September 3rd, 2014
Neil Harbisson, aged 29, considers himself a cyborg. Affected from birth by achromatopsia, he is unable to perceive colours, just black and white. Since 2004, he wears an eyeborg, a device that allows him to recognize colours through sound waves. Placed in front of his forehead, it resembles a little camera. The turning point of his self-assumed cyborg condition came when he had to renew his British passport; after several attempts, the authorities accepted that he appeared on the picture wearing the eyeborg, thus officially recognizing it as an indivisible part of him.
A piano player as well as a visual artist, Harbisson has taken advantage of his condition to create unique works of art. Perhaps the most peculiar ones are the “sound portraits”, in which he shows how different sounds are related to colours. Also, in 2010, he created, along with artist Moon Ribas, the Cyborg Fundation, based in Cataluña, Spain, where he grew up. The foundation is aimed “to help humans become cyborgs,” as stated in its website.
He is not alone in his task. British researcher Kevin Warwick, Professor of Cybernetics at the University of Reading, England, has long been working on biomedical engineering and artificial intelligence. He launched Project Cyborg, a series of experiments in which he was implanted a device into his arm. This way he was able to directly interact with different computer-controlled devices and even with another person’s nervous system. His influential research, Future Issues with Robots and Cyborgs, was published in the Studies in Ethics, Law, and Technology Journal.
The widespread implementation of this technology still sounds like science fiction (or rather cyberpunk), but this could change in a not so distant future.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Warwick, K. (2011). Future Issues with Robots and Cyborgs Studies in Ethics, Law, and Technology, 4 (3) DOI: 10.2202/1941-6008.1127