Scenes of piercing are show below but No Blood or Gore is shown in this blog or any of the accompanying videos,
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Life as a Cyborg - Day 0 - Implantation << You Are Here
It was the 22nd of April 2017 15:00, my phone lights up with facebook notifications, change of plan, it’s GO time.
My partner and I change out of our casual clothes into something a bit more presentable, grab my camera, with a shade of cowardice I pop a few painkillers in the hope to defend against some of the perceived (but false) impending pain.
What I didn’t know is that I would be introduced to my new cyborg family and our joint 2nd birthday, 22/04/17.
We were not to become Human 2.0 but something closer to Human 1.2.
This is not a work of fiction, on the 22nd of April 2017 my partner and I got dressed and jumped into my car to attend a so-called #implantParty where we were implanted with a Dangerous Things xNT NFC chip.
Leeds International Festival, a tech and art festival in the North of England, had invited Hannes Sjob (@hsjob) and Keren Elazari (@k3r3n3) to fly in from Israel and Sweden respectively. They flew from their own countries to give a talk on Biohacking, Cyberpunk & Hacker Culture.
I had known of this talk was for me since the first week it was announced, I, like Keren was massively influenced by 1995′s “Hackers”, “Ghost in the Shell” and 1999′s turn of the millennium western cyberpunk classic, “The Matrix”.
From the moment I heard this talk was going ahead, I booked tickets. On the booking page, there was one line that blew my mind:
“If you’re brave enough, you’re able at the event to get a live chip implant onstage too.”
I had watched the Vice documentary about Dangerous Things:
The Man Biohacking Encryption From His Garage
I had watched Keren’s Ted Talk:
Hackers: The internets Immune system
I had just finished rewatching Ghost in the Shell and reading the manga in anticipation of the Scarlett Johansson’s remake.
I was ready to join Major Kusanagi.
I bought tickets for my partner, knowing what and opportunity this was I proceeded to assault the Facebook and Twitter feed of the organisers trying to find a method of signing up to get what would have been a $100~ implant for free, zero, zilch, without shipping, import tax, even without having to pay a piercer or a private medic to “install” it in a safe manner.
I heard nothing.
The day before the event I read a post on social media, from one of the lovely organisers, that the chipset WOULD be xNT NFC model from Dangerous Things in the USA.
I got butterflies at hearing this, I knew of their pride in their products, their high standard of construction, their extensive (if a bit ghetto) testing procedures including Amal (the owner of Dangerous Things) having the first model he produced implanted in his hand for 11 years and counting.
On top of this, the NFC model was the one I wanted for two reasons:
1) I have a Google Pixel phone with an NFC reader, I could use this to hand out my business card in a futuristic technical manner.
2) The 13.56MHz frequency is what my current hackspace card registers at,
TL;DR I COULD USE IT TO GET IN AND OUT OF DOORS WITHOUT KEYS!
- xNT tag – 13.56MHz ISO14443A & NFC Type 2 NTAG216 chip
- 2x12mm cylindrical sterile biocompatible implant package
- ISO14443A – compatible with all ISO14443A RFID systems
- Fully NFC Type 2 compliant – compatible with all NFC devices
The day of the event rolls around, I get up, have lunch and wait nervously for 18:00 to roll around so that I can head to the University of Leeds lecture hall, watch two amazing speakers and, presumably, thrust my hand in the air and hope to be selected as one of the few people who could get implanted as my wonderful partner waves on from the stands.
.. now.. some of you may have noticed my time discrepancies above, that is because it did not unfold as such:
Sat waiting for 18:00 to roll around, we eat and as it hits about 15:00 my phone lights up as if all the posts on the event page I had made over the past month had been replied to... it turns out they had:
“Hey folks! Due to complications with the venue, we're unable to do the piercings there BUT DONT WORRY as we are still able to do them but before the event. 10 places are available”
Followed by instructions that it would happen at 16:30 in the north of the city at a well-known piercing parlour.
I had a Sherlock Holmes out of body moment as I planned our route from the south to the north of the city, what to wear, logistics of keeping my hands clean, messaged a fellow Leeds Hackspace member about the change of plan, I threw a dress at my partner and ran into the shower... Let's do this!
I had spent enough time thinking about infection, my family history of auto-immune diseases, not getting tattoos or piercings.
If I trusted anyone to implant me with a sterile microchip the size of a grain of rice, it would be these speakers, this brand, this event and this studio. It felt like the metaphorical moons had aligned.
This year I am 30 years old and had an experience with a severe spinal injury that really made me think about how safe I have been playing life so far, I could be run over by a bus tomorrow or become paralyzed, so let’s do something a bit dangerous for the progress of science and my cyborg street cred.
16:30, I step into Rude Studios in Leeds, I scan around the room, 5 people, MADE IT!
One, I know, the others I do not, but they will become part of my Cyborg Family and share in an experience I never thought I would have.
After a quick chat with Hannes, fresh off his flight from Sweden, we sign a consent form, get a quick briefing and are directed into the piercing room, where we meet Luke, the first man to stab me, just a little bit, FOR SCIENCE!
(Photo Credit Ben Bentley)
Luke, wearing nitrile gloves, sterilises his work surface, lays fresh paper down and asks which hand I would like my implant in, as I am right handed I opt for my left hand
Luke mentally finds the trapezium and trapezoid bones where the metacarpal bones of my thumb and index finger meet.
Next he finds the first proximal interphalangeal joint (first knuckle) of the index finger, then halves the distance between the bottom of that joint and the top of my carpometacarpal joint. Then taking a biosafe pen, marks the insertion point.
This point is chosen because:
1) low risk of damaging major radial and median nerves
2) low risk of damaging major blood vessels
3) low risk of damaging tendons or their synovial sheaths
4) plenty of soft tissue to help absorb blunt force impacts
5) good distance from bones to avoid pinching and crushing
Once this is has been marked, he opens the sterile package containing the sterile NFC implant within a sealed injector, gauze and importantly sterile gloves.
Lukes professionalism and hygiene best practices show as I notice him move from the standard piercing and tattoo gloves to the sterile gloves included in the implantation kit.
The nitrile gloves protect him from any biohazard coming from the person that is being implanted or tattooed, whereas the sterile gloves protect me from infection as he breaks my skin with the needle.
Big breath in.
Slow breath out.
My cowardice is unfounded, the implantation is no worse than any time I have had blood drawn at the doctors, just a little bit more of a sting.
I am now a cyborg.
A piece of technology is now part of my body, working to compliment my other features.
This is an upgrade of choice, I am Human 1.2, unlike people I like to class as Human 1.1, upgraded by doctors to help fix defects such as pacemakers, insulin pumps.
I am lucky to have been able to choose my upgrade and it that my upgrade be purely for scientific interest and life improvement rather than forced life extension.
I get a sticky plaster and the proverbial lollipop for good behaviour.
Luke looks to my partner Holly and says “Next!”, motioning for her to sit down. Wires had been crossed, she had not intended to be next, never mind be anything but a supportive partner (and very good looking camera stand).
She grabs hold of the moment, she asks if there is enough for everyone... and within 2 minutes ...
WE are cyborgs.
We step into the waiting room where Hannes is waiting to give us a lesson on programming our NFC chips.
I type HELLO WORLD. /Write
We step out onto the streets of Leeds new, upgraded and excited with the possibilities ahead.
I will be documenting our ongoing adventures in cyborg in a series of Blogs and Vlogs.
Make sure you subscribe to my e14 account and Youtube channel to hear more, also more technical nitty gritty experimentation to follow!