Interview with a real-life Cyborg
Doctor Kevin Warwick is an author, engineer, and all-round cyber guru. He’s well-placed to understand the concepts behind the latest Keanu Reeves sci-fi flick, Replicas – because Dr. Warwick has had several cybernetic implants himself. We spoke to him, to find out what it is like to be a cyborg.
Q: What is cybernetics being used for at the moment?
A: In terms of therapy there’s quite a bit happened. Looking at people with cochlea implants for instance, there are thousands and thousands. The last implant I had – the brain gate – has been used for four different people who are paralysed from the neck down. It allows them to control robotic hands, one woman has been able to feed herself. But it’s mostly happening in the US.
Q: How does it feel to have an implant?
A: It felt like me. Your brain adapts. I controlled a robot hand: I was in New York and the hand was in Reading but it felt like me, like I had another hand. When it was gripping an object I could feel the pressure. It didn’t feel weird. Where it did feel strange was when I thought about it afterwards and you started to think ‘wow’.
Q: You’ve spoke in the past about cybernetics being needed to help us compete with the dangers of advanced AI, is that how you still feel?
A: Alan Turing said ‘what is machine intelligence? It’s something that’s quite different than human intelligence’. That was the point they made in The Terminator, ‘you can’t bargain with it’ – it thinks differently to humans. Things have gone even faster than I thought they would in terms of AI. You’ve had people like Elon Musk and Steven Hawking talking about the things I was saying in the late 90s, which is that AI could be dangerous if we go in the wrong direction with it.
Q: What could the ultimate evolution of this tech look like?
A: Cures for Alzheimer’s – there’s a number of possibilities on that, but also the direct communication of thoughts. What we are – fundamentally – is a brain and a spinal column, and a lot of the reason we die is because something happens to our body, which is just there to carry our brain around. We might have robot bodies in the future. We should be doing more research into keeping our brains alive outside our bodies because then we don’t even need to worry about things like cancer, because we won’t have bodies.
From the producers of Passengers & Transformers, Replicas sees daring neuroscientist Will Foster (Keanu Reeves) on the verge of successfully transferring human consciousness into a robot when his family is tragically killed in a car crash. Not wanting to say goodbye to his wife (Alice Eve) and three children, Will recruits his colleague Ed (Thomas Middleditch) on an audacious mission to preserve their minds and transfer them into secretly-grown clone bodies. It’s available from Lionsgate Home Entertainment on digital download and Blu-Ray today.