NEW YORK (CNNMONEY) — Cyborgs are a staple of science fiction — from “Star Wars” to “Star Trek” and “The Terminator.”
But some real-life cyborgs are emerging. And while they aren’t exactly half-human, half-machine, they are using implantable technology in remarkable ways.
Neil Harbisson is a musician, an artist — and a cyborg. He has an antenna surgically implanted in his skull and identifies as a cyborg.
“It’s feeling that you’re not using technology and that you’re not wearing technology; it’s feeling that you are technology,” said Harbisson, Cyborg Foundation co-founder.
By definition, a cyborg is a person whose human skills are enhanced by technology.
As devices increasingly take over our lives, some people are actually putting them in their bodies.
Harbisson is colorblind, but his antenna allows him to hear color. It converts the frequencies for different colors into the frequencies for different sounds.
Harbisson explains why he would decide to attach the antenna to himself in the first place.
“I didn’t want to wear technology, I wanted this to be an integral part of me,” he said. “So that’s how I kept developing it until I found a doctor that actually drilled my head and made it implanted.”
Finding a doctor who agreed to put that in his head was difficult, however.
“It was very complex, because there’s bioethical committees that don’t really agree with the unions between humans and technology,” said Harbisson. “So in the end, I did find one, and he did anonymously. So he did the implant.”
His partner, Moon Ribas, is also a self-described cyborg
She wears an antenna that she says vibrates every time there’s an earthquake.
“Well, I’m a choreographer, and I want to perceive movement in the deeper way I can,” she said. “If I was alone in the planet, what movement would I be able to feel? I realized it was earthquakes — that the Earth kept moving constantly.”
And one particular cyborg sees business opportunity in embeddable technology.
Dangerous Things Founder Amal Graafstra sells chips people can implant in their bodies.
“I think we’ve sold probably around 2,000-3,000 implants across all the different types,” he said.
Graafstra has one in each hand and uses it to scan into his car, home and personal safe.
“Essentially, what I’ve done is taken an RFID [radio-frequency identification] implant and moved it from a pants pocket to a skin pocket,” he said.
It sounds futuristic, but Harbisson envisions a world where implantable tech and surgical add-ons could give people superhuman abilities.
“I think it will be very interesting because we’ll see someone, and we’ll see that they have a new body part and maybe it can be an antenna and maybe it can be a tail, and it can be wings. It can be anything, or it can be a completely new body part,” he said. “And then the question is, what sense you have will be a question that we’ll ask you. So ‘What’s your sensory extension?’ or ‘What senses did you create?’”