TED: Neil Harbisson Talks About Being A Cyborg, How It Feels When Software and Brain Unite
Cyborg Foundation creator Neil Harbisson has never seen color in his life and doesn’t know what colors look like. He was born with total color blindness, a rare visual condition called achromatopsia. Until his was 21 he had lived in a grayscale world in the last eight years, instead of seeing colors, he has been able to hear colors with the help of a chip installed at the back of his head. This summer Neil gave an impressive TED speech telling about his unique cyborg life and his enhanced abilities.
In 2003 Neil started a project with computer scientists to develop an electronic eye that is able to sense the color frequency in front of Neil and sends this frequency to a chip installed at the back of his head so he can hear the color through bone conduction.
For the last eight years Neil has been wearing the sensor and hearing colors all the time. As he recalls, in the beginning he had to memorize the names of the colors and the related notes but after a while he didn’t have to think about the notes any more. All this became a perception. And later the perception became a feeling.
He also recalls in his TED speech when he started to dream in color – it was the first time when he felt like a cyborg. He says that the software and his brain had united, and in his dreams it wasn’t the software any more to produce the color-sounds but his brain.
Neil’s cybernetic eye is not merely a device, it had become a part of his entity, an extension of his senses. His artificial part has also given him enhanced abilities that might seem supernatural skills to some. He can see/feel more colors than other people do. For example, Neil is able to perceive ultraviolet and this unique skill lets him easily decide whether it is safe to sunbathe or not.
To encourage people to extend their senses by using technology as part of the body, Neil has created the Cyborg Foundation, a non-profit organisation that helps people become a cyborg. To get in touch with the organisation visit their temporary website at http://eyeborg.wix.com/cyborgfoundation.