What Is It Like to Be a Cyborg?

What Is It Like to Be a Cyborg?

Kevin Warwick (Coventry University, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-5396-0.ch004
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In this chapter, the author describes his personal experience in experimenting as a cyborg (part biology/part technology) by having technology implanted in his body, which he lived with over a period. A look is also taken at the author's experiments into creating cyborgs by growing biological brains which are subsequently given a robot body. The experiments are dealt with in separate sections. In each case the nature of the experiment is briefly described along with the results obtained and this is followed by an indication of the experience, including personal feelings and emotions felt in and around the time of the experiments and subsequently as a result of the experiments. Although the subject can be treated scientifically from an external perspective, it is really through individual, personal experience that a true reflection can be gained on what might be possible in the future.
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Experiment 1

On 24 August 1998 the author became the first human to have a Radio Frequency Identification Device (RFID) surgically implanted in his body as a form of identity. The implant was positioned in his upper left arm (see Figure 1). In its simplest form, the device transmits a sequence of pulses by radio which represent a unique number. The number can be pre-programmed to act rather like a PIN number on a credit card. So, with an implant of this type in place, when it is activated, the identity of the person involved can be interrogated by a computer. The device implanted measured 22 mm by 4 mm diameter and it was held in place for the duration of the experiment by a couple of stitches.

An RFID implant of this type does not have its own battery. What it does consist of however is a small antenna and a collection of memory chips enclosed in a glass capsule. The antenna picks up power remotely when passed near to a larger coil of wire which carries an electric current. The power picked up by the antenna in the implant is then employed to transmit by radio the particular signal encoded in the microchip. Because there is no battery, or any moving parts, the implant requires no maintenance, so once it has been implanted it can stay there without problem (see Graafstra, 2007; and Foster & Jaeger, 2007 for more on this).

In the particular experiments we carried out, we had already set up my University building at Reading as an intelligent building. What this means is that at various points in the building different responses could be triggered if and when I was recognized at those points. So the RFID implant allowed me to control lights, open doors and be welcomed “Hello” when entering the front door.

Figure 1.

Author being implanted with an RFID by his Doctor, George Boulos


The main reason for selecting my upper left arm for the implant was that, at the time, we were not sure how well it would work. It was reasoned that, if the implant was not working well, possibly due to signal transmission problems, then if it was in my arm it could be waved around until a stronger signal was transmitted. It is interesting however that most present day RFID implants in humans are located in a roughly similar place (the left arm or hand), even though they do not have to be. For example in the James Bond film, Casino Royale (the new version), Bond himself has an implant of a not too dissimilar nature in his left arm.

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