In 1998, Kevin Warwick, a Professor of Cybernetics at Reading University, became the world's first cyborg. He doesn't want to become a robot; he wants to be a better human.
In 1998, Kevin Warwick, a Professor of Cybernetics at Reading University, became the world's first cyborg. Well, to be exact, he had a radio frequency ID implanted in his arm. As a result, he can turn on lights by snapping his fingers; once he let his wife's brain waves take control of his body (she's also cybernetic).
This isn't just for fun: Warwick is certain that without upgrading, humans will someday fall behind the advances of the robots they're building – or worse. "Someday we'll switch on that machine, and we won't be able to switch it off." That might explain why he has very little technology at home, and counts The Terminator among his biggest influences. He doesn't want to become a robot; he wants to be a better human.
Augmenting human ability, not transforming into an automaton, is, after all, the basis of the "cyborg." One of the earliest uses of the term was by scientists Manfred E. Clynes and Nathan S. Kline in 1960, when describing their idea of an enhanced human being who could survive in extraterrestrial environments:
For the exogenously extended organizational complex functioning as an integrated homeostatic system unconsciously, we propose the term 'Cyborg'.
The Oxford English Dictionary lists a previous use, five months earlier in The New York Times: "A cyborg is essentially a man-machine system in which the control mechanisms of the human portion are modified externally by drugs or regulatory devices so that the being can live in an environment different from the normal one."
Does that make Warwick the first cyborg? There's also Steve Mann (who we also made a documentary about). We'll let you make up your (terribly feeble, non-cybernetic) mind on that one.