I have always been a fan of sci-fi, a trait I inherited from my dad, who introduced me and my siblings to Star Wars, Star Trek and other science fiction at a young age. As I read through his collection of classic sci-fi books, I learned of Asimov’s idea of the laws of robotics, of cyborgs – either as people with technological enhancements or robots with biological enhancements, and of fully artificial humans – all of which force one to contemplate what “personhood” really means – is a person human if their heart is artificial? Their brain? What if everything *except* their heart has been replaced? Science fiction was also where I heard of many other interesting concepts, such as ethical non-monogamy, group marriage, and anarchistic communal living!
I find sci-fi really inspiring, not least because sci-fi writers actually shape the future! Think about it – people watch sci-fi, and are inspired to do the research to turn fiction into fact. When Star Trek first aired the idea of doors that slide open in front of you was strange and futuristic, nowadays it is so commonplace that people sometimes get confused when doors *don’t* open automatically. Scientists have been working on teleportation for ages, although I think so far they’re only managed to teleport a photon. Google has made prototype cars which can drive themselves, and millions of people have access to technology which allows them to communicate pretty much instantly with people all over the globe. I was amazed when I watched this video of Arthur C Clarke predicting the future in the 1960s – it seems difficult to imagine now that the realities of 2012 once seemed ludicrously far-fetched, and it is exciting to think about what developments might occur in the next 50 years!
A couple of years ago I came across an article in H+ magazine, by Lepht Anonym, who does their own implants at home including a computer chip and tiny magnets which enable them to both pick up tiny magnetic objects, and (more excitingly) sense electromagnetic fields! Reading about what enhancements might be available to me in the future, and about what are actually available RIGHT NOW was pretty exciting. I came to the realisation that I would quite like to be a cyborg, to experience new senses, to enhance myself using technological modifications. If we don’t count dentistry or the internet, I became a cyborg when I had titanium plates + screws put into my right leg as a result of surgery to fix the bones I broke in January 2012. Even though the bones weren’t capable of supporting my weight until relatively recently, the metal implants enabled me to return to work only 3 months after the fracture. But I think that this is just the beginning! I probably won’t be going the DIY route and cutting up my own fingers to put magnets inside, but having the ability to sense electromagnetism would be pretty cool, wouldn’t it? Or having an extra sense that means you always know what compass direction you are facing, an implant that lets you hear colour (including light not visible to the human eye), or technology allowing us to control machines using our minds? So this is why I call myself “Parkertron” – I am a cyborg and I intend to embrace technological enhancements as they become available to me!