In BriefNeil Harbisson was born with a unique condition where he cannot discern any colors whatsoever. He lives his life in a perpetual black and white movie. However, he has worked with developers to create an antenna augmentation that allows him the ability to hear color.
Perhaps you’ve heard the saying “there’s no black and white, only shades of gray.” That, of course, can be interpreted in a number of different ways, but most would agree that it pertains to morality above all else. Unfortunately, for others—such as Neil Harbisson—it can be taken quite literally.
Harbisson was born with a condition called achromatopsia (achromatism??), which is characterized by complete and total color-blindness. It essentially means he doesn’t see an iota of color—only shades of gray.
While extremely rare, he is not alone. An estimated 1 in 30,000 people (roughly 0.0033% of the population) are impacted. He is, however, proof that, as long as the human spirit remains intact, there will be individuals who refuse to accept the hand fate dealt them.
You see, thanks to an experimental antenna implanted into his brain back in 2004, Harbisson can not only “see” color, but he also has the distinction of being the first cyborg ever recognized by the government.
His story is totally fascinating, really. As is the implant itself—called the eyeborg—and all of the other things it allows him to do. The short documentary below talks about its capabilities, how it works, and how other people have responded. His perspective on life, the implant and technology is refreshing as well.