As a result of perceiving colour differently, Neil Harbisson is changing official perception of cyborgs, beginning with the long tedious process of renewing his UK passport.
You better recognise, son
Neil Harbisson was born with achromatopsia, a condition which made him see the world in black and white. That might sound like fun to the perpetually mopey, but the artistically-inclined Neil was left feeling alienated.
Thus, he had himself fitted with an eyeborg, a device that converts colours around him into sound waves. The audio is transmitted via vibration on the back of his skull to his inner ear, resulting in him feeling and hearing colours. (We imagine viewing fireworks would be an electrifying experience that sounds like psychedelic Radiohead.)
In 2004, his passport renewal application was rejected as the law stated that no electronic equipment should be worn on the applicant’s head. But subsequent letters from his doctor, college and friends swayed official opinion, helping him to be installed as the world’s first legally-recognised cyborg, by way of renewing his passport successfully. Makes us proud to be British, it does.
The greater implication of this seemingly insignificant gesture is that there's a shift in attitudes, moving towards an openness to embrace differences. While it might seem impossible that cyborgs could become an integral part of society one day, let us remind you that self-driving cars and intelligent eyewear are on the verge of becoming a day-to-day reality.
If tech implants aren’t quite your thing yet, you can take baby steps by strapping yourself into this.