Body-Hacking: The New Implants

The futuristic version of body modification has arrived and it is known as body-hacking. With body-hacking a person integrates technology, such as LED lights or a microchip, into his or her body. The various technologies are no longer only being used for medical purposes, but are now implanted based on personal preference.

Neil Harbisson, a pioneer in the body-hacking movement, is a colorblind artist who convinced doctors to implant a camera in the back of his head. The camera coverts dominant colors into musical notes, which allows Mr. Harbisson to listen to colors. A medical ethics committee in Europe opposed the procedure, but Mr. Harbisson found a doctor who agreed to perform it under the condition of anonymity. The medical ethics committee is not alone in disapproving the procedure—on multiple occasions people have tried to rip the mechanism out of Mr. Harbisson’s head. As a result of the backlash from his procedure, he formed the Cyborg Foundation to advocate for “cyborg rights.”

Laws have not caught up with these technologies and most alarming is the fact that non-medical professionals are performing the procedures. In addition, some believe that body-hackers are not considering the security risks of technological implantation, especially those carrying microchips with personal information. The ethical questions raised by the body-hacking movement include whether it is acceptable to cut open human beings, without a medical necessity, and experiment on them with these technologies. Body-hackers also face the possibility of social ostracism. Is society willing to accept someone who, for example, has a perfectly healthy eye but undergoes surgery to obtain infrared vision? As the movement gains momentum, this question may be answered sooner than we think.


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