THE CY­BORG EVO­LU­TION

WHEN MAN AND MACHINE COL­LIDE, CY­BORGS ARE BORN. BUT IT’S NOT JUST FOR SCI-FI, THEY’RE AMONG US NOW AND OUR MAN LUKE EDWARDS HAS JOINED THEIR ROBO-RANKS BY GET­TING AN NFC CHIP IM­PLANTED IN HIS HAND.

Australian T3 - - CON­TENTS - WORDS LUKE EDWARDS PHO­TOG­RA­PHY JOE BRANSTON

We take reg­u­lar joe Luke Edwards and at­tempt to turn him into a ro­bot with­out any of the po­ten­tial down­sides…

There are plenty of per­fectly good wear­ables out there now, so why feel the need to have one im­planted un­der the skin? It means be­ing stabbed, po­ten­tially set­ting off shop alarms, risk­ing in­fec­tion, never be­ing able to re­move it and, of course, po­ten­tially get­ting hacked. PUNY FLESH

It also means the abil­ity to in­ter­act with ma­chines by sim­ply wav­ing a hand. It’s not quite Jedi level con­trols but it’s as close as we can get right now. But this isn’t about prac­ti­cal ap­pli­ca­tions alone, it’s about be­ing one of the pi­o­neers of the sin­gu­lar­ity.

The sin­gu­lar­ity is when ma­chines be­come smart enough to im­prove them­selves faster than puny fleshy hu­mans can, at which time we’ll be left be­hind, un­less we can up­grade. While im­plants to con­nect your ev­ery thought to the in­ter­net, con­tact lens dis­plays and thought com­mu­ni­ca­tion may be a while off, we are start­ing to work to­wards that.

This im­plant is one of a few op­tions out there right now. The NFC chip un­der the skin works much like the chip in your phone or bank card. That takes some of the fear out of the im­plant as it is in­ert, only re­act­ing to ra­dio waves which ping off it, giv­ing it life for that time so it can be recog­nised. That’s not to say this is a dumb tag like the chip in your cat or dog, this can be loaded with data to be sent, too.

Right now NFC is more main­stream mean­ing the chip can ac­tu­ally be used in the real world. Us­ing it in place of a wal­let at the myr­iad con­tact­less pay­ment points is rea­son enough to get the up­grade, if just to see the face of the bar­tender in the pub. But with car and door locks also us­ing NFC, this rep­re­sents the op­por­tu­nity to fi­nally do away with keys com­pletely.

No more get­ting locked out of the house, no more lock­ing the key in the car and no more clum­sily jut­ting a bit of metal into a hole ev­ery time you want to en­ter.

THE PRO­CE­DURE

Get­ting the chip ac­tu­ally in­stalled is the mo­ment when all th­ese lofty thoughts of what could be done sim­mer down to a sin­gle fo­cus – be­ing stabbed.

Thank­fully I was in the good hands of a pro­fes­sional. After speaking with Pro­fes­sor Kevin War­wick, who helped pi­o­neer im­plants with his mag­net im­plant back in the late eight­ies, I was put in con­tact with Mac McCarthy. That name alone had me sold. He is a sea­soned pro­fes­sional in body aug­men­ta­tion and, I was as­sured, could in­stall the NFC chip safely.

I was told Mac would be happy to help and all I had to do was make my way to him in Wolverhampton, Eng­land – once la­belled the fifth-worst city in the world by Lonely Planet. And the ad­dress? Dr Evil’s Body Mod­i­fi­ca­tion Em­po­rium. I was be­gin­ning to re­con­sider the trip.

Luck­ily, Mac was wel­com­ing, su­per pro­fes­sional and at ease with the pro­ce­dure. He showed me the wor­ry­ing­ly­large sy­ringe that had the NFC chip built-in. This is some­thing any­one can buy from the in­ter­net. While it’s easy to get hold of, you’d def­i­nitely want a pro­fes­sional to do the task as it’s a lot thicker than any nee­dle you’ve seen be­fore – think more like a knit­ting nee­dle which needs to go an inch deep into you. Hmm.

The best place to in­stall the chip was the back of the hand be­tween thumb and hand base where the flesh is thick, blood ves­sels and bones are min­i­mal and it should hurt least. The in­jec­tion hole was marked in pen with a dot­ted line to where the nee­dle would pen­e­trate to de­posit the chip.

He pinched the skin, I winced, he stabbed, I bled. He ejected the chip and with­drew, I bled some more. He patched me up and that was my 10-se­cond pro­ce­dure done. It didn’t hurt as badly as I’d ex­pected and after some post-

If you have a fu­tur­is­tic im­plant in your hand, do try and look like a ro­bot

Jaguar Land Rover is one of the pi­o­neers of NFC locks

Luke no longer needs a busi­ness card, he just beams his details to smart­phones

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