#20 – Cyborgs, Transhumanism, and Sensory Modification with Neil Harbisson 

Ever wondered what it sounds like in space? In this episode of Quest for Wisdom, we meet Neil Harbisson, the world’s first legally recognized cyborg! 

He’s got an antenna implanted in his skull that translates light – from the deep rumble of infrared to the searing intensity of ultraviolet – into a symphony of sound in his head. That means he can perceive a whole new world beyond human sight, even picking up the light frequencies from the NASA International Space Station. 

His projects, including a collaboration with the International Space Station to “hear” the light frequencies of space, demonstrate an ongoing quest to redefine sensory experience and artistic expression and he has given a TED talk about his project. His current project uses a heat source to orbit his skull once a day and aims to alter his perception of time, showcasing Neil’s dedication to pushing the boundaries of human perception and cognition. 

His cyborg identity not only redefines his sensory experience but also prompts a broader discussion on the future of human evolution, the ethics of biohacking, and the potential for new forms of sensory and cognitive enhancement. 

This episode with Neil Harbison invites listeners to contemplate the profound implications of human-technology integration. It challenges preconceived notions of ability and identity, encouraging a reevaluation of what it means to be human in an increasingly technologically intertwined world.  

Find more about Neil Harbisson here:


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Topics/Chapters Discussed in this Episode

  1. Neil Harbisson: The Cyborg Artist [00:00:00 – 00:02:52]
  2. Becoming a Cyborg [00:02:53 – 00:09:47]
  3. Color Perception and Artistic Expression [00:09:48 – 00:17:20]
  4. Collaboration with NASA International Space Station [00:17:21 – 00:23:00]
  5. Expanding Human Senses [00:23:01 – 00:28:00]
  6. Sensory Enhancement [00:28:01 – 00:39:10]
  7. Remote Connections, Bluetooth Teeth, and Bio-Battery [00:39:11 – 00:46:15]
  8. Neil Future Projects & Sensory Modification [00:46:16 – 01:12:35]

Resources Mentioned

Other insightful and inspiring resources mentioned in this podcast episode:

  • International Space Station (Nasa)
  • Moon Ribas – Spanish artist and cyborg activist best known for developing and implanting online seismic sensors in her feet that allow her to feel earthquakes through vibrations: https://www.cyborgarts.com/moon-ribas  
  • Manel de Aguas – Spanish cyborg artist and transspecies activist based in Barcelona, best known for developing and installing weather sensory fins in his head: https://www.cyborgarts.com/manel-de-aguas  
  • Pol Lombarte – Contemporary artist from Barcelona, ​​best known for selling his heartbeats as a work of art and for developing a new type of NFT linked to living bodies: https://www.cyborgarts.com/pol-lombarte  
  • Miguel Nicolelis – Brazilian Scientist 
  • Kevin Warwick – English Engineer 
  • Neuralink – American neurotechnology company that is developing implantable brain-computer interfaces. 

Insightful Quotes

  • “I respected that about you (Neil), that you were wanting to push the boundaries to test where they are, to test governments and to test the limits and to put these questions, which are sort of philosophical questions really, to put those out there.” – Conor Monaghan
  • “Everyone was talking about something I couldn’t see or understand. But it was just a mystery. It still is because color is a bit strange.” – Neil Harbisson
  • “Brain rejection, body rejection, and social rejection, these are the three main problems that one might face if they decide to merge with technology.” – Neil Harbisson 
  • “The most difficult part of the whole project is it was really difficult to find a doctor willing to drill my head. To convince a doctor to implant this (antenna) was very difficult.” – Neil Harbisson 

Thank You!

Thank you for listening to The Quest for Wisdom Podcast with your host Conor Monaghan. If you enjoyed the episode and would like to support the show then please like it, subscribe and leave a review on whichever platform you are using. This small act is a massive help and hugely appreciated.

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I would like to thank the Comedy Clubhouse in Barcelona for allowing us to record here and for their ongoing support. If you are ever in Barcelona make sure to check it out for daily shows of comedy and performance art in English.   

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