Any self respecting medical doctor, orthopedic surgeon, prosthetist, and "bionic" researcher will ask you - in a concerned professional way - "and, do you wear your prosthetic arm often, hopefully even daily?".
We also must accept that wearing "bionic" arms is nowadays assumed to constitute "human enhancement". This obviously is something I will directly and confrontatively label as bitter, ignorant, harsh and degrading cynicism.
If I do wear my prosthetic arm daily, in their view, that makes me a better human or even more human at the same time as I am, in their view, maybe not so much a better human but a "good doggy". Really and in fact, we have a reality split in that - at the same time and at once - my realities are two fold and split:
(1) Outside: On one hand, me trying to wear a prosthetic "super" hand - such as a "bionic" hand - makes my shape outline appear more like the shape outline of other people and so there is this aspect of possibly becoming a better, a deeper human. Conversely, the disfigurement of an arm stump thus makes me less of a human - and that is also what the face of many shee shee froo froo people, many so-called superficial people, will tell me when (or if) I look at them. Clearly, my amputated arm can make other people feel that I am less human. And it clearly does so on any given occasion. This is to a very small part remedied by me wearing this "bionic" apparatus - a machine for symbolism and "hope" far more than a machine for grasping, working, getting stuff done or feeling well.
(2) Inside: On the other hand, wearing a myoelectric arm is a really uncomfortable and skin damaging ordeal that is cumbersome and even in the best of all worlds painful. It feels bad to a degree, where I cannot possibly be totally human any more - as I have to push all normal human reactions such as pain, self respect, worry about the skin on my stump, fear of what all that pain does to me, etc. aside. There is a truly heartfelt authentic element in praising my stubborn wearing of a myoelectric "bionic" arm using the words "good doggy".
So, wearing a "bionic" myoelectric arm on the outside is an act of extreme humane-ness, it approximates the un-disfigured appearance like nothing else. As long as it does not approximate anything, it represents an 80'000 USD promise - and that is extreme in terms of symbolism.
At the very same time, what goes on inside the socket is beyond comprehension to many people - as it is not just not human, but worse, it has truly inhuman aspects. It lowers one, soul wise and as an individuum, in my view.
Here is how my stump looks like after a duration of 10 hours of wearing my iLimb Ultra Revolution at the office, typing and carrying light weight files, possibly holding a cup while rinsing it with water, photographed 1/2 and 7 hours after removing the prosthetic arm. To get the battery to last that long, I had switched the hand off for extended periods of time. Like, when I was typing. Never did my arm look like that after even hard work with the body powered arm such as jobs like hedge cutting [link], scrubbing [link] serious furniture moving [link] and so on. Yesterday I cut the hedges again, got rid of major amounts of stuff and moved a few hundred liters of green waste to the disposal with the body powered arm and really, the skin of my arm is not at all like what we see below - all is smooth and no problem. It is not the prosthesis as such that is a problem generally. It is the difficulty to achieve electrode fit and socket fit at once that really constitutes the "bionic" dilemma here, combined with hard lift and pull forces. Leg amputees can not understand from their own sockets, they experience different problems, not these. If it just was some simple body powered arms, or passive arms, we'd all be cool. Look, I am not saying "eeks, bad". I am saying, why the pansy boy type of immature excitement over what really is still problematic and massively overpriced technology when it comes to "bionic" arms? And here: can you reflect on the deeper meaning of what "bionic" arm wearing may entail?
As it was, my arm just started to pain so much that I just had to take the prosthetic off.
1/2 an hour after removing myoelectric "bionic" prosthetic arm after wearing it for 10 hours
The skin is indented, relatively deeply, around the outside electrode. Also, there are swollen and red areas in the elbow region (socket rim) and at the stump tip (congestion).
The stump is clearly congested at the distal half, and seriously compressed up above, with redness occurring in all regions of slightly reduced strain.
The redness prevails for a while. As I type this now, over half an hour after taking these photos, the redness still prevails in the same extent and contrast. The congestive pressure of the socket is substantial, the pain is significant.
The end of the stump contains serious reddening that does not just go away. Also, congestion such as this has a tendency to recur.
The inside of the stump contains the imprint injuries of the inside electrode, along with a bit more congestion.
7 hours after removing myoelectric "bionic" prosthetic arm after wearing it for 10 hours
The swelling and redness did increase, in fact. It is now seven hours after removing the prosthetic arm.
Towards the end of the stump, the arm is quite painful also at rest now.
The middle area of the forearm is ridiculously painful and sensitive on touch.
The back of the elbow side of the forearm seems to be somewhat abraded and bruised. This is not abnormal, but it illustrates to those that have no idea what their electronics and weight does to a forearm stump, to get an idea.
And, no, not after years or so does one "get used" to this. It burns, it is painful. Also there is one pressure blister.
And so here some concluding images.
Questions to "bionic" researchers
Here are my questions to researchers that feel they need to further develop "bionic" prostheses.
1) Do you think you can at least somewhat understand why wearing a prosthetic arm is, at best, totally uncomfortable after a while? And at worst, it is totally uncomfortable right away? What, that is similarly uncomfortable, do you do that you can refer this to? In other words, are you walking in my shoes at all?
2) Do you understand why I really mean it when I say that any self respecting researcher needs to have tried this out for at least a few months, 10-12 hours every day? Including the really badly cramped muscles of neck, back, and shoulders? I am not talking about a muscle strain. I am talking about muscle cramps no massage therapist can get rid off even when focusing on one spot for one hour. I am talking industry sized pain. Do you understand why other prostheses, that are far easier on the skin and muscles, may be better? Or is it still beyond your comprehension?
3) I always say that socket technology needs to really evolve before "bionic" hands become a more serious option. Given these realities, how much "hammering home" do you think is required?
Voight-Kampff question to "ethics" researchers
The Voight-Kampff test is s fictional test in the Bladerunner movie.
It tests whether you are a replicant (i.e., a robot with human-like features) or a real human. This here has Voight-Kampff potential:
1) Were you to urge me to wear a "bionic" arm (given the above outcome) - what type of human does that make you? Does it make you a good human? Is that a human that you then become that you wish to be? Or in the Voight-Kampff dichotomy, are you a replicant?
2) Were I to voluntarily wear such an arm, I will suppress the most human feelings of pain and restriction. Does that make me a lesser human? Is it me then, that is the replicant?
Quite possibly, we are drifting towards a world of considerably lesser empathy. Amputees are hailed to be the new super people by power of their new prostheses - but no one shows the above images, and no one tells the stories of these images.
Wearing "bionic" myoelectric arm: by submitting my stump to an animalistic raw brutal mount system (i.e., prosthetic socket that keeps electrodes and socket in place) with the promised hope that that makes me (more?) human, I am a deeply torn and split individual that is neither a real animal (as that would feel far more natural), nor am I a better (or real) human according to the external appearance or functional measure. What I really am is suffering painwise, conceptually (replicant or not - you or me?), financially and timewise (the upkeep of these prosthetic arms is totally ridiculous) and due to astonishing lack of robustness and function. With the advantage of approximating a human appearance through a massively expensive promise.
Wearing split hook: when I wear my prosthetic hook, however, the body powered arm definitely improves my function. Also it feels very comfortable on the stump. Then I am foregoing a superficially optimized human appearance approximation, but I avoid suffering concept wise, functionally, and the other aspects are tuned in a much better way too. Moreover, I can actually do stuff.
The issue of skin rashes in context of myoelectric prosthetic arm usage / design / build is discussed in this article in depth: