"The Body Builders" Stories of Resilience Aided by Technology

Aug 30, 2017

Author Adam Piore says he's always been interested in stories of resilience. As he was looking for the topic of his latest book, he says he realized some of the most interesting stories of resilience today are taking place through technology. The result is The Body Builders: Inside the Science of the Engineered Human.

Piore says technology has allowed for remarkable recoveries among people with once devastating injuries. "Now we have some of the best engineers turning their sights inward to see how the body and mind work."

Take the story of Hugh Herr, who is a young rock climber, and he makes a name for himself around the country. He was not a very good student. On a climb, Herr and a friend were caught in a storm, they got lost in a wilderness area, and wandered for days. They were rescued, but Herr's legs had to be amputated below the knees due to severe frostbite. He would wake up dreaming of running through the cornfield behind his parents' house.

Instead of giving up his passion, Herr figured out how to continue rock climbing and become even better.  He did so through the use of prosthetic legs that he designed to be longer, and they had attached blades that could better wedge into crevices. The developments ignited a new passion to learn how to make better, more functional prosthetic limbs. Herr wound up going to MIT and is now one of the leading prosthetic engineers using motion capture technology.

As to whether technology could be used for less inspiring purposes, Piore says "yes."  He says he's read a lot of dystopian predictions about technology, but over and over in his research he found it being used to help people get things back.

In this edition of River to River host Ben Kieffer talks with Piore, who shares some of the inspiring stories from his book.