On March 4, 2015, Future Tense, a partnership between the New America Foundation, Arizona State University and Slate magazine, hosted a special event based on – and in collaboration with – Fixed:The Science/Fiction of Human Enhancement called “Future Tense: Will Technology Put an End to Disability?

“Attention-grabbing advances in robotics and neurotechnology have caused many to rethink the concept of human disability. A paraplegic man in a robotic suit took the first kick at the 2014 World Cup, for instance, and the FDA has approved a bionic arm controlled with signals from the brain. It’s not hard to imagine that soon these advances may allow people to run, lift, and even think better than what is currently considered “normal”—challenging what it means to be human. But some in the disability community reject these technologies; for others, accessing them can be an overwhelmingly expensive and bureaucratic process. As these technological innovations look more and more like human engineering, will we need to reconsider what it means to be able and disabled?

Watch the entire event in two parts below.

Read related features on Slate:

Disabled by Design: How a lack of imagination in technology keeps the world inaccessible to huge numbers of people.

By Clark Miller and Claire Gordon

Will Technology Put an End to Disability? A Future Tense Event Recap

By Jacob Brogan

People With Disabilities Shouldn’t Be Defined by the Technologies They Do or Don’t Use

By Silvia Yee

The Best Adaptive Technologies Are Designed by, Not for, People With Disabilities

By Sethuraman Panchanathan

How Do You Make a Better Facebook Experience for Blind Users? Ask These “Empathy Engineers.”

By Cade Metz


[Watch the entire first panel by clicking the video above.]

Panel #1: Engineering Ability

  • ​Jennifer French, Executive director, Neurotech Network
  • Larry Jasinksi, CEO, ReWalk Robotics
  • Will Oremus, Senior technology writer, Slate

[Watch the second panel discussion by clicking the video above.]

Panel #2: T​he Promise and Peril of Human Enhancement

  • ​Gregor Wolbring, Associate professor, University of Calgary
  • Julia Bascom, Director of programs, Autistic Self Advocacy Network
  • Teresa Blankmeyer Burke. Assistant professor of philosophy, Gallaudet University
  • Lawrence Carter-Long, Public affairs specialist, National Council on Disability