The word bionic was coined by Jack E. Steele in 1958, possibly originating from the Greek word βίον, bíon, pronounced [bi:on] ("bee-on"), meaning 'unit of life' and the suffix -ic, meaning 'like' or 'in the manner of', hence 'like life'. Some dictionaries, however, explain the word as being formed as a portmanteau from biology + electronics. It was popularized by the 1970s television series The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman, which were influenced by Steele's work, and feature humans given superhuman powers by electromechanical implants.
The transfer of technology between lifeforms and manufactures is, according to proponents of bionic technology, desirable because evolutionary pressure typically forces living organisms, including fauna and flora, to become highly optimized and efficient. A classical example is the development of dirt- and water-repellent paint (coating) from the observation that the surface of the lotus flower plant is practically unsticky for anything (the lotus effect).
Amanda Kitts is mobbed by four- and five-year-olds as she enters the classroom at the Kiddie Kottage Learning Center near Knoxville, Tennessee. "Hey kids, how're my babies today?" she says, patting shoulders and ruffling hair. Slender and energetic, she has operated this day-care center and two others for almost 20 years. She crouches down to talk to a small girl, putting her hands on her knees.
"The robot arm!" several kids cry.
"You remember this, huh?" says Kitts, holding out her left arm. She turns her hand palm up. There is a soft whirring sound. If you weren't paying close attention, you'd miss it. She bends her elbow, accompanied by more whirring.
"Make it do something silly!" one...