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Do cyborgs live in smart cities?

Cyborg artist Neil Harbisson was the first keynote speaker of the Mindtrek conference 2016 in Tampere, Finland. Tampere – All Bright! Magazine seized the opportunity to take a peek at the future of our species.

Neil Harbisson keynote speaker of Mindtrek 2016 Tampere.
Neil Harbisson is a contemporary artist and cyborg activist best known for having an antenna implanted in his skull. It allows him to perceive visible and invisible colours such as infrareds and ultraviolets via sound waves.

Neil Harbisson identifies himself as a cyborg, one who is not using or wearing technology but who is technology. This is what he noticed one day, having just woken up.

– I had been hearing colours in my dream. My brain and the software had united, and that made me feel like a cyborg.

Harbisson encourages people to become cyborgs. He is a co-founder of Cyborg Nest that is offering artificial senses, such as North Sense. For Harbisson that is far better than offering artificial intelligence.

– When you have artificial senses, it is your brain that still needs to create the intelligence. So if you have an implant to feel the North, you have a new sense of orientation…

…and not just a device to tell you where North is. Time is Harbisson’s next project. Towards the end of 2016 he is going to have an organ to sense time, a kind of crown around his head that indicates with heat how the planet turns and thus time passes.

– What will happen then is a mystery. Can I control my perception of time? Five minutes is always five minutes, but the perception of time is different for all: maybe you can feel you live longer if your brain thinks you live 200 years.

Artificial senses can also be the way to space – while staying comfortably at home. Just make sure your brain feels like you are in space, and you are on your way, you senstronaut.

Harbisson at Mindtrek Tampere
The antenna’s internet connection allows Harbisson to receive colors from space as well as images, videos, music or phone calls directly into his head via external devices such as mobile phones or satellites.

So then, do cyborgs live in the smart cities that we are developing together in conferences like Smart City Event? Maybe, says Harbisson, and then gives the idea a whole new twist:

– Basically smart cities would have to be about smart citizens, who should adapt to the cities and to nature. Instead of changing the environment the way we’ve done for a long time, we should change ourselves.

Harbisson proposes for example that we’d stop using electricity on keeping the lights on at nights, and develop our night vision instead. Air conditioning and heaters would become wasteful history, should we be able to control our body temperature. And these, of course, would be just the first steps.

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