There's a story on PhysOrg today about an Arizona man who's been fitted with the first portable artificial heart. It's powered by a backpack device, and he's actually going home from the hospital with it pumping away inside his chest.
The obvious reaction is to congratulate everyone involved. As a 43-year-old man I want as many medical breakthroughs as possible to happen now, well before I need them to keep me alive.
Lately, however, I've been thinking about how science fiction metaphors change when they become real. A mechanical heart, for instance, would be a powerful symbol of dehumanization: a literal "man with no heart." One can easily imagine a character like that as a villain in a 1940s Universal horror movie. Heck, on Doctor Who the villainous Cybermen were implied to be heartless monsters because they replaced their various body parts with machinery.
In C.S. Lewis's novel That Hideous Strength, there's a shuddersome passage about the inhabitants of the Moon, creatures horribly tainted by contact with cosmic evil. How bad are they? They no longer reproduce the way Nature intended, but conceive their young artificially in laboratories. When Lewis wrote that in 1945, it was a perfect metaphor for an "unnatural" world created by scientific hubris.
Now? In vitro fertilization is a bog-standard medical technique used to help infertile couples all over the world. It's not even a big deal anymore: the kind of thing a kid finds out from Mom and Dad when they're going through the photo album just before the Senior Prom or something. There are thousands of beaming parents holding chubby babies created by in vitro fertilization; some of them probably even call it a miracle.
So good luck to Mr. Okeke with his new heart, a "dehumanizing machine" which gives a man some more days with his family.