There are cyborgs walking among us…
Does the idea of robotic human hybrids give you chills?
When the word “cyborg” comes up, many people think of popular Sci-Fi villains like the Terminator, Darth Vader, or Star Trek’s Borgs. But don’t worry. Today’s real life cyborgs aren’t out to take over the world.
A cyborg is a person (or animal, potentially) made up of a combination of organic and mechanical parts. Typically, today, the most common cyborgs are people with prosthetic limbs. Some even extend the definition to include those with cochlear implants, pacemakers, or contact lenses.
No matter what your definition, though, advancements in medical science are quickly making cybernetic enhancements a part of our every day lives.
What’s in store?
Future cybernetic technologies might include brain implants to help improve memory or aid learning, chips imbedded in our fingers to replace passwords or bank cards, advanced prosthetic limbs to make us faster and stronger, and even exoskeleton armor for military and police use.
Many of these technologies are already in the research and development stages. Some are even being tested by adventurous volunteers!
Here are some of the most fascinating real life cyborgs walking among us today!
Neil Harbisson is a Catalan-raised, British-born contemporary artist and cyborg activist best known for having an antenna implanted in his skull and for being officially recognized as a cyborg by a government.
The antenna allows him to perceive visible and invisible colors such as infrareds and ultraviolets via sound waves. The antenna’s internet connection allows him to receive colors from space as well as images, videos, music or phone calls directly into his head via external devices such as mobile phones or satellites.
Harbisson’s artworks investigate the relationship between color and sound, experiment the boundaries of human perception and explore the use of artistic expression via sensory extensions.
In 2010 he co-founded the Cyborg Foundation with Moon Ribas, an international organization that aims to help humans become cyborgs, defend cyborg rights and promote cyborgism as a social and artistic movement.Source: https://thoughtworksarts.io/bio/neil-harbisson/
Neil Harbisson became a cyborg in order to overcome a condition called achromatopsia. or extreme colorblindness, meaning he could only see in black-and-white. He has since become an advocate for transhumanist evolution. Harbisson believes not only that people should seek to improve the species via technology, but that we have a moral obligation to do so.
What do you think about that?
Dr. Kevin Warwick
In 1998, Dr. Kevin Warwick had a simple radio frequency identification (RFID) transmitter implanted beneath his skin, which he used to control doors, lights, heaters, and other computer-controlled devices. His goal was to test the limits of what kind of implants the human body would accept and whether or not it would be possible to receive meaningful sensory or data input from such a device. And, of course, to become a cyborg.
Dr. Warwick has since conducted more experiments in cyborg technology, using both himself and his wife as the subjects. One such experiment allowed him to control a robotic arm–by connecting his nervous system to the internet–from halfway around the world. A similar experiment connected his nervous system to that of his wife, so that he could feel when someone touched her hand, no matter where in the world they both were!
Dr. Warwick’s ultimate aim with these experiments is to one day create a form of telepathy or empathy using the Internet to communicate the signal over huge distances.
This could be a boon to those in long-distance relationships! Also, possibly, for hyper-controlling sociopaths… but that’s another story…
After losing an arm and leg in an accident five years ago, James Young turned to technology to make the most of his new path in life. He teamed up with Japanese gaming company Konami to design his own cybernetic arm, the result of which is enough to make any Sci-Fi geek drool!
Being a double amputee, arm as well as leg, means I have the opportunity to reflect on how we use our bodies in two ways. Feet must give me stability, control and power, and hands must give me fine muscular control. My goal is to find a way in which I can interface with technology with such low cognitive burden and finesse as it to be considered natural rather than using a piece of external assistive equipment.James Young, on prosthetic limbs and being a “cyborg.” Source: http://jamesahy.com/prosthetics
Young was a part of The Phantom Limb Project, a documentary based on the development of Young’s prosthetic arm which was based on the character Snake from the popular Metal Gear Solid video games.
No. It doesn’t have a rocket launcher. I checked.
Angel Giuffria is a self-proclaimed “bionic actress.” She has appeared in The Accountant with Ben Affleck and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay alongside Jennifer Lawrence. Giuffria hopes that, with increased attention given to the representation of marginalized people in film, more roles will begin to open up for people with disabilities.
“I was born missing my arm, below the elbow, and I was fit with a myoelectric muscle operated prosthesis when I was very young. Obviously, at that point in time, they were much different and not as high-tech. As I’ve gotten older and the prosthetics have advanced, I’ve tried to stay as current as I could with the latest technologies.”Angel Giuffria, in an interview with Gizmodo, Source: https://io9.gizmodo.com/bionic-actress-angel-giuffria-is-ready-for-people-with-1826081412
While Giuffria once favoured life-like prosthetic covered in artificial “skin” so that she could blend in with her peers, the actress now embraces her bionic limb and enjoys tinkering with its appearance. Her custom prosthetic from Arm Dynamics allows her to add colourful lights, decorative metal filigrees, and even a cos-play lightsaber!
After losing his right eye in a firearms accident at only nine years old. While he didn’t lose all sight in the eye, he was declared legally blind, and as he grew older what was left of his sight in the damaged eye deteriorated.
That was when doctors decided to replace the eye.
Rather than choosing a conventional glass eye, though, Spence worked with a friend to create what he calls his “eyeborg,” a wearable eye-shaped camera. Although the eye does not interface with Spence’s optical nerve, and he cannot see out of it, the cybernetic eye represents the first step in what could become a common form of wearable tech.
The “eyeborg” is an analogue camera, rather than digital, but the potential is there for digital and live-streaming versions in the future.
Creepy or cool? You tell me…
I began researching cybernetic prosthetics when writing my new cyber noir detective series, Bubbles in Space. My protagonist, Bubbles Marlowe, becomes a private investigator after losing her arm in a training exercise accident with the HoloCity Police Department. While Bubbles in Space wasn’t intended to be hard-SF, I was gratified to learn that much of the technology I’ve used in the high-tech, low-life world of HoloCity is already a reality!
Which kind of cyborg technologies do you think you would embrace if they became publicly available?
I could go for some extra memory storage, a la the behind-the-ear microchips of Gibson’s Neuromancer…