Exoskeletons and repairing disability

Yesterday I read a tirade from a mutton headed nincompoop who put it upon himself to “repair” disability, in particular those of us who use wheelchairs as our preferred mode of locomotion. His brilliant idea: exoskeletons. According to him (of course it’s a man!) all our problems would disappear if we had exoskeletons.

The piece is called: “In the Transhumanist Age, We Should Be Repairing Disabilities Not Sidewalks.”

I repeat, repairing disabilities (sic.) Who does this person think he is? And even better, what does he think disability is? He sounds like some televangelist who wants to ‘repair homosexuality’ because we all know ‘they are just broken inside’ and need fixing. Disability is something that is there and always will be, unless we use eugenics of course – that might just be the way to ‘repair’ it.

The entire essay is built on one misconception supporting the next. The cardinal misconception is the one I just mentioned; there is no way of fixing disability. And to think that exoskeletons will do so is beyond naïve, it is downright asinine.

It almost feels sad to inform the writer that his beloved exoskeletons are just another assistive device in a long array of assistive devices going back to Paleolithic times, most likely starting with a simple stick. It’s a crutch, both literally and figuratively. Not only that, it is a hi-tech version of a technology that is tried and tested and found utterly cumbersome compared to the wheelchair which he so despises in his omnipresent ignorance of anything disability related. The exoskeletons are nothing more than fancy braces and my hairs start standing on end in the memory of how my fellow cripples had to wear those heavy and awkward contraptions on their bodies while lumbering away at a snail’s pace in the 1970’s and 80’s. So when he says:

“I’m wondering if the nearly three million Americans in wheel chairs (sic) might rather have exoskeleton suits that allow them to run, jump and play active sports.”

The answer is a resounding ‘no, they wouldn’t.’ There isn’t much running, jumping and active sports involved and it’ll be a mighty long time before there will be any. Besides we are just not interested when we have a cool device called a wheelchair. For more on why walking is overrated look here:

As the above text shows, it is a common misconception among bipedal people that we want to walk again. I am certain there are a number of people in wheelchairs who would want to walk if they suddenly were cured. But to think that such a contraption would be the answer is downright dumb. It doesn’t have much to do with walking after all.

Besides, the wheelchair is based on humankind’s most ingenious invention ever; the wheel. It is very hard to beat that, I might add. I know very few cripples who would rather be trapped in a cheap knock off of an Iron Man suit than have the freedom of locomotion that a wheelchair gives.

But then again, his language quite clearly implies that he thinks disabled people are not really people. We are more like the robots of his dreams. His parting words says it all:

“In short, let the sidewalks remain in disrepair. Instead in the transhumanist age we’re now in, let’s work to repair physically disabled human beings, and make them mobile and able-bodied again.”

So screw those who are less fortunate, let’s go play with our new toys and eventually those toys might lead Tiny Tim to Robot Heaven.

Disability repaired