Britain's "cyborg scientist" spreads cyber-gospel
SINGAPORE (AP) - Humans will increasingly embed technology into their bodies, bringing Hollywood-style cyborgs closer to reality, says a British robotics expert.
Kevin Warwick, 49, the first man to implant himself with a microchip that tracked his whereabouts and allowed him to communicate with a remote computer, is traveling across Asia on a British government-sponsored tour aimed at promoting robotics education at all levels.
Warwick hopes his research will someday assist the physically impaired, help parents make sure their children are safe, and allow people to solve complex mathematical problems at computer speeds.
"I am excited about the possibility of man merging with machines and us becoming super intelligent beings,'' said Warwick, who teaches cybernetics at Britain's Reading University.
Becoming like Keanu Reaves' character "Neo'' from the "The Matrix'' and Arnold Schwarzenegger's killer cyborg in the "Terminator'' trilogy is close to becoming possible, Warwick told a group of 300 enthralled schoolchildren in Singapore on Monday.
His next appearance will be at the Universiti of Teknologi Malaysia in Johor on Thursday.
Demonstrating his collection of robots, Warwick predicted that in the future people will harness technology to evolve into beings whose brains will work in concert with computers.
Students shrieked as a video showed his bleeding left arm after surgeons fed wires through it in August 1998.
They clapped and cheered when they saw footage of the scientist opening doors and switched on lights with a flick of his finger days after the operation.
He removed the wires after concluding nine days of experiments. However, last year he inserted a new implant, resembling a tiny brush, into the nerve endings in his left wrist, he said.
A similar device was attached to his wife's wrist. The microchips were removed three months later.
The implants grew into the tissue and were difficult to remove, he said. Neither he or his wife suffered any infections.
Warwick's experiments attracted the interest of British parents' groups who view his microchip implants as a way of monitoring their children's whereabouts following a series of highly publicised kidnappings.
"Parents were concerned about abductions in the UK. The device would be able to track down missing children,'' said Warwick.
However, the physically impaired could benefit the most from new technology, Warwick said.
"Like bats, the blind will be able to sense objects around them, using ultrasonic sensors, and people with spine injuries or multiple sclerosis will have implants to help them move ... wheelchairs can be driven by using brain signals,'' Warwick said.
Within 10 to 15 years microchips planted in the brain will pave the way for speechless communication, Warwick said.
"In future, man will communicate with one another simply by thinking,'' said Warwick, who is planning to have a microchip in his brain when he turns 60. - AP