McCosh 50, Princeton University
Society is at the threshold of a new age when machines will no longer be separate, lifeless mechanisms, but will instead be intimate extensions of the human body. Such a merging of body and machine will not only improve the quality of life for disabled people, but will allow persons with normal physiologies to experience augmented capabilities – cognitively, emotionally and physically. Professor Hugh Herr of the MIT Media Lab describes “Human 2.0” – an era where technology will merge with our bodies and our minds to forever change our concept of human capability. Hugh features research work that is blurring the distinction between “able bodied” and “disabled,” demonstrating technologies at the neural-digital interface. These new research initiatives are capable of addressing a plethora of conditions currently at clinical impasses, from social-emotional prostheses for persons with autism, to the development of smart prostheses that can emulate – and even exceed the capabilities of – biological limbs. Hugh believes that through an ever-increasing technological sophistication, human disability will largely be eliminated in this 21rst century, setting the stage for innovations that will ultimately benefit all humanity.
Hugh Herr, a double amputee himself, is responsible for breakthrough advances in bionic limbs that provide greater mobility and new hope to those with physical disabilities. Hugh’s story has been told in the biography Second Ascent, the Story of Hugh Herr (1991); a 2002 National Geographic film Ascent: the Story of Hugh Herr; and episodes and articles featured in CNN, The Economist, Discover, Nature and NPR. He is the Director of MIT Media Lab’s Biomechatronics Group.