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Jewish World Review May 25, 2001 / 3 Sivan, 5761

Lori Borgman

Lori Borgman
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Consumer Reports

Cyborgs for Better or Worse -- A BRITISH couple is putting their marriage to the ultimate test. No, they're not going on Oprah to discuss why he can only get his socks near the hamper but not actually in the hamper. And no, they're not going to link themselves together for some sleazy reality television show called Chain of Fools.

It's worse. Much worse. Kevin Warwick, a cybernetics professor, and his wife, Irena, are going to have silicon chips surgically implanted in their arms to see if Kevin can control Irena.

The plan goes like this: The chip implants will be connected to nerve fibers in both Kevin and Irena's arms. Kevin will move his fingers, whereupon his silicon chip will convert those nerve impulses into radio waves. The radio waves will beam to a computer that will re-transmit them to the chip in Irena. Theoretically, when Kevin's brain moves his fingers, his brain will be able to move Irena's fingers, too. In his wildest dreams, Kevin should be able to control his wife's movement by mere thought alone.

Calm down. It's all in the name of science. If it works, it could yield a huge payoff for people with spinal-cord injuries, which is why Kevin and Irena are eager to be the first Mr. and Mrs. Cyborg.

It's all very fascinating. I'm just wondering -- theoretically, of course -- if someone had the money to purchase such technology, exactly how much behavior could these chips control. Let's say that I have chips implanted into hubby and myself.

Naturally, I'll be the one beaming messages to the computer that controls him. There was no question about that. Right?

I think "take out the trash," and he leaves a baseball game on the tube in the seventh inning against his will. I think about the garage being cleaned, and he unexplainably puts down the newspaper, hustles to the garage and grabs the broom.

Or how's this? He's in some dreary meeting with a bunch of top dogs on a Friday afternoon. He abruptly excuses himself, walks to the telephone, makes dinner reservations for two at a classy restaurant and then orders flowers to be delivered to the house.

I don't know how far-reaching the technology is, but wouldn't it be something if it could control speech? At my suggestion, my husband would say: "Have you lost weight?" "Boy, you look good in those jeans." "Are you doing something different with your hair? I like short hair."

The entire world would know I am a monster when he spends Saturday morning cleaning out the attic and Saturday afternoon putting three years worth of pictures in the photo albums, alphabetizing my kitchen spices and addressing envelopes for next year's Christmas cards.

And wouldn't it be something if some Wednesday night about 9 he bolts off the couch and says, "Think I'll do five loads of laundry, maybe iron a half-dozen shirts and organize the linen closet. Wouldn't it be nice to have the towels stacked by color?"

Or, I'm picturing this: He crawls into bed, nudges me and says, "I'm not tired. Can we just talk? You know, talk about our relationship, life, the kids."

Of course, this all just goes to show that technology in the wrong hands can be a frightening thing. And truly, I'm ashamed for even thinking such thoughts. The mere idea that women could use this technology for their own personal gain is, well, disgusting.

Shall we start the bidding at $10,000? Do I hear $12,000?

JWR contributor Lori Borgman is the author of I Was a Better Mother Before I Had Kids. To comment, please click here.

05/18/01The death of Common Sense:

© 2001, Lori Borgman