The great CybOrgy


Cyborgs are hybrid creatures made of living organism and machine. So far they have only existed in science fiction. Now they are seeping into the present, because: "The human body is through and through error-prone".

The continuous measurement of body parameters, such as is propagated by the "QuantifiedSelf" movement, has now become mainstream. Hardly a jogger does not use Runtastic while trotting through the neighbourhood. More and more women step onto the WiFi Scale in their controlled efforts to slim down. And probably even “Cindy aus Marzahn”, the annoying German underclass plumpling [a tv character], will soon strap on her own pink Fitbit bracelet.

For biohackers these are mere half-hearted actions. The natural follow-on is the shift of measuring technology internally in the body. Here the body itself is modified via implantion of "wetware". The insertion of transponder chips into pets and farm animals is a long since established routine. With humans however, in the eyes of many, the implantation of technology which serves no medical purposes oversteps an ethical threshold. The slight shudder which is triggered by the meeting of silicone and cells thus provides ample potential as a target for blatant PR campaigns. For example the case of Baja Beach Club, which offered its guests an implantation of the controversial "Verichip". Or such as the performance artist Neil Harbisson, who with a camera firmly stapled to his bob wanders from one future congresses in the world to another and thereby makes a nice living as a cyborg.

This is, however, techno-folklore. Some biohackers are now really taking things seriously. Bloody seriously even. Tim Cannon does not look like a Frankenstein monster; rather with his goatee and lower lip piercing he seamlessly fits into any Berlin club scene. But he's one of the brains behind Grindhouse Wetware, a New York biohacker initiative which wants with all its might to advance cyborg-thinking. Consciousness should be outsourced "into anything that does not rot". This very organic-hostile mission is also being pursued by offshoots in Germany.


Tim Cannon is obviously determined to convert this vision into reality. He allowed himself a few days ago to have a measuring device about the size of an iPhone, the Circadia 1.0, implanted in his forearm. Anyone who sees the result of this operation can foresee the aesthetic boundaries future cyborgs would be willing to cross. For medical colleagues who are interested from a surgical perspective: the procedure was performed by the "body modification artist" Steve Haworth, a sort of Ferdinand Sauerbruch of piercings, who was also involved in the systematic disfigurement of The Enigma and Stalking Cat.

Circadia 1.0 is based on the open source project HELEDD, a multi-purpose implant which among other things can measure body temperature and heart rate, and then transmits these values to a smartphone or a PC via bluetooth. This sounds right now not all that impressive – but it is the beginning of a development which seeks to increasingly relocate sensors to be inside the body, rather than only measuring at the body surface. And this trend will undoubtedly increase, because if people are already getting themselves pierced for purely aesthetic reasons, they will not hesitate to get things implanted which also carry a few gimmicks on board. True?

Article last time updated on 19.02.2014.

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