By: Tess Buckley
We are moving into a new era of evolution - where we can take control of our cognitive revolution. Using technology, we can now expand our capabilities beyond what we have ever known. Technology is becoming a part of us and organizations such as the Cyborg Foundation prove this. We as a species have yet to become comfortable with the idea of using technology to modify our bodies in a drastic way. Neil Harbisson is a Spanish-born British-Irish cyborg artist and activist for transspecies rights based in New York City - he is best known for being the first person in the world with an antenna implanted in his skull and for being legally recognised as a cyborg by a government. The Cyborg Foundation is a non-profit organization co-founded by Neil Harbisson and Moon Ribas. The foundation is a platform for the research, creation and promotion of projects related to extending and creating new senses and perceptions by applying technology to the human body.
Neil Harbisson Moon Ribas
The Cyborg Foundation: Design Yourself
“(THE CYBORG FOUNDATION) IS AN ONLINE PLATFORM FOR THE RESEARCH, DEVELOPMENT AND PROMOTION OF PROJECTS RELATED TO THE CREATION OF NEW SENSES AND PERCEPTIONS BY APPLYING TECHNOLOGY TO THE HUMAN BODY. OUR MISSION IS TO HELP PEOPLE BECOME CYBORGS, PROMOTE CYBORG ART AND DEFEND CYBORG RIGHTS.”
What are Cyborgs? The union between cybernetics and organisms, both of which are in constant change.
What is Cyborgism? The different types of relationships between technology and organisms.
The Cyborg Foundations steps to becoming a Cyborg:
Cyborg art: The Art of Creating Your Own Senses
The Foundation believes that technology allows for creation and control of one’s own body. The foundation focuses on Artificial Senses where the stimuli is gathered by the technology but (unlike AI) the intelligence is created by the human not the machine.
“CYBORG ART IS AN ARTISTIC MOVEMENT WHERE ARTISTS EXTEND THEIR SENSES BEYOND THEIR PHYSICAL BOUNDARIES BY APPLYING TECHNOLOGY INTO THEIR BODIES. THE ARTWORK OF A CYBORG ARTIST IS THE NEW SENSE, BUT IT’S AN ARTWORK THAT HAPPENS INSIDE THE ARTIST. THEY ARE THE ONLY AUDIENCE OF THEIR OWN ART.”
Neil Harbisson with his Sonochromatic record paintings.
In the world of Cyborg Art, the artwork, audience and museum are seen as one in the same body. Moon Ribas Co-Founder of the Cyborg Foundation states that ‘becoming a cyborg is an art itself, we treat our brain like it is a sculpture.’
Moon Ribas Feeling Earthquakes and Dancing to their rhythms.
“IF WE EXTEND OUR SENSES TO PERCEIVE OUR PLANET IN A DEEPER WAY, OUR BEHAVIOUR AND UNDERSTANDING TOWARDS IT WILL PROBABLY CHANGE. WE EXPERIENCE THE WORLD THROUGH OUR SENSES SO BY CREATING NEW SENSES OUR EXPERIENCE OF REALITY CHANGES, AND GETS DEEPER. WE BELIEVE THAT BY CREATING NEW SENSES WE REVEAL A REALITY THAT OUR NATURAL SENSES DON’T ALLOW US TO PERCEIVE. THAT’S WHY WE DON’T SUBSCRIBE TO VR (VIRTUAL REALITY) OR AR (AUGMENTED REALITY); AND INSTEAD AIM FOR RR, REVEALED REALITY.”
Neil Harbisson: Co-Founder
Neil Harbisson, Hearing Sound
“… I think life will become more exciting when we stop creating applications for our phones and we start creating applications for our own body.” Harrison was born with achromatopsia (color blind) and so at 21 he got an electronic eye (a color sensor that detects the color frequencies around him) and can now hear color, via the audible frequencies transmitted by colors. “… for example, going to an art gallery, I can listen to Picasso… it’s like I’m going to a concert hall, because I can listen to the paintings”
A Breakdown of the Eyeborg
His antenna sends audible vibrations through his skull to report information to him. This includes measurements of electromagnetic radiation, phone calls, and music, as well as videos or images which are translated into audible vibrations. His WiFi-enabled antenna also allows him to receive signals and data from satellites. Haribsson views this Cyborg Antenna as a sensory system created to extend color perception – he can now experience color.
In 2014, Harbisson executed the world’s first skull-transmitted painting. Colours sent from audience members in Times Square as they painted simple coloured stripes onto a canvas were received live via internet directly into Harbisson's brain. He correctly identified and painted the same color stripes onto a canvas in front of an audience 10 blocks away from Times Square.
Sonochromatic Paintings by Harbisson
Harbisson has been working on the Solar Crown (a sensory device for time) and transdental communication system (Bluetooth teeth) – you can learn more here:(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ygRNoieAnzI) Harbisson and Ribas main focus at the Cyborg Foundation is called transpecies society, which is based in Barcelona. This community focuses on giving voice to people with non-human identities, by’ non-human’ they mean an entity that displays some, but not all, human characteristics. They also work to defend the right to self-design and offer the creation of new senses and organs in the community.
Moon and Neil, Transhuman Artists and Activists
In Conclusion, this may seem out of this world, surreal or plain ‘crazy’ but many argue it isn't too far off from the acts we already consent to or perform.
In short, to become a cyborg you must be okay with;
1) altering your body
Do you have a piercing, tattoo, plastic surgery or any other body modification?
2) having technology around you 24/7…
Do you have a cellular device? A laptop? Wifi at your home?
If you answered yes to both 1 and 2 then we must ask what is the difference? Why are we afraid of implementing technology into our bodies? Creating upgrades and updates of ourselves - what social fears make the Cyborg Foundation seem surreal to so many? Let's consider that history has demonstrated that adapting to a changing reality is what has helped in the evolution of humankind.
I AM HUMAN, Documentary - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1TOV5BKyb6E
Father of the Cyborgs, Documentary - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3SAsyYEj-I8
“How we’ll become cyborgs and extend human potential” - bionic designer Hugh Herr, Ted Talk - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PLk8Pm_XBJE
The Neurologist Who Hacked His Brain—And Almost Lost His Mind - https://www.wired.com/2016/01/phil-kennedy-mind-control-computer/
The Cyborg Foundations - https://www.cyborgfoundation.com