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Hugh Herr’s Bionic Future

The genius behind a remarkable bionic prosthesis is personally motivated to help humanity. Hugh Herr envisions a future in which everyone's capabilities are enhanced.


Conversation Club

  1. Hugh Herr begins this video by explaining that he lost his legs at age 17 from a climbing accident. Herr describes his disbelief over the death of one of the people who came to rescue him. Why do you think this makes him feel as though he has a “duty” to humankind? What are examples of other things (emotions, events, etc.) that motivate people to create new products or businesses?
  2. The video states that Herr is based at the Center for Extreme Bionics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Can you think of other examples of innovation hubs? Why might MIT have a center that creates inventions with potential commercial applications? Can you think of other examples of machines or technology that are making big differences in human lives and everyday interactions?
  3. Herr defines “bionic” as emulating – or matching – biological functions. Can you put this into your own words? Can you think of examples of other human-made innovations that have used nature as inspiration (e.g. velcro and airplanes)?
  4. When describing his bionic limbs, Herr says that U.S. veterans are using many of the first models made. How does this tie with his statement about feeling a sense of “duty” to give back to humanity? In addition to losing limbs, what are other examples of hardships that veterans of any conflict might face?
  5. The BiOM limb that Herr designed has three computers and measures position, speed, forces, and acceleration. Does this level of complexity surprise you? How aware are you of the amount of work your body does when you take a step or use your arms to eat a meal? Do you think the BiOM limb will become more or less complex as new models and refinements are made? Why do you think so?
  6. Herr thinks that we are at turning point in history, where humans are now going beyond simply using tools and instead will be integrating them with our bodies. What examples of tools would you suggest best demonstrate this progression?
  7. Do you agree with Herr’s view that disability will be eliminated this century? What do you think he means by eliminated?
  8. There is a saying that reality is stranger than fiction. What examples from popular fiction can you think of that explore this idea of human/machine integration? How do you feel about these visions of a possible future?

Video Series

This video exists as part of a series gathered around the theme of Environment & STEM. Other videos in this series are listed below.

Can Ocean Optimism Save our Seas?
Can Ocean Optimism Save our Seas?
What is the Future of Nature?
What is the Future of Nature?
Hugh Herr’s Bionic Future
Hugh Herr’s Bionic Future
Why Scan a 3-D Dinosaur?
Why Scan a 3-D Dinosaur?
Pardis Sabeti's New Look at Infectious Disease
Pardis Sabeti's New Look at Infectious Disease
Visualizing One Earth
Visualizing One Earth
Best Views of the Grand Canyon
Best Views of the Grand Canyon
Can We Solve Climate Change?
Can We Solve Climate Change?
Jack Andraka's Pancreatic Cancer Breakthrough
Jack Andraka's Pancreatic Cancer Breakthrough