What happens when a man is merged with a computer?
This is the question that Professor Kevin Warwick and his team at the the department of Cybernetics, University of Reading intend to answer with ‘Project Cyborg’.
On Monday 24th August 1998, at 4:00pm, Professor Kevin Warwick underwent an operation to surgically implant a silicon chip transponder in his forearm. Dr. George Boulous carried out the operation at Tilehurst Surgery, using local anaesthetic only.
This experiment allowed a computer to monitor Kevin Warwick as he moved through halls and offices of the Department of Cybernetics at the University of Reading, using a unique identifying signal emitted by the implanted chip. He could operate doors, lights, heaters and other computers without lifting a finger.
The chip implant technology has the capability to impact our lives in ways that have been previously thought possible in only sci-fi movies. The implant could carry all sorts of information about a person, from Access and Visa details to your National Insurance number, blood type, medical records etc., with the data being updated where necessary.
The second phase of the experiment Project Cyborg 2.0 got underway in March 2002. This phase will look at how a new implant could send signals back and forth between Warwick’s nervous system and a computer. If this phase succeeds with no complications, a similar chip will be implanted in his wife, Irena. This will allow the investigation of how movement, thought or emotion signals could be transmitted from one person to the other, possibly via the Internet. The question is how much can the brain process and adapt to unfamiliar information coming in through the nerve branches? Will the brain accept the information? Will it try to stop it or be able to cope? Professor Kevin Warwick’s answer to these questions is quite simply “We don’t have an idea – yet, but if this experiment has the possibility to help even one person, it is worth doing just to see what might happen”.