British scientist ‘Cyborg’ Kevin Warwick has a wish for his 60th birthday that will be coming up in 12 years time — to have a silicon chip surgically implanted in his brain.
The 48-year-old professor in March 2002 conducted an experiment named ‘Project Cyborg’ in which doctors placed a silicon chip into his arm for a second time while linking his nervous system to a computer.
“Memory is the thing to go for now,” Warwick told AFP in an interview. “I will be happy to have a brain implant when I am 60 years old. My body will be pretty worn out by then.”
Warwick’s first implant in August 1998 earned him the title of ‘Cyborg’, a person whose physiological functioning is aided by or dependent on a mechanical or electronic device.
It also means being partly human and partly machine, as per characters in sci-fi movies such as “The Terminator.”
Warwick and his team of scientists in the cybernetics department of the University of Reading took readings with the first implant by means of radio waves via antennas that were installed throughout the department.
The antennas transmitted signals to a computer programmed to respond to Warwick’s actions.
A computer-operated voice box responded with a “hello” when Warwick entered the department, while the computer tracked his progress through the building by opening doors and switching on lights.
“For me it is research in a different area. It is like America 300 years ago without any Red Indians. I have pitched a tent on an end in Virginia and somebody else will soon pitch a tent in Massachusetts.
“The whole continent is an unexplored land of science. The scientists who are currently in the safe camps will switch into this exciting new area. Everything is up for grabs,” said Warwick, who was in the southern Indian city of Bangalore to deliver a lecture.
New opportunities for scientists
He said his research was presenting scientists with new opportunities.
“There are no equations, no formalities, no rules. Lot of people will clamour for pieces of that land. From a scientific point they can build rules. It is a whole new land of opportunity,” Warwick said.
The scientist, who has carried out extensive research in artificial intelligence, robotics and allied areas said his experiments could lead to a breakthrough in treating patients with spinal cord and eye injuries.
“It can treat a medical problem. Human powers are extremely limited. If we link it with machines there is a whole lot we can do. What we thought is not possible, can be possible. It is a totally different dimension,” he said.
“One has to look at it in a different way. The way we see things in a three-dimension can change with an extra dimension. With computers one can add 10 to 20 dimensions more,” Warwick said.
Download memories and record dreams?
He said all the scientists were looking forward to a time when computers can be linked to human intelligence and thought process.
“Can we in future download memories? Can we record dreams and play them back?” he asked.
Warwick acknowledged robotic technology could be misused but said the medical gains would silence the critics.
“In the future say by 20 or 30 years… can we stay in control or can science be a threat? I am by no means alone though I am taking the first step.
“I get about 100 e-mails a day and once in a week I get a mail from someone with a religious feeling that I should not do it. It is not a coherent argument,” he said.
About 80 percent of the mails, Warwick said, were “serious” inquiries from people in need of technology to help cure their diseases and who were willing to be part of the implant experiment.
“When I have the implant it is like having a sixth sense,” Warwick said. “I want to be a cyborg for sure. As for the future, ‘I will be back’,” he said, using Arnold Schwarzenegger’s catchphrase from “The Terminator”.