Anyone who watches Star Trek may be dubious about what Professor Kevin Warick is proposing. The cyberneticist is performing research in the field of artificial intelligence, and is currently undergoing an experiment in which he will turn himself into the first human cyborg. He believes that in the future we will be able to better ourselves and improve our senses and communication abilities with the insertion of simple implants.
For any Trekkie like myself, one thought comes to mind: 'We are the Borg. You will be assimilated. Your biological and technological distinctiveness will be added to our own. Resistance is futile.'
Yep, the Borg. Bad ass cyborgs intent on assimilating the universe in a quest for perfection. Does anyone see the similarity? What Warick is proposing sounds fascinating, but it is also terrifying. There is already serious and controversial debate about genetic enhancement, and the use of implants is not all that different.
I suppose when you think about it, the world is already filled with cyborgs. Many people who have been in accidents and undergone amputations have received prosthetic limbs, creating a fusion between the organic and the inorganic. I think the real difference, however, is that while prosthetic may integrate ourselves with technology, it does not alter our minds. Implants designed to make us smarter, faster, stronger go beyond aiding a disability, and attempt to improve us. It implies that we are not good enough as we are and that nature did not make us as good as we can be. By using implants are we trying to cheat the natural course of evolution, and what will the consequences be? How long will it be before we become like the Borg? Just how far can we go before we lose our humanity?
It is a fascinating subject, and Kevin Warick invites you to join in on the debate at his seminar on the 30th April between 7pm-9pm. It is a free and informal talk at Woody's Bar & Kitchen in Kingston, but I'm sure things will get quite heated.