Many people are focusing on the lost economic activity in the Boston area due to the tragic events over the past two weeks. While the region has suffered in the short term, this incident may trigger extraordinary future economic growth.
The key driver of this growth will be the use of bionic limbs for amputees. Dr. Hugh Herr, who heads the Biomechatronics research group at the MIT Media Lab, has been instrumental in developing bionic prostheses that provide extraordinary functionality. As a double-amputee, Dr. Kerr can attest to the great strides in this area and how beneficial it can be to society. He believes this technology will become extremely popular and useful in the future, especially given the recent incident at the Boston Marathon.
These bionic limbs are functioning more like our natural limbs and may actually surpass them in the future. Dr. Herr receives periodic upgrades to his hardware and software, which enable him to continue his passion for rock climbing. He anticipates the development of future limbs that will enable the user to feel their surroundings, such as sand on a beach versus water in a lake. He is inspirational as someone who has transformed major liabilities into tremendous assets. Several months ago, 60 Minutes featured a Department of Defense initiative called Revolutionary Prosthetics, in which artificial limbs are controlled by mere thought.
From an economic standpoint, the long term benefits heavily outweigh the short term expenditures, thereby providing a high return on investment for society. These benefits include the reduction of secondary disabilities – such as joint arthritis and pain – less rehabilitative intervention, and a more productive, income generating population. Greater income, lower healthcare costs and a better quality of life will enable a more healthful economic environment in the future.