Father of the Cyborgs review – the Indiana Jones of neuroscience

Dr Phil Kennedy is regarded by many as the Indiana Jones of neuroscience: a Limerick-born doctor who became a bioengineering trailblazer, making people excited – and then nervous – by the way he worked outside the system. Then finally, sensationally, he experimented on himself by having an electrode implanted inside his brain in a Belize clinic that specialises in medical tourism.

Kennedy did this to measure the ways in which brainwaves can be harnessed to external computing capacity, helping people with locked-in syndrome or ALS, por ejemplo, although what was specifically achieved by implant surgery on himself isn’t clear. This brief documentary is a partial introduction to the man and his work and it seeks to rescue Kennedy from his wacky reputation, to downplay the maverick side of his personality (there is no mention of his self-published sci-fi novel called 2051) and it doesn’t dwell on the fact that Kennedy is now regarded as somewhat eccentric by mainstream neuroscientists – although disruptors, pioneers and original thinkers are very often people just like him.

This film about him provides food for thought, aunque: authors such as Mark O’Connell are interviewed about the prospects for techno-homo sapiens, a transhuman evolutionary phase in which human beings become, effectively, wedded to computers. “Cellphones inside our heads”, is how someone imagines the future. So there are two implications: for sick people with ALS whose lives can be made better, and perfectly healthy people whose lives can be made … what? Even better? Superhuman? Or less than human? Dangerously dependent for outsourced memory and cognitive capacity on computers which could go wrong?

Bien, Kennedy says these ideas are here to stay. He’s right.

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