The 21st century has somehow become the era of body modification. Whether it’s tattoos, ear gauges, or even an RFID Tesla key implanted into its driver’s arm, people love modifying their bodies. Sure, it’s not for everyone. Nonetheless, the number of people jumping on the trend is growing larger every day.
More recently, the “alt” option has become biotech implants. In some cases, these are related to a medical need. Others turn to them as a way to make their bodies “smart” like the countless devices surrounding us. However, for a group of individuals collectively known as transhumanists, the goal is more ambitious. Many of these people want to become like cyborgs because, according to one, “[Being] part mechanical, that is so much more awesome than just my plain self.”
Merging with Machines
Steven Ryall is a 26-year-old from Manchester, England. The technical operator has the goal of turning his hands into “smart hands.”
In an interview with BBC, Ryall said, “We have smart TVs, smart phones, everything is smart. Why can’t I be smart?”
To some degree, he has a point. As the world of technology adapts at a blinding pace around us, our bodies remain relatively stagnant. Ryall, along with a host of so-called transhumanists, believes that programming technology that has been implanted in the body is the next stage of human progression.
Ryall has a set of microchips implanted in the back of his hand. With some special coding, these could hypothetically give him the ability to do everything from unlocking a smart lock to making contactless payments.
While some transhumanists like Ryall believe that using tech implants is a way to boost efficiency and be more “awesome,” others have different reasons. Winter Mraz, a 31-year-old engineer, now has two LED implants under her skin. When she passes a magnet over them, the lights automatically illuminate her skin from the inside out.
When asked why she got the implants, her response was, “Because they are sparkly and I’m a magpie. I like things that light up.”
Mraz also has an RFID chip in her wrist that she uses specifically as a key to her front door. She also has a tiny magnet buried in her fingertip that gives her the ability to sense electromagnetic fields. Meanwhile, an NFC chip in her other hand serves as a digital business card and medical ID band.
Interestingly, Mraz’s journey into implants didn’t start because she fantasized about the idea of upgrading her body—it started out of necessity. Several years ago, a car crash left her with a fractured back, ankles, and knees. Over the course of many surgeries, doctors were able to reconstruct her spine with a series of bolts.
Kneecaps, though, are a trickier situation. Surgeons turned to 3D printing and created Mraz a custom, cybernetic kneecap. Without it, she wouldn’t be able to walk today. However, the accident and the following recovery process opened her eyes to the world of transhumanism and led her to get more implants for voluntary reasons.
Though it sounds outlandish, implants for medical reasons occur daily around the globe. For many, this not only makes the transhumanist movement a little more understandable, but it is also a gateway to “convenience modifications.”
So, whether it’s something as simple as a knee replacement or as complex as a brain-computer interface, it doesn’t appear that implants are going away anytime soon. As the Internet of Things interconnects our lives more and more, tech implants might end up being the next tattoos.