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Friday, January 18, 2013

Science My Science Fiction: The Future of the Deaf and Blind? by Adam Callaway

One of my favorite things about the nonstop progress of technology is how it assists the less fortunate to interact with the world on a more complete level. A lot of these technologies -- DARPA's advanced carbon-fiber limbs, implantable retinas, brain-computer interfaces -- try to correct disabilities so these people can live a "normal" live. But is this the best way?

This article is about a new way for deaf-blind people to communicate, and also to use the internet in a way that will only be native to them. It allows them to interact with non-disabled people using
a method that only users of this technology will understand. In essence, they have passed a type of singularity and have become true transhumans. Users of the TacTic will be able to communicate with each other more easily than with non-users. These users will have a constant, tactile link to the internet; something beyond even those with smartphones can experience.
And the thing is: TacTic is just an input device; a translator. It can be used for things beyond surfing the internet. It could issue commands to a vehicle or a house; service animals can become that much more useful.

More than anything, though, TacTic will allow people with disabilities to communicate more effectively with everybody around them, and that will create a higher standard of living. But is technology getting to the point where instead of creating compensation devices, scientists begin to tailor devices to the specific disability where, with regular use, the disabled may exceed "normal human" levels of interaction with the environment? If that did arise, would people chose to maim themselves to get access to the technology.


Adam Callaway is an SF/F writer.  His work has appeared in Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Flurb, and AE.  You can find out more about him on his website or twitter.

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