The human cyborg

In this Ted talk, Neil Harbisson talks about being a cyborg.

Neil was born with total color-blindness. In 2004 he started to listen to color. With a sensor and a chip installed at the back of his head, he can hear colors through their frequencies.

This is an example of how technology can help visual challenged people. But is this technology only useful for them? I think that these kinds of technologies can be used for a wider audience and other applications too. It’s a tool for not only replacing a broken sense organ, but also to enhance a normal working sense organ. In my opinion, more and more people will use these kinds of technology to make their body ‘better’.

But what will happen if we all become cyborgs and stop using our sense organs in a normal way? Is it ethical to start replacing sense organs that are working perfectly fine? Will the world benefit from it?



5 responses to “The human cyborg

  1. Technology can be a great help for disabled people. But where do you draw the line? Should every little ‘defect’ be corrected? When is it ethical justified to make an organ beter. That are the questions that came up to me when reading your blog.
    Personnaly I would rather trust my senses than such kind of technology. But it’s still a good solution for visualy challenged persons.

    • Yes, that is true. It will be difficult to draw the line on whether you should fix your defect or not. I think the problems start when ‘normal’ people use it to be superior to the rest. Another question is the price for this kind of technology. Is it fair that people who really need it can’t afford it but people who are rich and don’t need it can just buy it to become superior to others?

  2. I would personally welcome tried and tested physical enhancements and augmentations, with an emphasis on the tested part – reproducible results with a high rate of success. Many would view this form of advancement as a transcendence for humanity, once a majority can access and afford it. Wouldn’t you agree?

    My excessive encounters with video games however tells me that this purely ‘enhansive’ implementation will first be implemented to gain an upper hand for infantry skirmishes. If that turns out to be right, the initial phase will not be pretty and won’t do much than deter a widespread acceptance of it.

    • koenraadvanhoutte

      I’m somewhat hijacking Heleen’s post here, but I think I have a bit of an answer. The physical augmentations are indeed a very interesting topic to think about, and I’m very sure that when we come to a point where useful augmentations wouldb e made for reasons other than medical ones (pacemakers and such) or to overcome a certain handicap (as described in the post above), there will be a lot of debating about the invasiveness, the usefulness, and even about what should never be changed to keep humans “human”.
      This post, however, could be less considered as an augmentation than as a “patch”, seeing as it does an arguably worse job than the sense that’s present in most humans, but still helps this perticular person.

      As for the second part of your comment: do not forget that many technologies we see today started out as, or were popularized as military applications. Planes? “Hey guys I can drop bombs on these people all day and they will never know what hit ’em!” Spacefaring? The USSR and the USA trying to figure out how accurately they could hit each other in the face with missiles. Tons of medical or electronical advancements, as well as commodities such as highways all saw the light as military applications, and they all got fairly well accepted in civil uses afterwards. I don’t think it will be different for physical augmentations. It might be something for the more mechanically adept ones amongst us at first, but I’m sure it will gain a wider audience over time.

  3. Pingback: Cone cell gene therapy | Replacing Vision

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