Blurring the line between human and machine: Meet Lindy, a Canadian cyborg

Lindy Wilkins identifies as a cyborg. "Let's say if you were to take me and put me on a USB stick I would be just as happy in a robot body.”
Lindy Wilkins identifies as a cyborg (Mallika Viegas/CBC)
Listen11:47

A Canadian cyborg and artist believes integrating technology into our body is inevitable, and anyone who owns a smartphone is already heading down that path.

Lindy Wilkins is no RoboCop, but the Torontonian hopes to integrate cybernetic sensors into their body as the technology becomes more accessible.

"For me this is a lot about exploration and curiosity and, you know, creating prosthetics for the human body," says Wilkins.  "I don't necessarily mean prosthetics in this sense of like replacing limbs. I just mean like extensions of being."

Wilkins has started on that path by implanting a magnet in one of their hands and a near field communication (NFC) chip into the other.

A nail attaches itself to a magnetic implant in Lindy Wilkins' hand. (Mallika Viegas/CBC)

A cyborg is often depicted in film and books as a messy merger of humans with machine parts. The term refers to any being with integrated technological components that aren't purely prosthetic. For example, a person with a pacemaker isn't a usually considered a cyborg, but a person with the ability to see in ultraviolet light or detect electromagnetic waves would be.

Wilkins' NFC chip is programmable, and Lindy can set it to assist with whatever task most useful at the time. For a time, it acted as a business card, and when swiped in front of a smartphone, it would pull up Wilkin's website.

The chip could open doors, like an access card, or be used like a credit card. Some people have used theirs to access public transit or to store their bitcoin.

Next on the list for Lindy is the North Sense, a device that rests on chest piercings and allows the wearer to detect where north is through subtle, rolling vibrations.

"The idea is that after a while you stop thinking of it like, 'Oh this is north' and you just know where north is," says Wilkins.

Lindy Wilkins speaks to CBC producer Arman Aghbali. (Rosie Fernandez/CBC)

The goal with implanting sensors is that eventually the user forgets it's even there. The new sense becomes part of their perception of the world.

"If you had to pick out every single quality or every single sense that you're feeling right now it would be a bit of a challenge to require some active reflection," says Wilkins.

Wilkins' personal goal with these implants is exploration, and to see how far they can go with new and interesting abilities. Wilkins lives with a severe visual impairment but rejects the idea that their eyes need to be fixed by technology.

"I would feel very confused if all of a sudden I could see everything."

Wilkins believes we're all becoming more cyborg-like with time. Smartphones, for instance, have become a integral part of our lives.

As for Lindy, they plan to keep experimenting.

"I care about it because I think it's interesting....because I think it's important on some level of humanity."

Click LISTEN above to hear how their body rejected an implant but why Lindy plans to continue.