Half human, half machine: Cyborgs are upon us

According to Webster’s Dictionary, a cyborg is defined as “a person whose body contains mechanical or electrical devices and whose abilities are greater than the abilities of normal humans.” With the field of biomedical science growing at a rapid pace, there is a rising trend for willing individuals to embed technology into, or onto, their bodies.


Like countless other people on the planet, Neil Harbisson is colorblind. Instead of simply dealing with the disability, the Maker turned to robotics. According to CNN, he has had an antenna surgically implanted into his skull, thus enabling him to “hear” colors. The installed device converts the frequencies for different colors into the frequencies for different sounds.

Neil simply “didn’t want to wear technology, [he] wanted this to be an integral part of [him].” With the antenna installed, Neil can now overcome his affliction with the help of modern technology. This sort of situation is not short of ethical concerns, though. Neil notes that he needed to find a discrete doctor that would carry out the procedure anonymously because of bioethical committees that “don’t really agree with the unions between humans and technology.”

Time will only tell if implants like Neil’s become a norm, but other, more understated devices may drastically improve our daily lives. As NBC News reports, a vast majority of cyborgs get the technology embedded in their fingers or hands, where the skin is thin enough for the devices to interact with external objects. Take for instance Amal Graafsra, creator of Dangerous Things, who recently implanted a tiny RFID chip within his hand that now allows him to gain access to his car, his home and his personal safe. Then there’s cyborg Zoe Quinn, a well-known developer in the independent gaming world, who installed a magnet and chip into her fingers.

While these cyborgs may be no RoboCop, they still fit the definition and may be ushering in a new bionic trend in modern-day technology. And, as we take that leap from today’s wearable technologies to tomorrow’s implantable ones, many of them will likely be used for detecting and preventing disease. Some of the most recent “firsts” include the first bionic eye from California’s Second Sight, the first bionic body suits from companies like ReWalk and Ekso Bionics, and even groundbreaking research from BrainGate in Massachusetts are finding ways for those unable to move or speak to communicate via brain waves.


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