Kevin Warwick is Professor of Cybernetics at the University of Reading where he carries out research in artificial intelligence, control, robotics and biomedical engineering. Kevin took his first degree at Aston University, followed by a PhD and a research post at Imperial College, London. He subsequently held positions at Oxford, Newcastle and Warwick universities before being offered the Chair at Reading. He has been awarded higher doctorates (DScs) both by Imperial College and the Czech Academy of Sciences, Prague, as well as Honorary Doctorates from Aston and Coventry Universities. He was presented with The Future of Health Technology Award from MIT, was made an Honorary Member of the Academy of Sciences, St.Petersburg, and received The IEE Senior Achievement Medal in 2004. In 2000 Kevin presented the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures. He is perhaps best known for carrying out a pioneering set of experiments involving the implant of multi-electrodes into his nervous system. With this in place he carried out the world's first experiment involving electronic communication directly between the nervous systems of two humans.
In his forum paper, Prof. Kevin Warwick considers four different examples of how the use of implant technology is opening up the possibility of upgrading human abilities, particularly in terms of mental cognition. The main thrust is an overview of Prof. Warwick's own research, which led to him receiving a neural implant linking his nervous system bi-directionally with the internet. With this implant in place, neural signals were transmitted to various technological devices to directly control them, in some cases via the internet, and feedback to the brain was obtained from such stimuli as the fingertips of a robot hand, ultrasonic (extra-) sensory input and neural signals directly from another human's nervous system. A view is taken as to the prospects for the future, both in the short-term as a therapeutic device and in the long-term as a form of enhancement, including the realistic potential, in the near future, for thought communication – thereby opening up tremendous commercial potential. The therapy/enhancement dichotomy is considered here, as well as military and medical issues. Clearly though, an individual whose brain is part human/part machine can have abilities that far surpass those who remain with a human brain alone. Will such an individual exhibit different moral and ethical values to those of a human? If so, what effects might this have on society?