Technology will increasingly be integrated into the body "to extend our abilities, our knowledge and our perceptions of reality", according to Neil Harbisson, the first officially recognised human cyborg (+ interview).
Photograph by Dan Wilton
"We will stop using technology as a tool and we'll start using technology as part of the body," said Barcelona-based Harbisson, who wears a head-mounted antenna attached to a chip at the back of his skull that allows him to perceive colours. "I think this will be much more common in the next few years."
Harbisson wears the "eyeborg" headset to overcome a visual impairment called achromatopsia, which means he sees the world in shades of grey. The eyeborg turns colours into sounds, allowing him to "hear" them and meaning he qualifies as a cyborg, or cybernetic organism - a living being with both natural and artificial parts.
"Feeling like a cyborg was a gradual process," he said. "First, I felt that the eyeborg was giving me information, afterwards I felt it was giving me perception, and after a while it gave me feelings. It was when I started to feel colour and started to dream in colour that I felt the extension was part of my organism."
Photograph by Dan Wilton
"The sounds are transmitted through my bone to my inner ear, which allows me to interpret what colours are according to the different sign waves of each sound."
Harbisson charges his eyeborg via a USB power cable that attaches to the back of his head. "The aim [in future] is not to use electricity but to start finding ways of charging the chip [in my head] with my own body energy," he explains. "I might be using blood circulation or my kinetic energy, or maybe the energy of my brain could charge the chip in the future."
"Instead of using technology or wearing technology constantly, we will start becoming technology," Harbisson told Dezeen. "It's a very exciting moment in history that allows us to perceive reality in a greater way."
Prototype eyeborg. Photograph by Dan Wilton
After a long battle with the UK authorities, Harbisson's passport now carries a photo of him wearing his eyeborg, making him the world's first government-recognised cyborg.
In 2010, Harbisson founded the Cyborg Foundation – an organisation whose mission statement is to "help humans become cyborgs, to promote the use of cybernetics as part of the human body and to defend cyborg rights [whilst] encouraging people to create their own sensory extensions".
Harbisson believes that recent technological advances mean there will be a rapid growth in the number of people with cybernetic implants that give them enhanced abilities. This in turn will change what it means to be human.
"Our instincts and our bodies will change," he said. "When you incorporate technology into the body, the body will need to change to accommodate; it modifies and adapts to new inputs. How we adapt to this change will be very interesting."
Neil charging himself up with electricity. Photograph by Dan Wilton
Other human cyborgs include Stelarc, a performance artist who has implanted a hearing ear on his forearm; Kevin Warwick, the "world's first human cyborg" who has an RFID chip embedded beneath his skin, allowing him to control devices such as lights, doors and heaters; and "DIY cyborg" Tim Cannon, who has a self-administered body-monitoring device in his arm.
However, Harbisson is sceptical of Cannon's cyborg credentials. "Tim is a very different user of technology because I'm not sure if he's extending senses of perception," said Harbisson. Cannon's device allows him to know the temperature of his body, whereas "the projects that the Cyborg Foundation is interested in extend senses and perception."
Harbisson has created a series of artworks using his eyeborg, creating sound portraits by scanning people's faces for different hues and turning the tones into short musical compositions.
The device also allows him to "listen" to architectural structures. The work of Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí is his favourite: "All of the spaces in his buildings have very interesting spaces that are just musical," he says.