Cyborgs are coming … actually, they're already here

August 31, 2011 Off By Chris Hinton

Back in the late ’90s I was studying Artificial Intelligence at university. I was fascinated by the idea that computers could be made to think, or at least appear to be thinking, and how this could be used to mankind’s advantage. My studies were largely software-based, but I did get to know someone who was studying under one Professor Kevin Warwick. Who is Kevin Warwick? He’s the professor of Cybernetics at Reading University and, it seems, determined to turn himself into a cyborg.
No, seriously. The definition of a cyborg is “a person whose physiological functioning is aided by or dependent upon a mechanical or electronic device” []. Over the years, Professor Warwick has had several chips implanted into his body to allow him to remote-control limbs and (I’m not sure how this one worked out), communicate wirelessly with his wife. Yes, I know, most of us would just use a mobile phone for that one, but this melding of organic and electronic components is the basis of the cyborgs we see in so many sci-fi shows.
Oh, you want examples? OK, well the Cybermen, Borg and Darth Vader would all be examples of sci-fi cyborgs since they have a combination of organic and mechanical components. Commander Data, however, would not qualify as he is entirely mechanical.
Right, back to reality, now. The reason I’m writing all this is that I saw a very interesting article on Gizmag¬†about a film-maker who lost his eye in a shotgun incident and has now replaced it with a wireless camera. He can’t see through it, but he can download the movies later and see everything he looked at. The eye itself is a bit ugly… I mean, you wouldn’t get away with people thinking it was just a normal eye… but the concept is absolutely amazing. As a promotion for Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Rob (the newly-named “eyeborg”) heads out to meet with other “cyborgs” and we get to see the amazing breadth and ingenuity of the human prosthetics scene. From people who can actually see¬†through robotic eyes, to those who have had limbs and other systems replaced with mechanical components. Check out the video below if you’re interested:

I’m genuinely fascinated by all this, how about you? It actually occurs to me that we live and work alongside cyborgs every day… anyone with a pacemaker fits the definition, don’t you think? Heck, would contact lenses or glasses even qualify?
For a nice end to the story, here’s an article about a boy who got a new bionic hand courtesy of the Mercedes Formula 1 team.
Is there anything you would like to say about this article? Some thoughts on bionic/cyborg enhancements? Is cyborg a helpful phrase to use, or is it coloured by the fact the cyborgs are usually the bad guys in sci-fi? Give us your thoughts in the comments.