Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Blurring the Line Between Man and Machine

Blurring the Line Between Man and Machine

By Stacey Bucklin
A recent story in The Economist focused on a new collaborative research endeavor known as the RoboLaw project. The research will focus on how the law should deal with technologies that blur man and machine. These types of technologies are becoming increasingly relevant as science develops prosthetic limbs and assistive devices that replicate the functions of the human body more closely than ever before.

Individuals with disfigured or missing limbs may choose to replace them with prosthetic ones. People with intellectual or physical limitations that prohibit them from communicating may rely on electronic devices to serve as their voice. These types of artificial devices are commonly used today, but will become more popular as they become more lifelike and less cumbersome for the user.
The RoboLaw project will investigate whether these technologies will be considered part of the person that relies on them. Is a person’s prosthetic limb legally a part of their body? What about a wheelchair that a disabled person relies on for mobility? This may seem trivial, but in cases where the device is lost or damaged, determining the separation between man and machine is critical.

New technologies may impact the very definition of disability as we know it. For example, if robotic devices can restore sight to a blind person, is that person no longer consider disabled? It may be necessary to redefine what disability is, a move which could have great impact on existing disability laws.

The RoboLaw researchers hope to release their findings in 2014. Their announcement could either stifle or spur on future innovation for the disabled. The CP Family Network will be watching this story as it develops so that we can help you understand the possible implications for your CP child and your family.

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