Hardware Hack Lab

Cyborgs: The Sixth Sense?

When we found out that Neil Harbisson and Moon Ribas were in town we jumped at the chance to have them come visit us the hack lab.

In case you haven't heard, these two are living with extra senses:

Neil has an antenna implanted in his skull which allows him to hear color. Moon has a vibrating implant in her elbow which is wirelessly connected to online seismographs, which means she can sense earthquakes from all over the world.

Together they run the non-profit Cyborg Foundation, with a stated mission to:

"help humans become cyborgs, to promote the use of cybernetics as part of the human body and to defend cyborg rights"

One of the most surprising things about meeting these two is how fun they are. Something about the word cyborg conjures up a very serious feeling, but in reality their presentation is full of jokes.

It's also tempting to think they are a little ahead of their time - but are they really? Human augmentation has a long history. The difference with Neil and Moon is that their implants were not born out of necessity. They augment senses in a way distinct from replacing or improving senses.

At the same time, they are using particular language to talk about themselves. They are 'cyborgs'. They have permanent, non-removable implants. They are thinking of these augmentations as modifications of the idea of being human at all.

Defending the right to choose to be transhuman - it seems that is where they really are treading new ground.