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Biohacked: becoming a cyborg for the BBC

Guess what? I’m a cyborg!

… yes, really. A few weeks before the end of 2018, I was filmed by the BBC having a microchip inserted into my left hand. This chip – an xNT NFC implant, specifically – means I can ‘communicate’ with any piece of tech which is ‘Near Field Communication’ (NFC) enabled. Cars, mobile devices, electric doors, my wireless router at home, you name it.

In short, I am a cyborg. And, thanks to the BBC, I’m a ‘famous’ one. Well, for all of 15 seconds I was.

Don’t believe me?

And, for the curious, here’s the video snippet. The full mini-documentary ‘Meet the Biohackers’ can be found on the iPlayer for a limited time, and on the BBC Global YouTube channel for all time. Click here if you fancy a watch.

BBC

While I like to think I styled it out pretty well (there was a camera pointed at my face, and a global audience of millions to impress)… yes. That hurt. 

This strange (and rather painful) event came to be because of a good friend of mine, who also features in the video as the person with the giant needle, needed a willing victim for demonstrative purposes. Jenova Rain is a professional and prolific body modification artist, who is also one of the UK’s leading experts on transhumanism, or ‘biohacking’. It was her the BBC were interested in for their ‘biohacking’ feature, but she needed a subject.

I’ve never been one to shy away from the camera, and I already have a number of – albeit much more traditional – ‘body mods’, so Jenova figured I’d be the ideal player for the gig. I took that to mean ‘attention fiend with a high pain threshold’ which is, of course, completely true. A few quick conversations with the lovely BBC journalist and presenter Catrin Nye later, and I was in.

The date was set, the deed was done, I didn’t scream. 

Well done me.

x-ray

(pictured: not my real hand, but that’s what it would look like if you were to x-ray it, which I now hope will happen, somehow)

Now, I’m sure you’re all wondering… why?

It’s a good question. And it does come with a better answer than ‘why not?’ although, I must confess, that is a small part of the answer. At least, for now.

The full answer is: ‘futureproofing’. With this completely rewritable chip, there are many things I could do. I could program it to unlock my phone, my front door (providing the lock was NFC enabled, which many electronic ones are) and even my car.

The latter, however, is a bit more complicated than I initially thought, so probably won’t be happening any time soon. It would involve me hacking into my car – there’s not much room for error there. It’s one thing ‘bricking’ a phone, it’s something else entirely when it’s your car at risk.

One day, once the question of permissions is sorted, NFC implants could be used as Oysters, and even for contactless payments. That’s what I am personally holding out for, unless I can find a master hacker to help me get into my car.

But, in the meantime, I have it linked up to my home Wi-Fi, so visitors can access it on their device by quickly bumping it against my hand. When I’m out and about, I have it linked up to my personal Instagram account to I can impress people at parties by demonstrating my exciting new cyborg powers.

NFC implants

By Raven Brookes - Content Marketer

"With this completely rewritable chip, there are many things I could do. I could program it to unlock my phone, my front door (providing the lock was NFC enabled, which many electronic ones are) and even my car."

Finding new and interesting ways to communicate is part of my job, after all. And as a card-carrying techie, it feels right that I am joining a small group of eccentrics in a bid to improve my body and make it more practical, and ready for a new level of automation.

This may sound extreme to you, but anyone who wears a fitness tracker, or has a contraceptive implant, is only a few small steps behind me. It is likely that chip implants will grow with popularity as the practicalities – such as contactless payments and swift city travel – grow. And once that day comes, I’ll be ready.

And no, before you ask, it can’t be used for sneaky surveillance (that’s what smart phones are for). NFC stands for ‘Near Field Communication’, which means you have to pretty much touch it for it to ‘read’ or be within a few centimetres at least. If anyone is getting close enough to touch their device to my hand, I will probably have an inkling they’re attempting to track me. Or at least follow me on Instagram.

Guess what…? I’m not a robot. But I am a cyborg.

Look at me mum!

P.S. If you happen to be interested in biohacking yourself, go to https://jenova-rain.com/biohacking/ Jen will sort you out.