Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The cyborg professor




Meet Kevin Warwick.  He is a professor at the University of Reading in England.
And he is technically a cyborg.

Warwick volunteered himself as guinea pig for an innovative range of new cybernetic implants of his own invention.  His first implant was surgically adhered to him over ten years ago.  It was a silicon RFID chip no bigger than a thumbnail planted into his forearm.  With this chip, Professor Warwick found that he could turn on lights without touching them, adjust thermostats with the wave of his hand, open electronic doors from several feet away, and even had his computer greet him when he entered his room.  In 2002 he moved into version 2.0 of the cybernetic professor.  An implant composed of electrode arrays was surgically grafted to part of his nervous system.  This allowed him to access the Internet...without a computer.  True, Warwick was unable to check his email or update his Facebook status, but he was able to remotely control a cybernetic arm in London while he sat in New York.  All this was done by moving his own arm, transmitting his own neural impulses across the ocean.

I don't know about you, but that is absolutely amazing to me.  As you might imagine, Warwick has met his share of shock and horror from narrow minded people.  These are the types who believe transhumanism to be about the replacement of human beings, not the enhancement.  If you were someone missing a limb, Warwick's experiment would probably mean a great deal to you, wouldn't it?  If human beings can be augmented to experience more than just five senses, why the hell not?  

I believe that Kevin Warwick should be seen as a hero of sorts.  He is trying to improve humanity while placing himself at risk.  After all, both the technology and the surgical procedures for these implants are untested and could pose a detriment to his health.  But it's the only way we're going to learn.  It's the only way we're going to move forward.
So if that halcyon day ever arrives where I can access the Internet inside my own mind, the first person I will thank is Kevin Warwick.

You can visit his web site here.


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