In this week’s Future Trends – Spinal Cord Injury Advancements & Social Credit Gamification we look at two exciting trials that are helping paralyzed patients walk again, and examine the “Gamification of Trust” in China’s social credit experiment.
Read on for more details…
Electrode Treatment Sees Paralyzed Patients Walk Again
In two recent independent studies, scientists were able to use electrical stimulation to enable paraplegic patients, with no previous lower leg voluntary movement abilities, to walk again.
Researchers in both studies adapted a previous technology, called epidural stimulation, to send sensorimotor signals to the legs. The trials were carried out utilizing the theory that after a spinal injury causing complete paraplegia, there is still a small signal from the brain getting through to the lower body. The device used includes an array of 16 electrodes implanted in the lower back below the injury area along with a battery. The function of the electrodes is to amplify this small brain signal in an attempt to reactivate spinal cord circuits.
The first study, “Recovery of Over Ground Walking After Chronic Motor Complete Spinal Cord Injury,” published in the New England Journal of Medicine, centered around 4 patients at the Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center. While 2 of the patients only achieved the ability to sit up and stand, the other 2 made remarkable progress and were able to walk unassisted (but with walkers) after the electrodes were implanted.
“It is incredible to be able to be in there and actually see them taking their first steps.” – Dr. Claudia Angeli – Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center
One of the patients in the study, Kelly Thomas, was told by doctors she would never walk again. After months of epidural stimulation treatment augmented by intense physical rehab she is one of the first paraplegics in the world to walk again after not taking a step in 4 years.
The second study, “Neuromodulation of Lumbosacral Spinal Networks Enables Independent Stepping after Complete Paraplegia,” was led by Dr. Kendall Lee out of the Mayo Clinic at UCLA and only involved one patient. The 29 year old man, who had no previous sensation or voluntary movement post-injury, was able to walk over 100m unassisted after the epidural stimulation treatment.
Although this is very exciting news, scientists urge there is still a long way to go before rolling out to the general public. One of the biggest issues is fine tuning and programming the device and electrodes. Too high of an intensity and the legs can experience frequent involuntary movement and tuning too low doesn’t amplify the brain signals enough to allow for voluntary movement.
Implementation also takes months of intense physical rehabilitation so patients have to be prepared and willing to undergo a lot of strenuous work.
Finally, the electrical current applied is continuous so can currently only allow for low intensity, although synchronization of this current with intended voluntary movements is being studied.
You can check out the study here.
China’s “Gamification of Trust” Experiment
Imagine living in a community where your every movement and social faux pas was surveilled and recorded? It sounds fairly dystopian but China has already began pilot projects for their Social Credit system and plans to expand as early as 2020.
The country intends to use their expansive CCTV system along with other advanced monitoring methods to record citizens’ social actions. Included on the list of activities that will affect your social rating in China is everything from paying your bills, professional conduct, types of products purchased (hint: stay away from too many games) to seemingly minor actions like jaywalking or even recycling properly.
It may sound a little unreal that a country’s citizenry would oblige this but when you think about it is it so unbelievable? In North America, we readily adopt social rating systems, like Facebook, that affect our societal standing and mental health. LinkedIn can have a major impact on our job prospects and future careers depending on how well we network and “play nice” with others for years.
We’ve also happily gone along with a credit scoring system for years which rates our ability to pay our bills on time and earn a stable income. The rewards for being good credit citizens in North America include increased freedom and the ability to obtain a mortgage, borrow money to start a business, purchase a car, or even rent an apartment.
Last month the Washington Post reported on Facebook’s move to score the “trustworthiness” of users on a scale of zero to 1, while ratings across services such as AirBnB, Uber and eBay have direct, real-world consequence.
The Chinese government proposes numerous advantages for those that adhere strictly to the system including improved healthcare, cheaper public transit, better credit and travel freedom. The policy has actually been popular among those more socially advantaged citizens but could turn out to be a nightmare for other end of the spectrum. In fact, in the pilot projects, controversy and corruption is already starting to rear its head. A school has recently started refusing students whose parents’ social scores are too low and a lawyer was recently banned from flying for an impending malpractice lawsuit.
Read more here.
For an alternative view on China’s move towards social credit scores, check out Russell Brand’s latest YouTube video (below).
In the video, Brand makes the case that the creation of hierarchies of humans based on aspects of our lives that can be extremely prejudicial is nothing new. People constantly encounter differing human interaction based on arbitrary things like skin colour, religion, gender, and socio-economic appearance.
In fact, social media and the mass adoption of technology is merely a reflection writ-large of the human condition. It exposes all our vulnerabilities, fears, and negativity, as well as the opposite end of the spectrum: our positivity, our generosity, our compassion.
What we ultimately need is a new spirituality and awareness of how we use technology.
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Nikolas is a world-leading Futurist Speaker that drives leaders to take action in creating a better world for humanity. He promotes exponential thinking along with a critical, honest, and optimistic view that empowers you with knowledge to plan for today, tomorrow, and for the future.