With some smug satisfaction, I admit I was a serious fan of Iron Man before it was cool to be so. Yes, the derring-do of millionaire/inventor/bon vivant Tony Stark and his mechanical, red-and-gold alter ego comprised one of my favorite, teen-age years’ comic book titles. 2008’s original film enraptured me — among that slender minority of recent Marvel Comics movies that did super-powered justice to the character on which it was based.
Anyway, back in the days I was flipping pages following “ol’ Tin-Head’s” exploits, I regularly wondered exactly how his suited arsenal operated: Did Stark have to push buttons somewhere to unleash his gauntlets’ repulsor rays or the really neat, cannon-like uni-beam designed into his chest-piece? Before his jet boots launched him heavenward was there a knob he needed to twist behind-the-scenes? Or did all his armor’s gizmos respond automatically to thought commands?
If these questions were answered somewhere along my youthful perusals, I missed it.
Recall, this would have been during the 1970’s, when such high-tech wizardry really was only the fanciful stuff of sci-fi cinema or Stan Lee’s four-color imaginings. Yet, there was a part of me that glancingly assumed it was possible and someday — perhaps far down the road, but someday — we’d see it manifesting in the real world.
Well, looks like I may have been a prescient pubescent after all.
A June 2 60 Minutes broadcast carried the thrilling news that briskly galloping technologies are on the verge of mainstreaming “robotic limbs” controlled by the user’s brainwaves.
“In a decade of war, more than 1,300 Americans have lost limbs on the battlefield,” reports series host Scott Pelley. “[T]hat fact led the Department of Defense to start a crash program … creating an artificial arm and hand that are amazingly human.” Pelley goes on to clarify, “But that’s not the breakthrough … they have connected this robotic limb to a human brain.”
It’s all result of the $150 million “Revolutionizing Prosthetics” program being developed in labs scattered across America. The television segment captured eye-popping successes as artificial arms and hands, controlled by electric signals fired off by human subjects’ brain cells, operated with consistency and alacrity: moving up and down, side-to-side, squeezing, curling fingers, even shaking hands.
“Not rehab,” emphasized head honcho/neurologist Dr. Geoffery Ling, “but restoration of function.”
“Robotic Limbs Moved by the Mind” was the accompanying article’s exhilarating headline — and when I glimpsed it, I immediately made a long ago, personal Iron Man connection: astonishing technology that’s no longer merely a comic-book-inspired prospect, but a heartening hope for paralyzed men and women and maimed vets.
Something else occurred to me: these kinds of breakthroughs should delight us, certainly — but shouldn’t excessively surprise us. Those who ascribe to a Biblical worldview, after all, understand that humans, God’s highest creation, are beings molded in His image. True, that image has been distorted by the ugly reality of sin skulking around the world — but its broad-stroke, divine-like contours remain.
The God Who created all things ex-nihilo (out of nothing), continues performing “signs and wonders in heaven and earth” (Daniel 6:27). Reflecting His character and nature, men pro-create or invent things out of stuff God has provided through His creation; human contrivances that, often, can be quite wonder-ful. I admit, I teared up reading about “Revolutionizing Prosthetics’ ” marvelous leaps.