By Torie Bosch
Photo by Dan Wilton
This article arises from Future Tense, a partnership of Slate, the New America Foundation, and Arizona State University. On Feb. 28-March 2, Future Tense will be taking part in Emerge, an annual conference on ASU’s Tempe campus about what the future holds for humans. This year’s theme: the future of truth. Visit the Emerge website to learn more and to get your ticket.
At Emerge, Neil Harbisson will be discussing our cyborg future with Future Tense blogger Will Oremus and Frankenstein’s Cat author Emily Anthes. Harbisson was born without the ability to see color, but a device he calls his “eyeborg” allows him to now “hear” color. (He described this in a TED talk in 2012.) In an email interview below, which has been lightly edited, he talks about his life as a cyborg.
First, tell me a little about your “eyeborg.” What does it do for you?
Color is basically hue, saturation, and light. Right now, I can see light in shades of gray, but I can’t see its saturation or hue. The eyeborg detects the light’s hue, and converts it into a sound frequency that I can hear as a note. It also translates the saturation of the color into volume. So if it’s a vivid red, I will hear it more loudly.