What If I could Fly? — well, very soon

One of the driving forces for the evolution of vertebrate flight — beyond escaping from predators or trying to catch speedy prey — is the desire to move from place to place, to go beyond one’s limited area.

It may be ingrained in us, but Man has always been fascinated with flight. There’s the ancient Greek myth about Icarus and Daedalus who built and used personal wings to fly. Later, scientist/mathematician/artist Leonardo da Vinci studied the flight of birds to come up with ideas for mind-boggling and personal flying devices for human aviators. Since then, having conquered the challenge with jet planes, helicopters, and spaceships, Man is still drawn to new means of travel.


Going back to the beginnings of modern civilization, humans initially parceled lands and created fixed buildings, and then built roads and bridges, because of the ability to travel only by foot. The infrastructure of our transportation industries has changed over time, as super trains, mega ships and various automobiles came into being as new modes of travel. What we knew about travel restrictions and boundaries began changing because of these developments. But not just international borders, but also individual residences and spaces, all of that has dramatically evolved. Immigration, once applicable to only refugees or the elite, became a norm.

Both commercial and private modes of flight have also helped to make some of these former boundaries obsolete. And with more personal modes of flight on the horizon, more limits will be erased. Just think of fictional industrialist Tony Stark in Iron Man, flying around in his rocket powered suit, crossing all barriers at will.


In terms of achieving personal flight like Tony Stark, there are two options. One is, we biologically grow wing-like appendages — in our myths, creatures like Angels have wings, and ancient carvings from Egypt portray human-like figures with wings. Impossible? Unlikely. Improbable? Well…let’s face it, we have creatures that live in the same environment as we do; yet they’re able to grow body parts and evolve into different living things in ways we otherwise would think impossible.

This process for us may be a hundred years away. But given our exponential advancements in biotechnology, if we somehow spliced human and avian genes, who’s to say we may not get there even sooner?


Iron Man 3, Marvel Studios

The other option has to do with the development of an exoskeleton suit, which is already being used now to help humans to jump higher, run faster, and carry heavy loads. In effect, you augment human strength and endurance by wrapping a robotic suit around a person, creating a human exoskeleton.

A U.S. Department of Defense extreme innovation agency called DARPA is responsible for the development of emerging technologies for use by the military, including the exoskeleton. Tom Cruise was wearing a futuristic exoskeleton suit in the sci-fi movie, Edge of Tomorrow. But, there are all sorts of projects today looking into various applications for this technology.

And, some are building prototypes of Personal Air Vehicles and individual Jetpacks, which would ultimately provide on-demand aviation services. It really isn’t just sci-fi, as a giant wave of human augmentation is coming our way.

Because of the distances between people in our history, we have all these different languages and cultures. But with humans having the ability to fly across borders, will we still have the need for national differentiation? Things are already starting to merge. Not only through the Internet, which breaks down barriers and interconnects us all, but through our modern means of travel, where we are already mere hours away from anyone in terms of physical exchanges.

If we were able make even the slightest adjustments in our physiology, pretty much everything when it comes to the interrelations between people and nations will have to change. Look at Iron Man in his rocket fueled suit, there are no boundaries, he can be anywhere at any time.

If that ability was given to humans, what would that mean for us? It would impact everything that we understand as humans from a systems point of view — rules, regulations, transportation, security infrastructure, and even military agreements and pacts. National borders will cease to exist in the ways we know and understand them – no more building fences. Public spaces will need to be dramatically altered – where do you ‘hang out’?!

We may not be used to thinking of humans as freely moving entities but what if there are no longer any limitations on our movement. We should just bask in it, and let our curiosity fly…