Still, he’s not just interested in healing the sick. Warwick hopes the technology he’s developing will upgrade man’s capacity to do pretty much anything. “Being linked to another person’s nervous system opens up a whole world of possibilities,” he muses. “Thought communication instead of cell phones, for example. And as for anatomical enhancement…”
One thing is certain: Warwick’s media-friendly, sky’s-the-limit approach to cybernetics has made him an influential figure. Although skeptics claim that Project Cyborg is more about self-promotion than pioneering science, it remains a case study for science classes at Harvard, Stanford, and MIT. Some of the world’s most innovative creative voices have seen potential in his work too. Both Stanley Kubrick (for his uncompleted A.I.) and David Cronenberg (while making the 1999 film eXistenZ) were influenced by Warwick’s fusion of man with machine; and Chris Cunningham’s sublime 1999 video for Björk’s track All Is Full of Love was a wink to the professor’s cybernetic explorations—it featured two cyborgs passionately embracing. In the realm of fashion, Hussein Chalayan acknowledged cyborg technology during his memorable spring-summer 2007 show, in which six robotic dresses reconfigured themselves of their own accord using embedded technology and smart wires.
Only time will tell if Warwick’s vision of a cyborg community will become a reality. In the meantime, he is about to unveil his most advanced specimen to date: a robot that will be operated by an implanted human brain grown from neurons. “It’ll end up having about 30 million brain cells, and will be able to teach itself new skills every day,” he maintains. He’s also initiating the third phase of Project Cyborg, which involves embedding a more elaborate chip directly into his brain. “In my lifetime,” he concludes, “the things I’m researching will definitely end up becoming commercial products. I’m half expecting Steve Jobs to call up tomorrow to discuss developing cell phones or computers within the brain. It’s only a matter of time.”