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How Far Are We From a Cyberpunk Reality?

Cybernetic implants are almost a reality — but are we ready for them?


How often have you watched a character with a robotic arm rip open a heavy door, or switch to thermal imaging to identify a hard-to-spot target? Many sci-fi movies and TV shows have more than a little fascination with humanity’s desire to upgrade itself using tech. We, as a species, have always looked for ways our tech can help us reach new heights, and while that’s allowed for projects like spaceflight, water filtration, air travel, and so much more, we’re also always ready to look inward for ways we can improve our physical selves.

Think about it — false eyes, replacement teeth, metal plating to help bones stay together. Implants have been a part of our day-to-day lives for decades, so what’s next?

It appears the future is cybernetic, and while we’re still some way off a Cyberpunk 2077-esque world of back alley “RipperDocs’” that can swap your ribcage for a titanium alternative, there are a lot of realistic avenues to get there — and not all of them are safe.

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Here’s why cybernetic implants are closer to reality than you think, and why we need to be careful with them.

The state of play

While it may seem like a far-flung idea to implant microchips and the like into one’s body, it’s already happening in some corners of society.

In fact, thousands in Sweden already have them in their hands or fingers, giving a new meaning to tech at one’s fingertips, while scannable tattoos are also now triggering streaming services to play songs when scanned.

It’s all there, albeit on a relatively small scale, but a survey by tidio.com has revealed what  people (at least those sampled) are really after.

Healthcare takes the top spot with an implant that can improve the diagnosis of health issues, but other big items on the implant wishlist are cybernetic eyes capable of recording imagea and a way to beam them straight to your brain.

These are things with practical applications, and potentially dubious ethical ones, too. But what of the cosmetic potential of such experimentation?

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Cosmetic surgery is pretty common in today’s world for a variety of reasons –- a post-weight loss tummy tuck, lip filler, even eyebrow tattoos. But what about UV tattoos that glow in the dark? Or new bionic biceps that can grow bigger with the press of a button?

The potential is seemingly endless, and according to the same survey, younger users are much more keen on the idea. Indeed, those raised with the experience of building small computers like Raspberry Pi are even more open to injecting their own chips.

Firmware upgrade

Arguably the most well-known company making headway in this space is Elon Musk’s Neuralink.

The controversial Twitter/X-owner’s company began in 2016 but has now received regulatory approval for clinical trials on its brain-computer interface, the Link. Musk has pointed to the device beginning life as a way to help users battle conditions like paralysis or mental health issues, then moving into something more people will look to install, linking up with computers and AI. Musk says it could even act as a kind of system backup

It’s a bold claim, but many are naturally pointing to his erratic handling of the social media platform as a reason to mistrust Neuralink’s ability to plug something into your brain. In fact, Musk reportedly demanded a cameo in the videogame Cyberpunk 2077, itself now a cultural touchstone on the potential and pitfalls of body modification –- and was turned down.


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Naturally, all of this raises plenty of ethical concerns, not just about Neuralink but the idea of cybernetics as a whole.

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Considering the understandable concerns about bodycam footage of police forces around the world, and the constant scrutiny of it, imagine the privacy and legal ramifications of having eyeballs that continually record what they see–- can you gain consent from someone to feature in recordings? It’s a legal minefield.

There are also security concerns. Your home Wi-Fi right now could be connected to computers, TVs, and smart home assistants with access to your locks, electrical sockets, and more. Imagine that kind of access to your locally stored visual feeds or even your internal organs –- it doesn’t take a cybernetics expert to see the damage a potential hack or simple compatibility issue could do.

And then there’s the medical side of things. We’re likely already seeing much of the ‘”ow-level” modifications like the microchip implants being done by non-medical professionals, raising concerns about safety and cleanliness. These bodyhacks might be considered small procedures, but as we start putting chips in brains there surely has to be some kind of medical oversight one would hope extends further than an owner’s manual.

Plenty of questions need to be answered before that time comes, but cybernetic implants feel like an inevitable outcome at our current pace of innovation.

Here’s hoping they’re given some due diligence.



Lloyd Coombes is an established freelance writer specializing in consumer tech and fitness. He’s also Editor-in-Chief of GGRecon, and when he’s not writing, you’ll find him at the gym.

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