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Captain Cyborg: I'm embarrassed to speak

Not as embarrassed as we are to hear you, Kev

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Ladies and gentlemen, disassociate your brain, suspend your rationality and lie back because Captain Cyborg is back and this time he's... well, he's... talking the same garbage he always does.

Popping up on the Science at Nine programme on Radio 4, Professor Kevin Warwick of Reading University regaled us with tales from the darkest recesses of his mind. To be fair to Radio 4, Kev was just one of a string of fruitcakes, "visionaries" and real scientists that were giving their views in the second and final edition of Flesh & Chips. They did give him the sign-off though.

Sue Nelson introduced The Captain by explaining that he had turned himself - albeit temporarily - into a cyborg. He had implanted a chip that allowed sensors to pick him his presence and do things like turn on lights and open doors. This "modest but crucial" step [of putting a location detector under several millimetres of skin] shows how technology and the human nervous system can communicate. Will this lead to minds and memories being loaded onto companies?

Will it buggery. At least not if Kev has anything to do with it. Give Sue her due, her first comment to Prof Warwick was: "You say you're producing a chip that will relay signals from your nervous system to and from a computer but all I can see are some six-inch square circuit boards." Ah, poor disbelieving Sue Nelson, surely she must see that even though Kevin has been harping on about this new chip since August last year, such revolutionary technology takes time. As does writing and promoting books on the back of worthless experiments and sci-fi fantasies portrayed as scientific possibilities.

Kev has never actually said when he expects this new chip experiment to take place, but we have cut it down to "this year". Anyway back to the "prototype". As he explained to Radio 4, the mess of wires and circuit boards is just a breadboard set up - they want to get it exactly right before sending it off to get miniaturised (sounds so plausible, doesn't it?).

Then the magic chip will record sensory and motor signals from Captain Cyborg and "the hope is" that this information can be recorded and replayed. Move a finger, record the signal, replay it and the finger will move without the person consciously making it move. But the true genius of Kev Warwick is that he's not happy with just experiments that he hasn't even attempted and that will never work. No, before he even gets the first bit of data he's off into the future possibilities.

"If we can recreate pain then maybe we can counteract it. With rheumatism or arthritis for example, we could insert a chip to counteract the pain," he said in his uniquely nasal accent.

Then there was the guff about his wife also getting an implant and how this would be a great form of communication - even telepathy! Blah blah blah.

The end of the programme was a treat though and featured some classic Warwick, thinking on his feet. "But Professor Kevin Warwick is prepared to defend our right to remain fully human," said Sue. Hello. Interesting.

Talking about his revolutionary idea of communication, he said: "For example, speech for humans - I'm embarrassed almost to communicate in this fashion - it's really slow and allows for loads of errors. With technology you can communicate in parallel. If you can do it like this, I want some of that - it's so powerful.

"But if someone does not want that, it's their choice. But without it they would be like chimpanzees, like a sub-species, they will be left behind. This enhancement will take us to a different plain and this step up will step us up to a different evolutionary setup."

Genius.

By the way, if Prof Warwick wants to get in touch and actually explain how on earth his system is supposed to work, we will be only too pleased to revise all the bad things we've said about him. Also, we would be delighted to come along as observers to this amazing experiment if and when it ever happens. ®

A graphic voyage of Kev's career

Kevin Warwick: a life in pictures

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