Neil Harbisson is a cyborg

by on August 19, 2014 at 2:16 am in Medicine, Philosophy, Science | Permalink

Or should that title read “Is Neil Harbisson a cyborg?”

Protruding from the back of Harbisson’s skull is a metal antenna that allows him to convert the frequencies for color into frequencies for sound and vice versa. He was born colorblind and the appendage has essentially given him a sixth sense to make up for what his vision lacks.

…Harbisson gets visibly dizzy when his antenna is off center. Moving it slightly to the left, he closed his eyes and said, “If I do this, I feel unbalanced…it does feel like a body part, an extension of a bone or something.” Even though the antenna is metal and has no nerve endings, Harbisson says he can feel when someone touches it, the same as a natural body part.

There is more:

Moon Ribas, Harbisson’s partner, has an extension she wears on her arm that makes her body vibrate when there’s an earthquake. (She plans to one day have it implanted under her skin.) As a choreographer, Ribas takes inspiration from nature and thought the extension would enhance her creativity. It syncs with an app that collects data on earthquakes around the world to make her body vibrate when there’s seismic activity (it happens frequently enough that she vibrated once during our interview).

But the appendage cannot be submerged in water, and neither can Neil’s. They are both hoping to update their devices so that in the future they can go swimming. “Then I will be able to perceive the colors in the ocean,” Harbisson says.

There is more here, including a photo.  It is noted that security guards are sometimes unsympathetic to Harbisson, who is moving from Spain to New York, where he feels he will be seen as less unusual.

For a related pointer, I thank Samir Varma.

Jason August 19, 2014 at 3:17 am

“…to convert the frequencies for color into frequencies for sound and vice versa.”

Vice versa ??

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NPW August 19, 2014 at 7:18 am

I think it would be far easier to convert sound to color than color to sound.

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The Anti-Gnostic August 19, 2014 at 8:02 am

This is childish writing appropriate to the subject of the article, a man who refuses to grow up. No, he’s not a cyborg and no, he doesn’t have a sixth sense.

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Andrew M August 19, 2014 at 8:13 am

And yet he managed to get a girlfriend. Wonders never cease.

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JCW August 19, 2014 at 9:17 am

My question is: was the reporter gullible, or did they just not care?

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Andrew' August 19, 2014 at 12:00 pm

“Moon Ribas, Harbisson’s partner, has an extension she wears on her arm that makes her body vibrate when there’s an earthquake.”

Doesn’t the earth do that?

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Mark Thorson August 19, 2014 at 1:26 pm

In the old days, color-blind people who needed to see color for their jobs (e.g. to distinguish railroad signal lights) wore glasses with one red lens and one green or blue lens. These glasses come up from time to time on eBay, and they are antique glasses. I guess they don’t make them anymore. For the kinds of colorblindness which can be corrected this way, it seems like a better solution.

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