Humans have been using technology to improve the standard of their day to day lives and increase the efficiency of doing things. The rapid advances in technology have been met with criticism and support. One such development in technology allowed Neil Harbisson with an extreme form of color blindness “hear” visible and invisible wavelengths of light.
Neil Harbisson, a British born cyborg artist, is the world’s first legally recognized cyborg who has an antenna implanted in his head as a way to ‘cure’ his color blindness. Neil received official bionic status from the United Kingdom government officially making him a cyborg. At age 21, he co devised the antenna sensor implanted in his head that translates different wavelengths into vibrations in his skull, which he then perceives as sound.
At the World Government Summit which is a forum for government leaders to discuss technology, innovation and futurism Harrison said the antenna is not a device but an essential body organ. “I have an antenna that is implanted inside my head, which allows me to extend my perception of reality beyond the visual spectrum. I can sense infrared and ultraviolet. I also have internet connection in my head that allows me to receive colors from other parts of the world or connect to satellite so I can send colors from space,” he added.
Harbisson believes, the biggest challenge for the current generation would be designing ourselves and not the world around us. “The more we design ourselves, the less we will have to design the planet. If we had night vision when cities would be dark, we would not have to spend so much money and energy to create lighting systems. It would also be better for the environment. Also, if we could control our own temperature, we would not have to use air conditioning or heaters. We would not have to heat up the planet when it’s cold or vice versa. ”
In 2010, this cyborg activist also cofounded the Cyborg Foundation along with Moon Ribas to defend cyborg rights, promote cyborg art and support people who want to become cyborgs. In 2017, he co founded the Transpecies Society to represent those people who identify themselves as non human. The Transpecies Society aims to give a voice to people with non human identities, raises awareness of the challenges transspecies face, advocates for the freedom of self design and offers the development of new senses and organs in the community.
Harbisson is not just an advocate for the Transpecies. His art was also exhibited during the 54th Venice Biennale, at Palazzo Foscari, Savina Museum of Contemporary Art, ArtScience Museum (Singapore,) Centre d’Art Santa Mònica, Pollock Gallery, Museumsquartier (Vienna,) Pioneer Works (New York City) and at the American Visionary Art Museum, among others. He also published the Human Color Wheel in 2009 which is based on the hue and the light detected on hundreds of human skins from 2004 to 2009. The book was aimed to raise awareness and state that humans are not black or white, humans are different shades of orange, from very very dark orange to very light orange.
Ranked along with the works of Marina Abramovic and Yoko Ono, Harbisson’s work is considered to be one of the most shocking art performances ever. Pointing his antenna at different parts of a face, Harbisson writes down the different notes he hears and later creates a sound file to create a sound portrait. His work is focused on creating a new sense and creating external artworks through these new senses.
Looking at the immense work the world’s first cyborg has created, it is safe to say the future looks promising!