Robin de Voh
writer, developer, nerd

Nanoprep 2016 Day 16: Metal As All Hell

By Robin de Voh on 2016-10-26

Technology just keeps on moving along, they say. My body is excellent proof of this. After a multitude of careless accidents -- I am a bit of a daredevil -- I have been 'upgraded' over the years until by my estimate, over half my weight is in prosthetics.

One of my knees is artificial, but my other leg is entirely titanium and plastic. The bones and joints were shattered in a skydiving accident, but instead of amputating -- like they would have in the past -- they just replaced everything with new parts. "We can rebuild him," like that old television show. What was it, the 6 bajillion dollar man?

My spine has been reinforced with metal plates in 4 places and my right shoulder blade sets off metal detectors. It's one of my oldest implants.

I realized at a certain point that I had become numb to physical harm. I knew they could rebuild whatever I broke and pain is temporary. So I became more of a risk-taker than I had been before.

That's how I shattered my leg, honestly, because I wanted to see if I could land on top of a skyscraper using a parachute. Turns out I could -- but only because my leg got caught in a railing and snapped in 30 places. Pain might be temporary, but it does leave a mark.

The numbness to physical harm and realization that everything could be rebuilt made me realize something -- my body slowly turning into a machine became a form of body modification. It became more than acceptable for parts to be swapped in when the originals inevitably failed me.

That's why my middle fingers also contain metal bones rather than the regular bone bones. That's something I did for fun. When I flip you off, it's metal as all hell.

There's a thought experiment called 'The Ship of Theseus'. I can't claim to be a particularly smart person, but a friend pointed it out and it's stuck with me. In that thought experiment, the question raised is that when you have a ship, and you replace, over time, every single part, is it still the same ship?

In a way, it is. There's a consistent existence linked to both the name and physical there-ness. But on the other hand, if no part is original, it cannot be the original ship. That's the paradox.

My friend pointed out that given that I was now less than half original -- less than half me -- I was, in a sense, no longer me.

An interesting thought, I'll admit that without hesitation. If, say, 55% of my mass is artificial, there's only 45% mass left that is truly, completely me.

With the changes in my body so far, in 10 years I'll be over 75% artificial.

But then I realized something. Just like with the ship, the question arises from what makes something something at all. The Ship of Theseus is still the Ship of Theseus, even after all of its parts have been replaced. If it wasn't, there wouldn't be that paradox I mentioned.

So what makes me me is my mind. That's debatable to my friend, but it's true to me.

So, even if 99% of me is artificial and only my brain remains, I'll be me. And if they find a way to transfer my thoughts, personality and everything else in that gray matter into a chip, and they replace my brain with that chip, then 100% of me is artificial and I'll still be me.

And when that day comes, when I am fully artificial, not only will I be immortal, but I'll see whether I can land on that skyscraper without a parachute.

It's going to be epic.

So my dad's getting a new knee. Inspiration comes from the weirdest of places.