Are Cyborgs the next phase in Body Modification?

There are cyborgs living among us and the movement is growing.

Bio-hacking or the process of hacking technology to “upgrade” your own body either by surgical insertion of applying it to the skin is a new trend that arose in the last 15 years among the body augmentation crowd. These people seek to change the body’s function by adding new senses like magnets in fingertips to sense magnetic fields. They are attempting to integrate even further with the technology we have already.
Already so connected with our cellular devices and smartwatches these “Grinders” seek to take it to the next step. Without the supervision of a governmentally or healthcare provider these “Grinders” are implanting devices such as RFID chips and NFC strips into their hands as well as other devices. These people often identify with the punk genre and are closely associated with piercers who are already body modification specialists and would be more open to these ideas than a mainstream doctor.

We are now more than ever in the “Quantified self” era where we have devices constantly monitoring our bodies and motion to record our performance and allow us to better ourselves with the data we have collected. I personally have a smart watch that tracks everything from the steps I take, cups of coffee I drink, to the time I sleep each night. However, this device it external. What makes biohacking so unique is that some of these devices are physically attached to your body. Implants such as the specialty designed Google glass type machine worn by Steve Mann. His device helps his vision and is an advancement in computer mediated reality and allows him to capture images by using his eye as both a lens and camera. Unfortunately for Steve this machine resulted in him being questioned and removed from McDonald’s process in very impolite and offensive manner with the offenders ripping up the documentation he had from his doctor explaining the device. This is a picture of potential things to come with this movement. Will people be able to cross the line from holding a handheld camera to having it inside of you. Will these Grinders be socially acceptable or will they be shunned and rejected?

Because this entire movement is “underground” so to speak and is happening in people’s garages and machine shops, the ethics of this is still up for debate and the regulations are still needed. Could this just be a new phase of the body modification movement much like tattoos and gages used to change a person’s physical appearance. Tattoos often have a lot of significant meaning associated to them and can be great works of art. Can these bio-hacks be considered the same way? Is allowing yourself to be “upgraded” through the use of technology an art form or is it just a means to an end? We often call our technology elegant or slick, objects of beauty or for projecting beauty but when it goes inside of our bodies does that change?

Many people believe the human body is sacred and should not be tampered with, and while tattoos are superficial these technological enhancements are not and they could even prove harmful if not done right and in a sterile environment. Could the lack of regulation and the homebrew state of this hobby be the cause of some dangerous new form of black-market items that cause strife and harm to people. Or is this the next stage in human evolution where people are implanting digital devices to measure heart-rate, body temp and blood pressure as well as integrate with our cell phone. The options seem endless for these people who are willing to endure the pain and change they way we interact with our technology by going under the knife. The question remains will you join them or become obsolete?

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Jonathan Dain

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