Tag Archives: cyborg

Can you sense where north is? These people can.

Whenever I spend time in the USA  or Canada I’m always intrigued by the way they use compass points for directions. “Go north three blocks, then east two blocks,” helpful people tell me. They assume I know which direction north is, but I don’t have a clue. In the UK we’ve never located ourselves that way. I’m always baffled at how North Americans  actually know which way east or west is. I’m aware it’s often written on street signs, but I’m sure that people are deeply familiar with it in their own neighbourhoods. To me, it seems like a magical sixth sense.

But now I, too, can know where north is. Not just know it, but feel it. Liviu Babitz and Scott Cohen, co-founders of Cyborg Nest, have developed North Sense, “a miniature Artificial Sense, vibrating each time it faces the Magnetic North. Your North Sense will not depend on an internet, it’s a standalone artificial sensory organ, coated in the highest quality body-compatible materials”.

It sounds very exciting: “Our New Sensory Organs take inspiration from animals and nature. Designed by world experts, they require minimal invasion into the body. Once attached, a whole new range of experiences and emotions are unlocked.”

Josie Thaddeus-Johns  met the pair, and saw North Sense in the flesh, as it were. She described how Liviu Babitz opened his collar to reveal a small silicone gadget, the size of a matchbox, attached to his chest with two titanium bars that sit just under the skin. Most resembling a compact bike light, the North Sense that Babitz has attached is an artificial sense organ that delivers a short vibration every time the user faces North. Her article is long, intriguing and well worth the read. Find out more at The Guardian.

 

My New Knees: On The Way To Being Cyborg

“My new knee is called a Genesis II, a whimsical name that connotes an entirely new species cooked up from metal and plastic. Its principle components are cobalt chromium molybdenum alloy, titanium, and polyethylene. Polyethylene is the scourge of our oceans and landfills; titanium, though, is less alien. Mined from deep in the earth, it’s found in most living things…”

“Has the installation of my new knee – my crossing over into the world of cyborgs – changed me in any way? It’s difficult to say…”

The two short excerpts above are from my latest piece in the American environmental magazine Orion. It’s behind a firewall so I can’t share the whole thing, but subscribers will find it on pp12-13 in the March/April 2016 issue. Since writing it, I’ve had a second operation and now have two replacement knees. I’ve been fascinated by cyborgs, and written about them, for over twenty years, so I’ve found the whole process very significant.  And I’m in complete agreement with the cyborg artist Neil Harbisson who says:

“I don’t feel that I’m using technology. I don’t feel that I’m wearing technology. I feel that I am technology.”

Harbisson was born colour-blind but he developed a device which is attached to his head and turns colour into audible frequencies. Most of the popular images of cyborgs are, like Harbisson, striking to look at because their prosthetics are visible on the outside. In recent years we’ve also become used to seeing people wearing prosthetic legs and arms.

But millions of individuals around the world are already quietly cyborg with not much to show for it. Knees, hips, and ankles are routinely replaced in operating theatres every day but there’s nothing to be seen apart from an occasional limp. And most of those new cyborgs aren’t young and cool but, like me, greying and somewhat mature.  Food for thought.