How to become a cyborg

We meet the world's first cyborg
20 November 2018

Interview with 

Kevin Warwick, Coventry University and Reading University


One of the most popular superheros is Tony Stark, aka Iron Man.He’s a regular guy who uses technology to fly around and kick butt. Georgia Mills and Chris Smith were joined by someone who, probably can't quite fly, but does hold the incredible title of the world’s first cyborg: Kevin Warwick of Coventry and Reading University.

Kevin - Well I've had two implants. The first is a fairly simple one, that quite a few people now have got, which is an identification implant. With that, as I was able to move around my building the computer could recognize where I was, and it opened doors for me, switched on lights, said “hello”... Things like that, that was the first one.

But I think what Barbara's been talking about, the chemical aspect, particularly of the human brain, and how you can affect them. But of course the brain is electro chemical and I'm really looking at the electrical side of things.

Georgia - And is it true technologically linked yourself to another person as well?

Kevin - Well, that happened to be my wife. Yes. We wanted to show you the different things. You were talking earlier about communication and what we did, my wife had electrodes pushed in her nervous system and we linked our nervous systems together. So every time she closed her hand, my brain got a pulse. So it was like a telegraphic communication directly between our nervous systems and clearly what we're looking at is the future of communication. It’s linking not just nervous systems together but brains together. So we'll be able to communicate, not in this antiquated way that you know surely now, we can start moving on as humans and enhance ourselves and start communicating electronically, directly, brain to brain.

Georgia - Man that sounds quite romantic but also potentially irritating.

Kevin - But I mean those are experiencing ultrasonic input. What we were looking at, the humans sensed the world in a very limited way, we miss most of what's going on around us because we don’t sense it but we can do in the future. And with the technology I was using, I was able to sense ultrasonics, which is like a distance like a bat senses the world, and our brains are brilliant. They adapt. They can take on new signals in that way.

Georgia - As well as Tony Stark, you’re also Batman…

Kevin - But, for real! Tony Stark and Batman are mere characters, in this is doing it for real. Science has gone further than than some of these characters, I think. One other example, I went to Columbia University in the U.S., we plug my nervous system into the Internet and link back to a robot hand which was in England in Reading.

What I actually did I moved my hand but my brain signals which were picking up from my nervous system were sent across the Internet to move the robot hand which was in England. And then when the hand grip to an object, signals was sent back from the fingertips in England to stimulate my nervous system in New York so I could feel how much force the hand was applying on another continent.

Georgia - That's madness. But what about if you're linking yourself up with technology, what about someone hacking your nervous system. Does that worry you at all?

Kevin - Well it didn't from the research point of view. I mean, my mind nervous system actually had an IP address for that particular experiment but we had security in the sense that we didn't tell anybody what we were doing. Clearly if we're looking ahead for this in a general sense, clearly then security would be a much much more important thing. We wouldn't want to allow hacking as we might do into our bank accounts and things like that nowadays.

Georgia - What other kind of ways might you be able to enhance yourself with technology?

Kevin - Well I think if we are looking at brain implants then clearly you can link your brain directly with an artificial intelligence system and gain all sorts of things from that. I mean we know human memory is not that wonderful, particularly as you get older and we get all sorts of problems with it. But computer memory, of course, can be absolutely fantastic. Extremely accurate and so on. So the possibility of simply not remembering anything in your own brain, outsourcing the whole lot to a much more accurate but instantly accessible source. Why not?

Georgia - I'm interested to hear how far you'd go in theory Kevin. I mean you're talking about mental enhancements. What about something like a super powered bionic arm and things like that. With that does that sound alright to you as well?

Kevin -  Well in a way I've already had that. That's something I've experienced in terms of connecting from my own nervous system to a robot arm. From that though, when you start connecting the nervous system and your brain up to the outside world, it doesn't have to be arms and legs and so on that you connect on. You can have buildings you can have vehicles, so your body, which can be separate from your brain as long as it's connected via the nervous system via a network your body can be whatever you want it to be whatever the network takes you to.

Chris - What’s next on your wishlist, Kevin? Just wondering what you might like to connect up next…

Kevin -  Ooooh, for me the big one is communicating brain to brain! I mean I would love to take part in the first thought communication experiment. It’s a very risky business because switching the switch to connect two brains together, what exactly is going to happen there? But I just have a hunch, I believe that we are going to be able to communicate just by thinking and I would love to be one of the first people to test that out.


I want to be a robo cop

Hi. I am interested in enhancing myself with technology, using my nervous system. I am happy to be used in any and every experiment, please I am available for use. How would I go about the first part of working with my nervous system for experiment? Thank you

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