Friday, September 14, 2012

"Hearing Color" guy an advocate for Cyborgs

This was both interesting and annoying:

I listen to color
(CNN) -- I come from a place where the sky is always grey, where flowers are always grey, and where television is still in black and white.

I actually come from a world where color doesn't exist; I was born with achromatopsia, I was born completely colorblind. So I've never seen color, and don't know what it looks like. But since the age of 21, I can hear color.

In 2003, after studying fine arts and while studying music at Dartington College of Arts in England, I began a project with computer scientist Adam Montandon with the aim of extending my senses. The result, with further collaborations with Peter Kese and Matias Lizana, is an electronic eye: a color sensor between my eyes connected to a chip installed at the back of my head that transforms color frequencies into sound frequencies that I hear through my bone.

I've had the electronic eye permanently attached to my head and I've been listening to colors nonstop since 2004. So I find it completely normal now to hear colors all the time. At first, I had to memorize the sound of each color, but after some time this information became subliminal, I didn't have to think about the notes, color became a perception. And after some months, color became a feeling. I started to have favorite colors and I started to dream in color.

When I started to hear colors in my dreams, I noticed that my brain and the software had united and given me a new sense. My brain was creating electronic sounds in my dreams, not the device. That was the point when I started to feel no difference between the software and my brain: The cybernetic device had become an extension of my brain -- an extension of my senses. I started to feel like a cyborg: The cybernetic eye was no longer a device but a part of my body.

After some time it even became a part of my official image. You are not allowed to appear with any electronic equipment on the UK passport photo, but I insisted that what they were seeing was not a piece of electronic equipment but a new part of my body.

Since I started to hear color, my life has changed dramatically. Art galleries have become concert halls; I can hear a Picasso or a Rothko or an Andy Warhol. And supermarkets have become like night clubs. I love how they sound, especially the aisles with cleaning products. [...]

It's gets even more interesting - annoying - weird as it goes on. He ends up advocating cyborgism for the masses.

It's not that long, and worth reading the rest. It's interesting, but also annoying, because, well. It's like this.

I see plenty of people in life who haven't seemed quite able to manage even the five senses they do have.

Now here is this guy claiming he can "hear" color. Perhaps he has learned to identify what we call color, with sounds. But he is still NOT experiencing actual color; he's experiencing sound.

Some of the comments after the article, note that he does not seem too aware of how color affects people who can actually see it; color to him is sound and therefor "feeling". Thus, he can wear bright colors to a funeral because it matches his feelings, without understanding what it looks like to people who judge colors by how they look.

Anway. I don't say that it's right or wrong. But is sure is different. And perhaps inevitable in the Brave New World that is coming with technological advances.

I'm just concerned that, if everyone starts "augmenting their senses" like this, that we might collectively be moving farther and farther from reality, lost in a technological fantasy.

It's fine to reach for the stars, as long as you also remember and know how to keep your feet on the ground, when you need to.

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