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Extraordinary Lives: Disability and Destiny in a Technological Age
Stephen L. Talbott

Chapter 2: Can Technology Make the Handicapped Whole?

If, along our passage to a tolerable, technology-permeated future, there lies a single stretch where we will have to sweat drops of blood in order to stay the course, surely it will be that stretch peopled by "the handicapped". Here is where, no matter how radical or uncertain or dangerous a technology promises to be for society at large, we will be overwhelmingly tempted by our own generous impulses to grant exceptions for the disabled. And, from retinal or cochlear implants to machine-harnessed brain waves to wholesale fiddling with the nervous system, this is probably enough of a beachhead to bring the technology into general use. Who could deny any possible technical assist to the tragic victims of a major functional deficit?

In The Age of Spiritual Machines Ray Kurzweil makes the argument as explicit as possible. Repeatedly reminding his readers that we are on a "slippery slope", he plunges into the downhill slide with resigned abandon. Eventually, he assures us, we will replace the entire human body and its intelligence with vastly more capable digital technologies.

To combine the metaphors a bit awkwardly: the narrow passage is our