FIXED: exploring a new wave of human enhancement

Humans have continually developed technologies to supplement their abilities. Until recently however, most of these enhancements have been external, not necessarily changing how individuals identify as humans. From genetic engineering, drugs to implants and mechanical limbs, the film “Fixed” explores the new wave of human enhancement.

The film was shown at Bellevue College as the May “Science Cafe,” it was sponsored by the Office of Sustainability, Multicultural services, the DRC, the Library Media Center and the Science and Math Institute.

Featuring disabled individuals making the case both for and against the latest advances, as well as individuals advocating both sides of the issue, the movie offered a variety of perspectives on the idea of human augmentation.

Advances that allow people who would otherwise be disabled to live relatively normal lives are hardly the controversy, but new technology pushing these artificial parts beyond typical human limitations has many concerned for the future. Some predict that in coming years, artificial enhancements will become desirable to anyone, not just those looking to replace something they have lost.

One example given is “Botox, people will do anything to their bodies for enhancements,” said roboticist Rodney Brooks when asked about the assumed fears of adopting new technologies.

One prominent voice in the film was that of biochemist Gregor Wolbring, a disabled individual with no desire for enhancement.

“My parents saw me as a variation,” Gregor explained. “Of course I’m a disabled person, do I see myself as an impaired person? No. I’m just who I am,” he explained early in the film.
One of the main focuses of the film is the concept of abelism, which according to Gregor “is our obsession with certain abilities and the accompanying negative treatment of people who don’t have these kinds of abilities.”

Somewhat countering Gregor’s point of view is Hugh Herr, a double amputee who used the loss of his legs as a catalyst to begin his own work in the field of biomechatronics. Hugh heavily advocates for advanced prosthetics and holds or co-holds 14 patents for different assistance devices.

“I’m for freedom, I’m not for normal. I’m actually for the death of normalcy” Herr said about his work.

Patty Bernes, a social worker who advocates for disability rights as well as asylum seekers and the LGBTQ community, reminded the viewers that “we don’t have basic healthcare, not only in this country but globally.”

James Hughes, a bioethicist and leader in ethics and emerging technologies, challenged the critical nature of spending on these advanced technologies.  He said that there are “plenty of things we waste money on that we shouldn’t,” for example, “why wouldn’t we get rid of the Super Bowl?”

Looking at such a new and developing field, “Fixed” attempts to offer all perspectives in a fair examination of what may be to come, all while reminding the viewer that more can be done to help the disabled today.

“Fixed” can be found in the Bellevue College library or purchased from the website