Cyborg rights: law and society must allow us to modify ourselves


Yesterday I was interviewed live on the ABC National News on the case of Meow-Ludo Disco Gamma Meow-Meow, who had just been convicted for paying for his bus ride using an implanted chip instead of a standard bus card.

Below is the segment, running through the court case and conviction, followed by a 4 minute interview with me on the implications.

Meow-Ludo’s conviction wasn’t for not paying; he paid for his bus ride. For some reason the government authorities chose to prosecute him for paying with a chip implanted in his arm. They were legally in their rights as their terms and conditions stated that the cards couldn’t be modified or tampered with.

This is a threshold case.

The utility of using an implanted chip rather a card to pay for your bus ride is frankly minimal, even though Meow-Ludo says he did it for the convenience.

However soon there will be other ways in which we choose to modify ourselves which have greater utility, and thus a lot broader appeal.

A number of physically disabled people are have for some years been using brain implants such as Braingate to communicate and control their environment in entirely new ways.

There are risks and costs to this procedure which mean that only disabled people would choose to have these implants.

However before long we will have brain implants that have sufficient utility for healthy people to choose to have them.

An increasing number will choose to modify themselves in order to enhance their performance, potentially with advantages in the workforce.

Others will choose to remain unmodified.

As individuals we absolutely should have the right to modify ourselves if it doesn’t have a negative impact on anyone else.

Today the most important issue in human modification is enhancing ourselves with technology, becoming what today are called cyborgs, but will soon be understood as modified humans.

Personal gene-editing is a slightly different situation, as there could potentially be impact on offspring and others, though the basic issues are the same.

The very odd law case convicting Meow-Ludo yesterday showed not only that the law is not keeping pace with technology, but today’s laws can be used to stop human modifying themselves in ways that do no harm to others.

We very simply need both laws and social attitudes that do not impede what some – though certainly not all – humans see as a natural step forward, and an expression of their fundamental individual rights.