One field where 3D printing technology has been finding significant applications is that of health care and surgery, with 3D printed bones seeing a significant level of use. This has raised some questions that most people seem unwilling to actually voice.
One of these questions is actually quite obvious: with how much 3D printing technology has advanced and how often it is used for the healing or replacement of bones, what is stopping people from actually replacing natural bones for the sake of so-called improvements?
After all, augmented bodies have been a staple of science fiction ever since the term was first coined. Now that 3D printed implants can be made of even titanium, of all things, and can be provided to pretty much everyone, the jump to even tougher bone replacements with broader utilities isn’t that great.
Even facial reconstruction surgery is using 3D printing to better and more quickly provide services to injured patients.
The current development level
It is a fair bit higher than you might think. Humankind has already cracked the mystery of 3D printed shoulder prostheses and complete joint replacements. And we won’t even start to list all the implants and replacement skulls that have been created from bioplastics or metals through 3D printing technology (additive manufacturing).
Essentially, scientists and doctors already know how to make replacement bones that won’t be rejected by the human body. Even the types that allow living cells to attach to them. So you could, let's say, make a 3D printed shoulder blade that tendons and muscles can grow through like they would through natural bone.
It’s not just porous implants that can do this either. We’ve seen compounds that harden like true bones but can decompose in the organism, eventually being replaced by actual, living tissue again. A certain type of new 3D printed bone grafts come to mind.
At the end of the day, it’s safe to say that human science has come far enough for deliberate replacements of perfectly healthy bones to be possible.
The leap to augmentic skeletons
It might never happen, but on the other hand, it may occur quite soon, within a matter of two or three decades in fact.
Right now, the technology is too young for us to assume we could create 3D printed bone / body parts replacements better than what our bodies can provide. In addition to that, implants can still be rejected by the body if not done properly.
On the flip side, many stories have been written or filmed about superhumans or cyborgs with bodies that are tougher than those of everyone else. It has been going on for so long that scientists could easily leap from 3D printed implants (which are only last resorts for now) to bones and, eventually, whole body parts that are simply “superior” to our natural ones.
I’m actually worried about what this will mean for the military and special forces that the USA, Russia and so many other countries no doubt run in secret. With nuclear weapons essentially unusable, and robotic development so completely off the rails, super soldiers continue to remain the “ideal” solution for securing victory in case hypothetical wars stop being just “hypothetical.” Even having the whole skeleton made of titanium could be a huge asset in a conflict involving these “supermen,” and that’s already possible.
I’ll be in my corner, hoping that it never actually comes to any of that, and that dystopian fiction stays fiction, even though so many other things are becoming real.