ever be in a car accident. That would take care of the vast majority of America's problems.

Re:Money? (2)

networkBoy (774728) | about 2 years ago | (#39475643)

Health care is not free.
Who pays for the medicine?
Who pays the doctors?
Who pays for the DME?
Who pays for the MRI machines, the X-ray machines, the operating rooms?
Who pays for the physical therapy?

All these things cost money, no matter where you are, thus health care is not free.
In those more "advanced" countries you refer to the taxpayers all pay into a pool, and that is dived up to pay for everyone's health care. To call it free is disingenuous. Now, there is a valid debate as to whether or not the US system, the socialist system, or some hybrid of the two is best, all have their advantages and disadvantages. But to quote Heinlein: TANSTAAFL.
-nB

Not at the rate new ones are invented (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39475181)

I predict in 10 years everyone will be disabled.

what OP means is... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39475215)

...in the future those disabilities which have a marketable solution will be cured, while the rest will be declared not to exist. This is called "disability denial" and has been a trend since the '90s when private insurers wanted to eliminate certain classes of unfortunates from their books in the US and then move to Europe to take over their welfare systems.

Funnily enough, the average disabled person in the UK is now - despite advances in technology - receiving less support than even 5 years ago, because either he has fewer resources to help himself or the state refuses to help him. Therefore he's left in a long term state of non-productivity until he dies off - whereas before he'd have a chance of making a contribution in spite of his health problems.

fix the brain first (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39475245)

ending mental disabilities is a more important goal, imo.

Won't happen. Ever. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39475351)

Treatment is more profitable than a cure. Disabilities and diseases will remain as long as pharma companies make bucket loads of cash each month in treatment medications.

Heck, I wouldn't be shocked if new disabilities and diseases are discovered that conveniently put an even larger amount of the world's population under various expensive treatments. Flu shots anyone?

And herein lies the downside of capitalism (2)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 2 years ago | (#39475353)

From the summary:

There’s money to be made too. And if there’s a market here, it means more people will receive help.

Which would be better worded as

Unless there’s money to be made, and unless there’s a market here, it means no people will receive help.

Thus is the reason I feel capitalism (in its current form) has outlived its usefulness: Societal advancement now takes a back seat to making money, and I for one refuse to believe that making the world a better place for all should take a back seat to the unfettered greed of a few.

This kind of prof... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39475363)

Make Profs' words become jokes.

We'll just have to broaden the meaning (1)

dmomo (256005) | about 2 years ago | (#39475369)

... of disability. Pretty soon, having an all-natural, non-augmented body WILL be a disability.

Are all disabilities biomechanical? (1)

ElmoGonzo (627753) | about 2 years ago | (#39475391)

I think the definition he is using it too narrow -- and quite likely egocentric. How will his prostheses assist people with Cerebral Palsy, Multiple Sclerosis, CADASIL, and other neurological conditions which tend to be disabling?

Ludicrously Optimistic (1)

bhartman34 (886109) | about 2 years ago | (#39475409)

First, there are spinal cord injuries. Sure, you can make a bionic part that can do the physical labor of the part you're swapping out, but what about sensations? Are you going to be able to feel hot, cold, wet, dry, slimy, soft, etc.?

Second, there are a whole raft of disabilities you can't just swap a part out for. What about the mentally disabled? What about mental illnesses like schizophrenia? What about traumatic brain injuryy? (Surely we won't be able to swap out an entire brain in 50 years, and even if we could, would that be the same person?

I really think that this person is seeing "disability" through the lens of his own personal disability, rather than seeing the big picture.

(Ghost in the Shell) Two Words: Prosthetic Bodies (1)

jameskojiro (705701) | about 2 years ago | (#39475451)

This is the one breakthrough that will allow 99% of all physical disabilities to be resolved in a clear cut consistent mannner.

Born with a sever geentic defect that mangles your lims? Prosthetic Body.

Get burned horribly in a fire and lower half of your body burned to a crisp? Prostetic Body.

All you have to do is keep a brain alive and functional inside of either a lab grown "genetically engineered, universal donor" biologicial body or a "purely mechanical body supported by nanomachines" or a combination of the two.

Once this breakthrough is acheived, the quality of life for humanity will go up immensely.

Re:(Ghost in the Shell) Two Words: Prosthetic Bodi (1)

JoeMerchant (803320) | about 2 years ago | (#39475781)

Once this breakthrough is perfected, the quality of life for humanity will go up immensely.

FTFY, the best prosthetic of any kind today still sucks horribly compared to actual, grown along with your brain, body parts.

50 to 90 years... (1)

Oswald McWeany (2428506) | about 2 years ago | (#39475501)

50 to 90 years until the technology is available.

But in the US you won't get the technology unless you are uber rich or have a killer health-insurance plan.

Uh... (1)

mark-t (151149) | about 2 years ago | (#39475533)

There's money to be made too. And if there's a market here, it means more people with plenty of disposable income will receive help

FTFY

50 years is very far (1)

Hentes (2461350) | about 2 years ago | (#39475545)

50 years is far enough that you can predict confidently that anything will be available then, because by that time noone will remember it anyway.

Easy fixes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39475621)

For all the people 'lost' in the wars, can't we just buy them GPS devices? And for all those who have 'fallen', can't we just get them walkers or canes or something so that they remain upright? Seems like easy fixes to me.

I promise to find and/or make and/or enjoy my own freedoms if you quit going half way around the world killing people. You say it is for my own good but I don't believe you.

What's a disability? (1)

JoeMerchant (803320) | about 2 years ago | (#39475751)

I have always been able to hear frequencies that 99% of my same-aged peers cannot... does that make them all disabled (partially deaf)?

My color perception is somewhat less sensitive than my wife's, does that make me disabled (partially color blind)?

My grandmother's short term memory is operating at about 10% of its former capacity, is she disabled?

I injured my ACL in high-school and never had it repaired, I can't play basketball at a competitive level, am I disabled?

In bicycling, I can out hill-climb 90% of my same aged peers, does that make them disabled?

Get over the labels and the idea that everybody is the same, we're not.

Re:What's a disability? (2)

serviscope_minor (664417) | about 2 years ago | (#39476021)

Are you one of those people who believes that shades of grey make the extremely obvious black-and-white cases not exist?

You get both legs and arms blown off by a landmine. Does that make you disabled?

Yes. It most certainly does.

Appropriate timing? (1)

LighterShadeOfBlack (1011407) | about 2 years ago | (#39475761)

I think if I were in the field and developed a way to cure all vision ailments I wouldn't release my data until the year 2020, just for the ironic value.

Correction (1)

Hoi Polloi (522990) | about 2 years ago | (#39475841)

technology can end disability in 50 years

"technology can end disability, for those who can afford it, in 50 years"
There, fixed that.

Hey, idiot (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39475855)

Nature already grew your limbs from one cell, why can't we learn to use those systems to do it again? Too complicated? Too hard? I don't want to see artificial limbs in 50 years you moron, I want to see regenerated limbs. Before 50 years.

What about Afghani and Iraqi cripples (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39475955)

Will they get free prosthetics?

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