The year: 2017. Technology has advanced. Drone delivery, driverless cars, and whatever new musical synth device that can make Chris Brown talented have all become acceptable realities. Unfortunately, the zero-gravity boots, suitcase space pods, and tube travel of the Jetsonian era are still just out of reach. But good news for all you Inspector Gadget fans - cyborgs are very real, and they are here in all of their part-human-part-machine glory walking, talking and GO-GO-GADGETING among us.
Our current favorite manbot is Catalan-raised, British-born, sweetest bowl cut-sporting, Neil Harbisson. The 33-year-old is best-known as the first person to have an antenna implanted in his skull, and for being officially recognized as a cyborg by a government.
Born with achromatopsia, Harbisson lived in a grayscale world until he received his antenna in 2004. Since then he has been hearing colors via a sensor that hangs, angler fish-like, over his brow. Using infrared and ultraviolet technologies, it sends signals to an implanted chip allowing him to hear and feel color through tone and bone vibrations. Once the color sensations became perception and feeling, he finally began to dream in color - an event he describes as becoming one with his mechanical components; a true cyborg.
Now Harbisson can actually feel the blue of Picasso’s Blue Period. Supermarkets, with their array of brightly colored produce, have become vibrating nightclubs. Dressing to feel good is on a whole 'nother level. An uber cool secondary effect of his cyborg appendage allows him to perceive normal sounds as color. Telephone rings sound green. The BBC beeps are turquoise. Mozart hums a vibrant yellow.
That's when he started to paint music and the frequencies of people’s voices. Pictured below is one of Mozart’s most famous arias “Queen of the Night", and the song that launched Justin Beiber into super stardom.
"Queen of the Night" composed by Mozart. Art by Neil Harbisson.
“Baby” Performed by Justin Beiber. Art by Neil Harbisson.
At an exhibition in 2012, Harbisson placed two works titled “No labels” side by side and asked viewers which they liked most. Both are color portraits of speeches - Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” and a Nazi parade address by Adolf Hitler. Which do you like most?
In 2010, Harbisson co-founded the Cyborg Foundation to help other humans become cyborgs. Created on the principle that enhanced senses lead to enhanced knowledge, the foundation aims to evolve the human senses through technology as we push towards an even more technological future - a future that will hopefully stop developing apps for our phones, and begin to develop them for ourselves.