See more clearly – and hear less – as a superhuman

Electronics raise human capabilities to a new level. For example, we will soon be equipped with eagle eyes and magnetic senses. And the richer people among us will simply be able to block out what they don’t like.

Beat Hochuli

Do you also sometimes think it would be nice to be a Cyborg? To stay yourself, but simply be better – much, much better? See more clearly, hear better, and sense magnetic fields like certain insects, birds and sharks can? Welcome to the realm of human enhancement technology! According to Yuval Noah Harari, history professor at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, we are all programmed to want to continuously improve our abilities. He is convinced that, in 200 years, Homo sapiens will in fact be a genetically modified and electronically enhanced Cyborg – a combination of organic and inorganic materials that will be, if not immortal, then at least extremely long-lived. However, according to the author of “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind”, only the rich will be able to enjoy the promise of becoming Cyborgs. Poor people, Harari pronounces, will simply die out.


Magnetic skin, ...

Perhaps this conclusion is a little simplistic. However, it is a fact that the field of human enhancement is being researched diligently. For example, German and Japanese scientists have developed a “magnetic skin” that allows the wearer to perceive static and dynamic magnetic fields. The sensor film, which is extremely thin at 1.5 micrometres and based on a polymer layer, allows contactless control of magnetic switches, for example by moving a hand, and thus opens up far-reaching perspectives with regard to the use of future wearable technology solutions.

“In 200 years, Homo sapiens will be a genetically modified and electronically enhanced Cyborg.”

Yuval Noah Harari, history professor at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem

... zoom lenses ...

The Swiss researchers at ETH Lausanne are concerned with visual capabilities. They have developed a contact lens with a zoom function that allows magnification by a ratio of 2.8 by winking the right eye. Currently, the lens requires an additional pair of glasses that uses a light sensor to distinguish intentional winking from simple blinking. The project was financed by the research department of the US military and was originally intended for soldiers in the field. However, the Lausanne-based researchers see great potential in the medical sector, in particular for the visually impaired.


... and acoustic filters

However, human enhancement technologies not only help us to feel more and see better, but also to hear less. Yes, you read that right – the motto of the California company Doppler Labs is: “The world is much too loud!” Here, a pair of intelligent earplugs that, when connected to an iPhone, regulate the volume and the high and low pitches of the acoustic environment, promises to provide help with the omnipresent acoustic environmental pollution. In addition – and this is Here’s real trick – annoying sounds can be filtered out, such as the screeching of underground trains or trams, but also the squealing and shouting of small children.

So, for those who can afford it, efforts are being made to ensure that technological human enhancement is rapidly moving forward – even if we won’t be able to gain the status of a complete, immortal Cyborg any time soon.

Beat Hochuli

is a freelance ICT journalist and lives in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia.