Who is the first cyborg in the world
A color-blind artist became the world's first cyborg
He is often referred to as the world's first official cyborg after the UK government allowed him to wear his headgear on his passport photo. According to Harbisson, such technical augmentations are a natural and perhaps even necessary strategy for people to adapt to their uncertain future.
In a telephone interview from a café in Spain, he spoke to us about the benefits of having additional senses.
How would you describe the feeling of being a cyborg?
There is no difference between software and my brain, or between my antenna and any other part of the body. Being at one with cybernetics makes me feel like I am technology myself.
The definition [scientist] Manfred Clynes gave in 1960 for the term "cyborg" was that in order to explore and survive in new environments, we must change ourselves rather than change our environment. Now we have the tools to change. We can add new senses and new organs.
Why did you create this sense for yourself?
I never wanted to overcome anything with it. There are many advantages to only seeing in grayscale. I have better night vision. I can remember shapes better and I am not easily fooled by camouflage patterns. And black and white copies are cheaper. I didn't feel like I had a physical problem and I never wanted to change anything about my vision. I wanted to create a new organ for seeing.
What is the most extraordinary aspect of your psychic perception?
At first I could only perceive the visible spectrum of light, but I then upgraded to include infrared and ultraviolet as well. With it I can say, for example, whether it is a good or a bad day to lie in the sun. If I sense that there is a lot of ultraviolet light right now, it is not a good day for it. So I know I should wait a little or put extra sunscreen on.
When I go for forest walks, I like the ones with a lot of UV. They are loud and sound very bright. You would think forests are calm and peaceful, but when there are a lot of ultraviolet flowers it is quite loud.
What are the most memorable questions you got about your antenna?
There aren't very typical questions, but what people think of my antenna is changing over time. In 2004 they thought it was a reading light and asked me if I could turn it on. In 2007 it was a hands-free device, in 2008 and 2009 a GoPro camera. In 2015, a lot of kids thought it was some kind of pull-out selfie stick. Last year people started yelling "Pokemon!" In a small Italian village, an old man asked me if I could make cappucchinos with it.
If instead people start to ask, "What can you perceive with it?" I know that it has become normal and that people understand that it is a sense organ.
How has your experience of the world changed since you got the implant?
My understanding of the world has become more profound. The more you expand your senses, the more there is that you can perceive. If you have lived in the same house for years, the things you perceive there repeat themselves. But when you add a new meaning, the house becomes completely new.
How has your self-perception changed?
I feel more connected to nature. I see myself as a trans species: having an antenna is normal for many species, as is the perception of infrared and ultraviolet, but it's not common for humans.
What other technologies could break the boundaries of what is considered human?
Most of the projects I see are chips, software or apps that give you information, but not senses. We've given all of these machines the senses instead of ourselves, like cars, for example, that know what's behind them when we can't.
Imagine something like an earring that could give you a 360 ° perception of your surroundings and maybe hum when someone stands behind you. I find it strange that things that simple don't happen.
Should there be restrictions on how people can modify themselves?
I think we should all be free to design ourselves as fully as we want. Every sense depends on the individual. Just like that, we all have eyes or ears and use them in different ways, and people use them for good and bad things.
Do you think augmentation will ultimately affect human evolution?
If, sometime towards the end of this century, we start printing our own sense organs and implanting them with DNA instead of chips, there is a real possibility of having children who have those senses. If the children's parents modified their genes or created new organs, then yes, that would be just the beginning of a renaissance for our species.
The interview has been edited for clarity and length.
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