Kevin Warwick, a British professor, has already been the world's first cyborg; a radio transmitter chip was implanted in his arm on August 24, 1998. This was a glass capsule approximately 23 millimeters long and 3 millimeters wide within which were a silicon chip and an electromagnetic coil. It enabled him to activate certain doors and lights. When he approached these doors, they said, "Good morning, Prof. Warwick," his computer switched on, and his movements within the building were trackable. The capsule has since been removed, for safety's sake.
Surely, employees of large corporations will someday have much to say about Warwick's work.
The professor is now working on a device to transmit physical movement, pain and even emotions between two people. And he has volunteered to be the initial human to try out what could be called a telepathy chip. This first chip to be wired to a person's nervous system is scheduled for implantation into him during 2001.
A half-inch microprocessor chip will be put into the upper part of his left arm, where a sensor collar will be clamped onto a nerve. (Also in preparation is a version of greater sensitivity in which a number of prongs would be clamped onto a nerve core.) Both versions will contain a transducer to deal with the sending and reception of radio signals to transmit pain and movement.
The objective is that the electrical signals which control his movements and feelings will be stored in a computer and then played back, so that he will subject himself to a takeover by his earlier self. He wonders whether his brain will register this as strange or not.
Since the basic procedure of these implants has been solved, according to him, present work emphasizes the lessening of the risks of nerve damage.
Warwick, who heads the University of Reading's Cybernetics Department, stated to the British Association festival in September 1999 that his ultimate quest is to be able to send thought communications between human beings--an ability he believes to be only "a few years away."
He is not the only person willing to go the limit in this special quest. If the test of sending signals between his nervous system and a computer is successful, with no problems, an implant will be placed into his wife Irena. Warwick said, "The way she puts it is that if anyone is going to jack into my limbic system--to know definitively when I'm feeling happy, depressed, angry...she wants it to be her." Internet transmissions between them, from separate countries, may follow.
The present experiments could, prior to those future developments, provide a way for people to help disabled persons learn control of their limbs.
They could also lead to the operation of workable cars without using steering wheels and other components.
Not mentioned in the known media reports about his efforts is that a workable telepathy technique could erase humanity's last privacy barrier--and be abused by unscrupulous and/or ideologically obsessed persons in many ways. Worse, people's motions could be controlled by others, a coercion that could be horrific when applied in authoritarian or wartime situations.
Warwick's worries and concerns about machines becoming dangerously more intelligent than people, delineated in his book In the Mind of the Machine, as well as in quotes he has given the media, provide an interesting contrast to his cutting-edge cyborg work, where man transforms partly into what he may fear.
Sources: CNN.COM, 2/18/98; ABCNEWS.com, 8/25/98; Wired, February 2000; Dispatch Online (www.dispatch.co.za/), 8/27/98; Sydney Morning Herald online (www.smh.com.au), 9/16/99 and 11/5/99 (from the Daily Telegraph, London; and The Guardian); also www.cyber.rdg.ac.uk/K.Warwick/