In recent years, media has been bursting at the seams with what can only be described as the superhero revolution. From the original comic books to the big screens in Hollywood, we are surrounded by enhanced humans from the far reaches of our imagination. And as visions of enhanced humans inspire our art, they are also spurring biological and technological advances that could make these visions a reality. Let’s take a look at where we are right now.
While we’re nowhere near developing the iconic gold and red suit anytime soon, we are making progress. Researchers across the world are developing exoskeleton suits to enhance human capabilities. Whether it’s to assist those with disabilities or enhance our country’s armed forces — exoskeleton suits are definitely making their debut. But, as the Marvel films suggest, the greatest limiting factor in creating an Iron Man-like suit is the power source.
A suit with such power needs an energy source just as powerful. While it does seem like an uphill battle without an arc reactor, an Iron Man suit of armor seems to be on the more plausible side of the spectrum.
The conversation takes a difficult turn when you involve genetics. This isn’t about modifying metal, but humans.
While in the past scientists have been able to manipulate mammals for the amplification of physical traits, we are still a long way from having our own Steve Rogers or a cadre of X-Men. But we may now have the means to achieve the result. Scientists believe that epigenetics can be altered to identify traits that may enhance strength, stamina, and a host other physical abilities that we would normally associate with a superhero.
It’s not a question of whether or not superhumans will be a reality, but a question of when. We already have clinical trials to fight aging, so why not push humans forward in other avenues? The heart of the issue lies in ethics, society, and finances.
So until an eccentric billionaire comes around to build his or her own super suit, we might have to wait until CRISPR/Cas9 does the job for our own bodies.