We have seen cyborgs in science fiction movies. But what if that is not fiction anymore?

We have seen cyborgs in science fiction movies. Half humans, half robots, using robotics as a part of themselves. But what if that is not fiction any more? What if there are already humans using cybernetics as extensions of themselves? We are very excited to announce one of the speakers for the SHIFT Business Festival 2017, the world’s first officially recognized cyborg & artist Neil Harbisson.

The Catalan-raised and British-born contemporary artist and cyborg activist Harbisson is best known as the world’s first cyborg officially recognized by a government. Because of a rare condition of colour blindness called achromatopsia, organically he only sees the world in grey scale. But since 2004, he has been able to hear colours, instead of seeing them, through a technological aid — an antenna implanted in his skull. The electronic “eye” allows him to perceive visible and invisible colours, such as infrareds and ultraviolets via sound waves. The antenna is connected to the internet and allows him to receive colours from space but also images, videos, music and even phone calls directly into his head via external devices.


As an artist Neil uses cybernetics technology to investigate the relationship between color and sound and explores artistic expressions via sensory extensions. For instance, Harbisson said in an interview with The Guardian in 2014 that the sound of a Warhol painting’s clear colors is much more pleasing to listen to than Da Vinci’s more closely related tones. In the same interview he said: ”I don’t feel like I’m using technology, or wearing technology. I feel like I am technology.” By becoming technology we can take a more active role in our own biological evolution. This opens up new possibilities of having additional organs and senses beyond the ones that our species have inherited.

At The SHIFT 2017 Neil Harbisson spoke about The Renaissance of our Species — how taking an active part in our own biological evolution is no longer a theory, but an option. Becoming technology, instead of using or wearing technology, opens up the possibility of having additional organs and senses beyond the ones confined to our species. By merging ourselves with technology we can become the designers of our own body and perception; and we can increase our survival possibilities in earth and in outer space. Are we witnessing the renaissance of our species?

Neil Harbisson is the co-founder of The Cyborg Foundation. Together with his long-term artistic collaborator and co-founder Moon Ribas, Harbisson and the international organization aims to promote cyborgism as a social and artistic movement and defend cyborg rights. Visit Neil Harbisson’s website and TED Talk speaker profile.

Picture by Hector Adalid.