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The hacked body

Physical implants that are injected into the body. Cyborgs with antennas. Women who monitor the ovulation through software. The body hackers tell us something about modern man's relationship to technology. 



Imagine injecting a foreign element into your skin with a thin cannula. It's about the size of a grain of rice, and you pretty much don't notice it. Soon, the foreign element finds its natural place under the loose skin between thumb and index finger. The next time you go into your apartment, it doesn't matter that you've probably forgotten the keys. You simply hold your hand up in front of the lock and immediately the door slides open.

Adding technological devices to the human body to optimize the body or give the body new properties, such as opening a locked door without a key, is also called Piece hacking. In step with the gradual progression of technology towards greater complexity and the possibility of integrating technology into even microscopically small devices, body hacking is gradually beginning to spread outside the very narrow, technology-fetishistic environments. For example, the Seattle-based store Dangerous Things has sold more than 10 units of the so-called RFID transmitters. Most body hackers use RFID transmitters that transmit information using radio waves. As such, there is nothing odious or new in it. The new thing is that these transmitters now sit inside the bodies of thousands of individuals.

The first cyborg. We have to go back to 1998 to find the probably first example of a person introducing an RFID transmitter under the skin and thus perhaps can be said to take the first step towards becoming a cyborg (understood as a mixture of a human and a machine). It was the English professor Kevin Warwick, and happened as part of a research project that the professor was involved in. The experiment was primarily initiated to become wiser on the limit of signal strength once a piece of technology enters the body. Since then, a host of individuals have followed in Warwick's footsteps. When the media covers body hackers, it is typically the most extreme and colorful cases we hear about. It could, for example, be the Englishman Neil Harbisson, who has had an antenna mounted on top of his skull, an antenna which is obviously physically screwed into the skull and enables the color-blind Harbisson to have a frequency sent to his ear, which means that he can hear what color an object might be. Another colorful case is Steve Haworth, who has several magnetic implants in his body that allow him to sense or even feel the many electromagnetic waves that surround us. And finally, there is the biochemist Gabriel Licina, who by using a variant of a chlorophyll possesses the ability to temporarily see in the dark at distances up to 50 meters.

Removes us from the body. However, the vast majority of body hackers are more moderate in their approaches. It tells sociologist Jenny Davis, who is employed at James Madison University in Virginia and who specializes in the relationship between humans and technology. She believes that body hackers can be sorted into two groups: a smaller group that actually gets physical implants inserted into the body, and a much larger group that uses technology that is not physically embedded in the body, but which still aims to monitor and optimize the body. The latter group includes, for example, users of exercise devices such as FitBit and Apple Health, which can be said to be part of the Quantified Self movement, which we have previously touched on here in the columns (Ny Tid 6/2016). However, the group also counts a number of more specifically targeted body management tools such as software that should help alert a woman when she is ovulating. And it is tools like these that Jenny Davis believes tell interesting things about modern man's relationship to technology:

“There is no doubt that many users of these technologies are very happy with the tools and are not experiencing any issues associated with them. This is due to the fact that technology has gradually become so integrated into our lives that we no longer distinguish so much between, for example, our body and the technologies that surround the body, "explains the sociologist, who would also like to point out some of the possible problems. , she has found in her research:

"Technology has gradually become so integrated into our lives that we no longer distinguish so much between, for example, our body and the technologies that surround the body."

“I often see that users of body technology are limited by the data they get about their bodies. They can not really feel their body if they do not have the numbers, and they let themselves be controlled by the numbers too much. There is a risk that the use of body technology actually removes us too much from the body, as our ability to listen to the body's signals decreases significantly once the body technology is integrated into everyday life, "says the assessment from Jenny Davis.

Far to mainstream. Although we have seen a gradual growth of individuals choosing to have physical implants inserted into the body, Davis believes that in the future it will also be a smaller niche that makes use of this:

"It does not go unnoticed that there is a hardware challenge. The technology you insert into the body quickly becomes obsolete, and it is still quite difficult to replace hardware once you have it inserted into the body, "says Jenny Davis, who is also skeptical of the individuals who call themselves transhumanists. Transhumanists are often of the opinion that it is only a matter of time – even a short time – before one can, for example, upload the brain or consciousness to a computer in order to achieve a form of eternal life. Davis is skeptical of such visions:

“I think there is a philosophical shortcoming in the reasoning of transhumanists. One cannot just make the body irrelevant. We are also the body, so it does not go purely philosophically to upload the brain alone. It may well be that it happens sometime in the future, but then it will not be us as human beings who are preserved, but us as narrative. Transhumanists say that we er data, but I think we rather has data. What can be saved is thus a story about us – but not a preservation of us. "

Online store that sells RFID transmitters

Jenny Davis' technology blog

Steffen Moestrup
Steffen Moestrup
Regular contributor to MODERN TIMES, and docent at Denmark's Medie- og Journalisthøjskole.

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