Dubai, UAE, September 12, 2018: CNN Style’s guest editor, Chen Man, has commissioned a series of features on visual language and imagining the future. One article, on how technology is changing what it means to be human, features the world’s first legally recognised cyborg, Neil Harbisson.
Harbisson writes of how having an antenna implanted in his skull has helped him perceive colours (he was diagnosed with complete colour-blindness as a child) and given him artistic freedom and curiosity. As the co-founder of the Cyborg Foundation, Harbisson aims to create senses and organs that aren’t traditionally human in order to reveal realities that exist but are not perceived by the brain.
Key Quotes from the article:
Neil Harbisson on how his interest in artificial senses transpired:
“During my studies at art college, I became interested in sensing things that I couldn't otherwise sense - which meant color (I was diagnosed with achromatopsia, or complete color-blindness, as a child). Using technology, I co-created an antenna - that I have implanted to this day - which allows me to perceive colors. The antenna senses color frequencies, which reach me as different audible vibrations.”
On why his interest in artificial senses are artistic:
“This project is artistic in intent. Because art has no rules, laws or boundaries, I feel like there is a lot of freedom when you contextualize a project in art. It allows me to think freely about what I want and how I want it. In this case, I'm not trying to solve a problem, I'm trying to explore alternate realities and solve my curiosity towards color.”
On the aims of the Cyborg Foundation:
“The purpose of the Cyborg Foundation, which I co-founded in 2010, is to create senses and organs that aren't traditionally human. The purpose of the Cyborg Foundation, which I co-founded in 2010, is to create senses and organs that aren't traditionally human. Whereas the medical field usually focuses on creating -- recreating -- pre-existing senses and body parts, the foundation focuses on innovating new ones. For example, my fellow co-founder, Moon Ribas, has implanted seismic sensors in her feet so that whenever there's an earthquake in the world or a moonquake on the Moon, she feels it in her body.”
On others working with the Cyborg Foundation:
“Another artist, Manel Muñoz, has biometric ears that can perceive changes in weather. And then there is Kai Landre, who is developing a sensor that allows him to feel cosmic rays. By adding these new senses, we can reveal realities that already exist in nature, but that the human body or brain cannot yet perceive. The teams working on these projects all come from different backgrounds. There are artists, designers, doctors, computer scientists -- multiple fields collaborating to create new senses.”
On the necessities of artificial senses:
“People might say they don't need more senses, but at night they turn on the lights. But if humans actually had night vision, we wouldn't have to create artificial light. Instead of using air conditioning when it's hot, or heaters when it's cold, couldn't we just adjust the temperature of our bodies? We should look to designing and changing ourselves.”