The Amazing Human Body From An Engineering Viewpoint
Recently, I was thinking about our body and how it is put together. The various parts and systems that makes us a mobile and productive entity. As an engineer by training, and have interest in biomedical engineering and ergonomics, I can't help but wonder what design we can come up with to compete with God's creation.
- Dec. 2016
Sometimes, it is good to use mental exercise to flush out some new ideas. There is talk of AI robots replacing humans in various jobs very soon. Is that realistic?
I thought it would be helpful to imagine if I was given the task of designing the perfect "AI human", what would it look like? How could I improve on us?
The first step is to come up with a specification. What do we want this robot to do?
Here are some items to consider.
- Able to move about - walk, run, crawl
- Able to manipulate tools
- Able to survive the elements, rain, water, cold, heat...
- Able to ingest and convert to energy
- Able to heal minor injuries
- Able to reproduce
- Able to learn
- Able to be self-aware
- Able to process vast amount of data
- Able to remember or recall history
- Able to be uniquely identified - finger print and DNA
The Human Machine
Here are some unique features of humans.
- the brain
- 5 senses
- hand, opposable thumb
- walking on two feet
- digestive system
- reproductive sex
- circulatory system - blood
Self Healing is one aspect of humans that is very hard to replicate. For a robot or mechanical system, it would be almost impossible. If our body was made from an artificial material, it would naturally degrade with use. What makes healing possible is how our biological makeup is designed. Our cells are only designed to last a few days. They have a built in mechanism of self replication. Our skin will replace it self in about 2 weeks.
When you have a cut or a scrape, your blood will coagulate and stop the bleeding. Next, the cells will reproduce at the exact pre-programmed fashion and repair the wound. Assume you keep it clean your skin will be as good as new after a week or so. You won't even see a scar. All this happens without your brain controlling it. Somehow, the skin cells knows when to stop reproducing. If it didn't, you will have developed cancer and eventually die. What an amazing mechanism.
Another problem a robot machine may have is to provide a steady source of energy. To function correctly, it needs power in the form of energy. Electrical energy can be created and stored as batteries. Our human body has a different form. We are designed to ingest food which when digested by our system, will create energy in the form we need to power our brain and our muscles. A typical battery may last only a day or a week at most before needing recharge. Our human body lives off food and water. We can store energy in the form of fats. We can last a week or more with little food but only a few days wothout water.
The superior design of our system allows us to live upwards of 80-90 years. A mechanical system with moving parts may last only 10-20 years at best and that is with periodic maintenance.
Reproduction is another mechanism that was designed not only for replenish th human race but to create diversity. This pairing of 23 genes per sex creating a human with 46 genes has the limitless possibilities of a variety of skills and talents and ingenuity that makes up the human race. Think about that, how can you design a machine with this property? Even a programmable computer cannot make this claim. It can only be "instructed" to perform a series of tasks. It cannot invent anything new.
In my mental exercise, I try to imagine a better design for a replacement for humans. You know what? I can't come up with one. In almost every aspect, we are designed perfectly for what we need to do and for accommodating our environment here on earth. How amazing is that. In the wisdom of the ages, we are exactly the perfect machine.