Cyborg Activism

Neil Harbisson and Moon Ribas are a catalan duo, both avant garde artists and cyborg activists.


Their mission is to enforce the scientific origin of the term ‘cyborg’ and encourage people to extend their senses by using technology as part of their body. To use technology to bring us closer to nature.

According to Amber Case, the traditional definition for the term cyborg is:

“An organism to which exogenous components have been added for the purpose f adapting to new environments.”

This is what Neil Harbisson and Moon Ribas want to promote.

Neil Harbisson is the world’s first ever government recognised cyborg. He was born with a rare condition called achromatopsia which left him completely greyscale colourblind. He had an antenna inserted into his head in 2003 which acts as an eye. This eye picks up colour frequencies and sends them to a chip in the back of his head. He is then able to hear audible vibrations through bone conductivity. The idea was inspired by dolphins communicate through electromagnetic waves. Neil Harbisson now has the ability to hear colours, infrared and ultraviolet. He experiences the world like nobody else.

Moon Ribas implanted a sensor into her elbows which has enabled her to feel the vibrations of any earthquake any where in the world. She has developed a dance performance which replicates the intensity and duration of the earthquake that she can feel.

Harbisson and Ribas created the nonprofit organisation Cyborg Foundation. Harbisson and Ribas want to encourage cyborgism and make it more a common and achievable modification.

“Many parts of society see this as a threat, that becoming less human is a threat. That’s an issue that is still very present.” (Harbisson, 2017)

However according to Case, we are all cyborgs. We use technology every day to help us adapt to our ever changing and growing environment. But Neil Harbisson believes that the technology we use every day is only distracting us from our environments. I agree, you see people walking to the bus while staring at their phones, not noticing anyone or anything around them. According to Harbisson, “If we become technology then we will start noticing what is around us.”

The duo believe that instead of creating technology for the environment, we should be focusing on technology for humans to adapt to the environment, i.e. instead of creating electric light, we should aim to develop a technology which aids in night vision. The duo want to promote a journey for us back to nature.

The idea of augmented reality is exciting but the unknown is always a little frightening. These cyborg activists seem to understand what they are talking about though, and are encouraging us all to start opening our minds.


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