‘I’m not dying, I’m transforming’: Doctor diagnosed with terminal motor neurone disease hopes to become the world’s first true cyborg
- Dr Peter Scott-Morgan, 61, diagnosed with motor neurone disease two years ago
- He decided to challenge what it meant to be human by becoming fully robotic
- The Dr has an avatar of his face to show expressions if he loses muscle control
A terminally-ill scientist who is dying from a muscle wasting disease has taken the final steps to become the world’s first full cyborg.
Dr Peter Scott-Morgan, 61, from Torquay, Devon, was diagnosed with motor neurone disease two years ago, but instead of accepting his fate he decided to challenge what it meant to be human.
He said he wanted to push the boundaries of what science can achieve, hoping to extend his life and become a fully robotic cyborg – known as Peter 2.0.
The world-renowned roboticist has already undergone a series of incredibly complex and risky operations during his journey.
This has included developing a remarkably life-like avatar of his face before he lost any muscle.
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Dr Peter Scott-Morgan, 61, with his husband Francis. Dr Scott-Morgan shared the photo on social media with the caption: ‘This is my last post as Peter 1.0. Tomorrow I trade my voice for potentially decades of life’
The avatar is designed to respond using artificially intelligent body language and he has also explored eye-tracking technology to enable him to control multiple computers using only his eyes.
And this week he announced the final procedure in his transition into a robot where he traded his voice for potentially decades of life.
He underwent a laryngectomy, meaning he lost his physical voice, but in doing so, he will avoid the added danger of saliva potentially entering his lungs, due to his condition.
Dr Scott-Morgan labelled this final procedure as the end of Peter 1.0 with a post this week on Twitter, and wrote: ‘This is my last post as Peter 1.0.
‘Tomorrow (Thursday October 10) I trade my voice for potentially decades of life as we complete the final medical procedure for my transition to Full Cyborg, the month I was told statistically I would be dead.
‘I’m not dying, I’m transforming. Oh, how I love science.’
Dr Scott-Morgan has throughout his career been granted ‘unparalleled confidential access’ to government organisations, banks and major corporations.
The avatar will help Dr Scott-Morgan express himself with facial expressions when he loses motion in his face
He has been using this scientific expertise to work with cutting-edge technology experts to become Peter 2.0.
Speaking of his transition, he said: ‘I’m about to be turned into Peter 2.0. And when I say ‘Peter 2.0’, I mean ‘a Cyborg’.
‘And when I say ‘Cyborg’, I don’t just mean any old cyborg, you understand, but by far the most advanced human cybernetic organism ever created in 13.8 billion years.
‘I’m scheduled to become the world’s very first full Cyborg.
This week he announced the final procedure in his transition into a robot where he traded his voice for potentially decades of life
‘Almost everything about me is going to be irreversibly changed – body and brain.
‘It goes without saying that all my physical interaction with the world will become robotic. And naturally, my existing five senses are going to be enhanced. But far more importantly, part of my brain, and all of my external persona, will soon be electronic – totally synthetic.
‘From then on, I’ll be part hardware / part wetware, part digital / part analogue.
‘And it won’t stop there; I’ve got more upgrades in progress than Microsoft.. Mine isn’t just a version change. It’s a metamorphosis.’
The scientist has also been exploring eye-tracking technology, to enable him to control multiple computers using just his eyes.
Dr Scott-Morgan shared the picture with the caption: ‘CORE OF CHARLIE (my Cyborg Harness And Robotic Locked-In Exoskeleton), the brilliantly engineered Permobil F5 Corpus VS. As a top-end wheelchair, it stands, lies flat, rises, goes fast. Soon, with lots of added robotic hi-tech, it’ll boldly go where no wheelchair has gone before!’
Among other things, this would mean he could control his own electronic bed and a hoist to help him move.
This eye-tracking technology, means that he could no longer wear contact lenses, and so he has undergone laser eye surgery to enable him to have perfect vision at 70cm- the distance from his computer screen.
The scientist also has a remarkable top-end wheelchair, which he said on Twitter is ‘brilliantly engineered’ and allows him to stand, lie flat and go fast.
He has undergone further pioneering surgery in what he believes to be the first ever operation of its kind, to insert a feeding tube directly into his stomach, a catheter directly into his bladder and a colostomy bag directly onto his colon.
These procedures will help him to deal with any potential feeding and toileting problems, helping him to maintain his independence.
However, he stressed online that this is an incredibly risky procedure for somebody with MND.
Despite the risks of operations and being terminally ill, Dr Scott-Morgan says he is not interested in how to survive his condition, he intends to ‘thrive.’
He remains positive and often, humorous, seeing his situation as a chance to truly embrace scientific capabilities.
In fact, The Scott-Morgan Foundation which he set up with his husband, Francis, seeks to use artificial intelligence, robotics and other high-technology systems to transform the lives of those ‘restricted by age, ill-health, disability, or other physical or mental disadvantage.’
On his website Dr Scott-Morgan said this vision is far from just a dream: ‘We are within touching distance of changing – everything. I’m not dying – I’m transforming!
‘This is terminal disease like you’ve never seen it before. And as far as I’m concerned, bring it on.
‘MND hasn’t even begun to bring me to my knees. And even long after I’m locked In, I will still be standing tall.
‘Thanks to HiTech – I will talk again. I will convey Emotion and Personality. And I’ll reach out and touch the people I love. And I will not be the only one.
‘Over time, more and more with MND, with extreme disability, with old age, with a passion simply to break free from their physical straight-jacket, will choose to stand beside me.
And we will all stand tall. And we will stand proud. And we will stand unbowed. And we will keep standing, year after year after year after year after year*
‘Because we refuse simply to ‘Stay Alive’. We choose to thrive.’
WHAT IS MOTOR NEURONE DISEASE (ALS)?
The NHS describes motor neurone disease (MND) as: ‘An uncommon condition that affects the brain and nerves. It causes weakness that gets worse over time.’
The weakness is caused by the deterioration of motor neurons, upper motor neurons that travel from the brain down the spinal cord, and lower motor neurons that spread out to the face, throat and limbs.
It was first discovered in 1865 by a French neurologist, Jean-Martin Charcot, hence why MND is sometimes known as Charcot’s disease.
In the UK, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) is referred to as Motor Neurone Disease, while in the US, ALS is referred to as a specific subset of MND, which is defined as a group of neurological disorders.
However, according to Oxford University Hospitals: ‘Nearly 90 per cent of patients with MND have the mixed ALS form of the disease, so that the terms MND and ALS are commonly used to mean the same thing.’
Weakness in the ankle or leg, which may manifest itself with trips or difficulty ascending stairs, and a weakness in the ability to grip things.
Slurred speech is an early symptom and may later worsen to include difficulty swallowing food.
Muscle cramps or twitches are also a symptom, as is weight loss due to leg and arm muscles growing thinner over time.
MND is difficult to diagnose in its early stages because several conditions may cause similar symptoms. There is also no one test used to ascertain its presence.
However, the disease is usually diagnosed through a process of exclusion, whereby diseases that manifest similar symptoms to ALS are excluded.
The NHS says that MND is an ‘uncommon condition’ that predominantly affects older people. However, it caveats that it can affect adults of any age.
The NHS says that, as of yet, ‘it is not yet known why’ the disease happens. The ALS Association says that MND occurs throughout the world ‘with no racial, ethnic or socioeconomic boundaries and can affect anyone’.
It says that war veterans are twice as likely to develop ALS and that men are 20 per cent more likely to get it.
There is no cure for MND and the disease is fatal, however the disease progresses at different speeds in patients.
People with MND are expected to live two to five years after the symptoms first manifest, although 10 per cent of sufferers live at least 10 years.
Occupational therapy, physiotherapy and medicines such as riluzole are used to palliate the effects of the the disease.
Lou Gehrig was a hugely popular baseball player, who played for the New York Yankees between 1923 and 1939. He was famous for his strength and was nicknamed ‘The Iron Horse’
Lou Gehrig’s Disease
As well as being known as ALS and Charcot’s disease, MND is frequently referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Lou Gehrig was a hugely popular baseball player, who played for the New York Yankees between 1923 and 1939.
He was famous for his strength and was nicknamed ‘The Iron Horse’.
His strength, popularity and fame transcended the sport of baseball and the condition adopted the name of the sportsman.
He died two years after his diagnosis.
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