In the future of human mankind, we could have brain implants improving memory and other cognitive skills. We could have implanted magnets or RFID chips in our fingers to replace passwords and keys. We could have exoskeletons boosting our strength, we could be faster, jump higher augmenting a whole range of human capabilities. But augmentation will pose threats and ethical issues to society we have never faced before. It’s important to remain humans though, but use technology to improve our lives.
Let’s see what kind of real-life cyborgs we know of today who might show a good example of where we should find a balance between using technologies with our body but remaining a human being.
1) Neil Harbisson: He has a specialized electronic eye, rendering perceived colors as sounds on the musical scale. So it means it lets him “hear” color. He said „It’s not necessary to hack into the body to become a cyborg. We are all cyborgs already.” He is an artist born with achromatopsia, or extreme colorblindness that meant he could only see in black-and-white, he is now capable of experiencing colors beyond the scope of normal human perception.
2) Dr. Kevin Warwick: He is a cybernetics professor in the UK’s University of Reading. He has experimented with different electronic implants since 1998 such as installing a microchip in his arm which lets him operate lights, heaters, computers and lights remotely. He and his work have become one. He is the founder of Project Cyborg using himself as the guinea pig, he’s on a mission to become the world’s most complete cyborg.
3) Jesse Sullivan: He became a cyborg when he got equipped with a bionic limb, which was connected through nerve-muscle grafting. Aside from having control over his limb with his mind, he can also feel temperature as well as how much pressure his grip applies.
4) Nigel Ackland. After losing a part of his arm during a work accident, he got upgraded. His new arm has a hand that can independently move to grip even delicate objects. He controls the arm through muscle movements in his remaining forearm. The range of movement is truly extraordinary. He can independently move each of his five fingers to grip delicate objects, or even pour a liquid into a glass.
5) Jerry Jalava: He lost a finger in a motorcycle accident, and decided to have a 2GB USB port embedded into his prosthetic. It doesn’t upload any information directly into his brain though. He is the perfect example of how you don’t need to be a robotics mastermind to become a cyborg; you can pretty much do it yourself.
6) Cameron Clapp: He was 14 when he collapsed and fainted along a railroad track. When the train passed, he unfortunately lost both of his legs plus an arm. He got fitted with a couple of prosthetic legs controlled by his brain with the help of a microprocessor. Since then, he has become an athlete and an amputee activist.
7) Professor Steve Mann: He designed a headset that is outfitted with a number of small computers and through it, he can record and play video and audio. He was one of the, if not the first, cyborgs in the world.
8) Claudia Mitchell: She became the first woman to become a cyborg when she was outfitted with a bionic limb. Her robotic arm is similar to the one installed on fellow cyborg Jesse Sullivan.
9) Stelios Arcadiou, also known as Stelarc: He is a performance artist who believes that the human body is obsolete. To prove this, he’s had an artificially-created ear surgically attached to his left arm. In another show, he hooked up electrodes to his body to allow people to control his muscles through the Web.
They are the world’s most famous real-life cyborgs. Did I miss anyone? You can read more about cyborgs and the future of life in The Guide to The Future of Medicine.