Lessons From a Teenage Cyborg - 4 minutes read

Lessons From a Teenage Cyborg

“I was born in 2000, I have always lived my life with technology, there hasn’t been any moment without it.” So begins the story of Kai Landre, who recently traveled to the United States from Barcelona to explain his decision to become a cyborg.

Strictly speaking, a cyborg is any human being who incorporates—imports into one’s body—artificial devices or machines. And by that definition, even a person with a pacemaker would qualify. But Landre, a child of the new millennium, means something quite different. He has chosen to be permanently connected to a machine because, he says, it makes him feel more fully himself. He is aware that some may see this as a paradox.

“There are a lot of people who are afraid of stopping being human, so this is what makes people want to turn aside from technology. They think technology doesn’t belong to human nature,” he told me one afternoon in the lobby of a hotel near Gramercy Park, where a documentary crew was waiting to film him. “I consider it a part of our evolution as we actually created the technology. It came out of our minds.”

Landre plans to install in himself a system of his own design: an apparatus that senses the cosmic rays that surround us, unseen. The device that will soon be implanted in his arm—right now he wears it on his hand—detects and converts those rays into musical notes which Landre has mapped to the rays’ various frequencies. It converts those notes into the vibrations of a set of metal rods that will one day be implanted with a wireless connection on the surface of his skull.

“Bone conduction lets me hear the cosmic rays inside of my mind without having to take away one of my other senses, which is sound,” he explained. Landre, who gave himself his name, recently shared the music in his head in a concert—there was an ethereal quality that sounded a lot like what we in the West have decided that space sounds like. (If you are old enough, Gary Wright’s “Dream Weaver” might come to mind.)

Once the devices are implanted, he said, keeping the system charged will be a simple matter of electrical induction. Instead of taking the devices off periodically to plug them in, as he must do now, “I would charge myself while I sleep.”

I first heard Landre speak in Princeton, N.J., last month at a student-led conference on the future, a teenager speaking to a room of teenagers or recent teenagers. The conference included talks on strategies for harnessing machine learning and for preventing the ill effects of aging. The scale of these dreams of the future was often grand; the benefits were supposed to be obvious. I come to these events with skepticism, questioning whether such broad technological changes can be applied to all with fairness and dignity.

Landre’s talk, for all its technological focus, described a journey of self-discovery. He is part of a small crew of “transhumanists” who want to escape the burden of being what we call human. His vision was small-scale, humble on behalf of humanity, and intensely personal. Private even.

Obviously, Landre has been sharing his story with the public, even over-sharing it, as is typical for his generation. For example, he wants the documentary crew to film the implant procedure, which will be carried out this month in the Barcelona bunker that is home to the Cyborg Foundation. Nonetheless, his interaction with technology is intimate—not only because what his device collects about cosmic rays will be retained by his own body (as opposed to being stored on the so-called cloud), but also in the sense that you can never really know what’s inside someone else’s head.

Source: Wired

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