Designing Ourselves: A Future of Cybernetics for Everyone: Page 3 of 4

Neil Harbisson envisions a cybernetic future of artificial sensory organs for the masses.

tools to become who you seek to be by expanding your senses and/or abilities as you please,” the foundation's website reads.

Taking his mission one step further, in 2015 Harbisson co-founded his own company, Cyborg Nest, that will be selling implantable technologies Harbisson is referring to as “new sensory organs.” Whereas engineers and scientists are abuzz about artificial intelligence (AI) Harbisson believes there is a new, emerging field that is just as exciting – artificial sensing (AS). “Cyborg Nest is about exploring our relationship with AS, and the applications of AS to enhancing body intelligence” Harbisson said.

The company is already taking pre-orders on its first product, North Sense, and is planning on shipping the first units out in January. North Sense is a partially implantable sensor, about a square inch in size, that anchors to the skin via titanium barbell piercings and vibrates when its wearer is facing truth north – transforming a person into a sort of human compass.

The North Sense Implant will attach to the body via titanium piercings (image source: Cyborg Nest)
The North Sense will affix to body like a piercing and detect true north. (image source: Cyborg Nest) 

Cyborg Nest also has other new devices planned on the horizon. One that Harbisson is particularly excited about is a forehead implant that will use heat generated at various orientations to give a user an inherent sense of time. “Humans don't have an organ for time, so we decided to create one” he said, adding that the finished product will also have a “flight mode” and be able to adapt to travel as well as different time zones.

Animals already have sensory abilities, like the ability to see ultraviolet or detect true north, that go beyond human perception and Harbisson thinks it's time that humans joined the club. “It's not bad to modify ourselves or design ourselves. It's positive,” he said. He believes adopting more cyborg technology could have a powerful effect on society.

“I usually give the example of night vision. If we created night vision instead of lightbulbs it would be much better for the planet; we wouldn't be using so much energy to create artificial life,” he said. “By adding senses you can also prevent illnesses and accidents. Sensing ultraviolet would prevent too much sunbathing, for example. Once you feel nature you're more aware of it. If we all felt something like climate change instead of just knowing it's there we'd act differently.”

Research is showing that Harbisson's feelings aren't just confined to niche online communities and is expanding into the larger consumer space. A survey by Ericson ConsumerLab on “1 0 Hot Consumer Trends for 2016 ” listed “Internables,” implantable technologies, as one of the in-demand emerging consumer technologies. “Judging by consumer interest, the next generation of body-monitoring technology may not be worn, but may instead be found within the human body,” the report said, “But this is only the beginning; eight out of 10 smartphone owners would like to augment their sensory perceptions and cognitive capabilities with technology – the most popular being vision, memory, and hearing.”

Though it will probably be some years, or even decades, before we see


Michael Bandel's picture
Interesting article and well written, but the idea of replacing body parts, upgrading human capabilities, and/or fixing defective ones is pretty old. It's good to see the work being done, as well as where this technology may go. I can only add that as they say in Westworld, "It doesn't look like anything to me."

How long before brain-connected implants would lead to some form of mind control? Even if they could not implant thoughts and ideas they could certainly be designed to provide pleasure sensations, or even pain. So they could certainly be set to control actions. Pavlov proved that years ago. just imagine a crowd of cyber-pleasure addicts being persuaded to follow some set ofinstructions to get their next "cyber-fix".

Jerald Cogswell's picture
This shows that humans are still evolving. Perhaps we will become several new species. Dear Editors: It used to be possible to save an article in your profile for future reference. It looks like this feature has been lost in the new website.

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