“If we redesign ourselves, the less we’ll harm the planet”: cyborg Neil Harbisson

Cyborg Neil Harbisson
Cyborg Neil Harbisson

The world’s most famous cyborg Neil Harbisson told that humans must learn to adapt their own bodies with technology or risk causing irreparable harm to planet earth.

With the help of scientists and researchers, colour blind Harbisson surgically inserted an antenna to his brain that allows him to sense colours via musical notes.

Harbisson believes that changing the misconceptions around himself and other cyborgs are a question of looking beyond our own existence. “Humans inherently compare themselves with themselves,” he said. “If you break this bubble of human and start comparing yourself with other species, being blind, for example, is not a problem. There are many species that are completely blind and can live freely and independently. I like breaking this bubble, because we then no longer see disabilities as problems. I like seeing us as being aligned with other species.”

The rise of wearable technology may have helped to change the attitudes of swathes of the public who would have initially been nonplussed, but, to the majority, he still remains a mystery. An outsider. “Some people think I’m wearing an antenna. I’m not wearing one, I have one,” he said.

His antenna continues to illicit a broad range of emotions from strangers. “In society, if you stand out a bit, or aren’t trying to blend in, it usually creates a social reaction, generally a negative one. The antenna creates reactions like laughter, confusion or fear.”

The greatest challenge that Harbisson now faces in his quest for acceptance is ignorance. However, the average person on the street cannot ignore the compelling arguments he offers for why incorporating technology into the human body is practical, selfless and sustainable. “The more we design ourselves, the less we’ll need to design the planet,” he said. “If we want to think about the future of earth, one way to be environmentally conscious is to change our own temperature. At night, we could use night vision instead of artificial light. We’ve cheated and changed the planet, so we should cheat with ourselves, and not with the planet. It’s affecting other species in a way that’s unfair. I think in the 2020’s we will see more people with new organs and senses, and society will get used to it. Hopefully they will see it is more ethical to do this.”

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