The Underground World of Human Cyborgs

Bill Weir, C. Michael Kim & David Miller
This Could Be Big

There is a growing subculture of do-it-yourself cyborgs who want to push the limits of human potential by implanting technology into their bodies, expanding their senses and ability to interact with the world.

While writing an article on a group of biohackers in Pittsburgh, writer Ben Popper from the technology website became one himself.

He joined us this week to share his story and demonstrate the wafer sized magnet he had implanted in his ring finger, which he describes as the "training wheels" of biohacking.

Most biohackers, like the ones Mr. Popper met, operate underground and away from medical regulation. Rare earth metals are implanted with scalpels in tattoo parlors instead of hospitals, and without anesthesia. Once implanted, the biohackers can sense electromagnetic fields, giving them a 6th sense to feel the world around them. His wife has a simpler version of this implant, which allows the two of them to feel the sensation of someone shaking her hand while separated by continents.

But the practical implications of biohacking go beyond feeling electromagnetic fields. Prof. Kevin Warwick from the University of Reading in the U.K. has been researching cybernetics for years. He himself has cybernetics implanted in his arm, which give him the ability to manipulate a robotic hand to move as his human hand moves.

Warwick's research could have huge implications for the disabled, potentially providing amputees and people without use of their limbs full range of motion.

Outside of the research of scientists like Warwick, biohacking remains an unregulated and fringe field of study. However, Mr. Popper believes that implanted technology is going to be mainstream sooner than we all may think, which is why biohackers like the ones he met in Pittsburgh want to have a little fun with it before it's highly regulated and dominated by large companies.