Being Cyborg Hack Chat Transcript

A event log for Being Cyborg Hack Chat

Lindy Wilkins joins us to discuss what being Cyborg means, living with implants, and more.

ShaynaShayna 01/26/2018 at 20:130 Comments

Jordan Bunker : Hey everyone! Today our chat will be hosted by @Lindy!

Jordan Bunker : @Lindy, do you mind giving folks a quick introduction?

Lindy : I am a technologist, educator and cyborg enthusiast. I'm a "whimsical robotics" and wearable tech professor in Toronto, and I co-run a small hardware/weird technologies/events startup called Little Dada.

Jordan Bunker : also: we'll be pulling questions from the comments section of the Being Cyborg page here:

Jordan Bunker : Awesome! What does being a cyborg enthusiast mean to you?

Lindy : Well. A lot of things. from an academic standpoint it is a way of thinking about our relationship to technology and the world, and how that is changing. But from another perspective, its about what kinds of technology I can co-exist with inside my body.

matt : @Lindy What RFID/NFC implant do you recommend? I already have a 125khz dog tag in my left hand.

Lindy : @matt I have a xNT NFC [NTAG216] from Dangerous Things. It does everything I want it to do and I've never had any issues with it.

matt : @Lindy thanks

Vicarious : I recommend the flexNT, it contains the same tag as xNT but with a larger coil, providing a better magnetic coupling, better reading distance

Jordan Bunker : We have a question from @Shayna: What first inspired your interest in biohacking? What have your favorite projects been so far?

Lindy : I was first interested in bio hacking from a body modification perspective. I have always been interested in piercings and tattoos, and this seemed like a logical extension. I was first drawn in by the magnetic implants because it seemed so otherworldly. Like something I could never do without the implant.

Shayna : cool!

Lindy : My fav project so far is probably the North Sense. I feel like it has the most potential to start thinking of things living symbiotically with the body rather then just stuffed inside or wrapped around.

Jordan Bunker : what sort of things can people do with implanted magnets?

Jarrett : Lift stuff up, trigger magnetic switches (for custom locks and such), but more importantly, _feel current_ going through wires

Jarrett : I like my magnet :)

Vicarious : :)

Lindy : The thing I use mine for mostly is a party trick. I have a friend who has one too, we pass bottle caps back and forth. I know its not the exciting cyborg future we all imagined, but its really how it gets used mostly. I have also used it to fix electronics periodically, hold needles while sewing ext.

James : @Lindy Ive been intrigued by e-tattoos (circuitry on/in the skin) and i was just wondering what methods there are for doing it in and on the skin?

Lindy : I would be extremely hesitant for that. I have a significant portion of my body tattoo and I love tattoos, but the skin is very picky and I would need to see a lot more data. Even natural inks can cause reactions.

Jordan Bunker : Next couple questions from @DL101 and @Jarrett: What are the newest tech in cyber community? Other than magnets, is there anything coming into the market that can "extend the senses"?

David : I've heard of electricians who had magnets and avoided serious injury or death because they could feel that a wire was live before touching it

Jarrett : So: I used to work in telecomm, and I could identify live power lines

Jarrett : so yeah, it was super useful, and helped me with my job

Thomas Shaddack : random thought re the e-tattoos. what about conventional nfc chips, but the coils themselves realized as tattoo? would make the flex series implants much less unpleasant to insert.

matt : @Lindy have the magnets at anytime it has caused problems or accidents working with electronics in particular?

Lindy : I think there are a lot of experiments happening now in this area. I'm not sure whats realistically viable for the public, but the biggest struggle seems to be the compromise between function and size. Most of the more interesting boards or functions require larger surgeries to implant, and thats a huge barrier.

Thomas Shaddack : are the magnets able to sense unloaded live lines too? or does the wire have to have enough of passing current?

Jarrett : Thomas: I can also feel alternating current, and only when there's quite a lot of it

Vicarious : Thanks to the flexNT I don't have to search for the sweetspot like the xM1 or xNT :)

Lindy : @matt Not problems per se. I mostly work in small scale electronics. I've had things stick to my hand before. I also often accidentally turn off laptops. My magnet is on the side of my hand, not my finger.

Jarrett : an unloaded AC line has alternating VOLTAGE, but still no current to speak of

Jarrett : so can't feel it

toani : As things go, what kind of things you think we will have to wait a decade before we can do them with an implant? And can you feel a electric storms at all? (assuming such storm would be noticeable anyways:-)

Lindy : Most frequently I accidentally turn off my students' computers when helping them with code. Its a common occurrence.

Jarrett : huge DC server racks have digital logic switching current on and off, so I CAN feel it, because the current is alternating

Jarrett : sorry Lindy, trying not to hijack

Thomas Shaddack : @lindy that's what the hand-wiring and chip-scale packages could help with. some of the parts look quite like pepper grains, and if they are formed in 3d instead of confined to flat board, further space is saved. (thought... very thin kapton foil as substrate, and roll the result into an implantable capsule?)

Jarrett : I am also excited by implantable magnets :)

Lindy : @toani I can't feel storms. Sometimes I can feel random things. I think Moore's Law shows that it wont be long before cooler tech is smaller. I would say big changes are coming in 5 years. The tech is kind of not great now. I would call it more of a curiosity project then actual reliability.

toani : @Lindy cool I see

Jordan Bunker : @Lindy, can you tell us a bit more about North Sense and what it does?

Lindy : The North Sense is a device that vibrates when you're facing north. Its not an implant, but it sits on 2 dermal piercings inside a silicon case. So it can be removed, and I'd imagine in the future, different modules can use this interface.

Lindy :

Jordan Bunker : Do most of the implants/devices use your sensation of touch to transmit information? Are there any that don't?

Lindy : Its tricky because the piercings need to heal first and that has a bunch of other implications not present in other current body hacks (magnets, NFCs)

Lindy : There are some plants that are aesthetic. Like the Firefly tattoos

Gartral : my apologies, but in what way would the NorthSense device actually.... help... someone? also wouldn't an implanted magnet in the body throw it off?

Lindy : @Gartral None of the implants that exist are particularly helpful genuinely. Outside of the ones already used vastly by the medical community. The magnetic implant in my hand doesn't throw off the north sense. The magnet is small and they are relatively far away.

Jordan Bunker : @Christopher Bruce Sabine wants to know: Where can you actually get these surgeries done?

Lindy : There are a few folks who do them but not too many. The person I trust most is Russ Foxx. He travels around Canada. I'd look for a reputable body modification artist who has experience doing things beyond piercings.

Lindy : It takes some research. But its very important to get someone who knows what they are doing.

Jarrett : he's an on-again-off-again member of the Vancouver Hack Space :)

Thomas Shaddack : in Prague, .cz, there's a guy in local tattoo studio. pretty good one.

Jarrett : good dude

Vicarious : There's a map at

Lindy : Yeah, Russ is great! I also am working with Six in Toronto for my North Sense.

Jordan Bunker : Question from @rocket: How do you see the future of this type of technology progressing? And What do you think it will take for the general adoption of implants and wearable tech? Outside of hobbyists and government.

Lindy : I think outside of hobbyists and medical community there will be huge resistance. The body and personal space are really hard spheres to navigate. I'd be shocked if it became mainstream in the next decade, but as the technologies get smaller and also more useful this is likely to change at some point.

Lindy : People are equally weirded out by my septum ring as my hand magnet, sometimes. (not always)

Gartral : hmm, I would imagine something that hooks *ONTO* a piercing a-la the NS wouldn't be too dangerous, aside from the usual piercing risks

Thomas Shaddack : that's the beauty of bottom-up approach. no grant nor ethical committees to beg for approval. no society with their stuck up ideas of what's "proper" to kowtow to.

Vicarious : "Stay away from normal people, they're stupid" (q) Lepht Anonym

Lindy : I think also, its important to realize, most people outside of the tech community don't fully understand NFC tags. Even if they use them often, it seems pretty scary to many.

ɖҿϝիɟթվ : they don't have a monopoly on stupidity though

Gartral : @Lindy I'm more creeped out by the septum ring than i am about the magnet XD

Lindy : Well, there you go. Maybe you know more people with magnets!

Lindy : (I certainly do)

Lindy : @Gartral About danger, it is true things inside your body are more permanent. However, its interesting to consider the NS piercings are the only mod I've ever had medical issues about. Other implants have been completely problem free.

Gartral : I have a piece of graphite (From a pencil) in my right hand >.> so the thought of a chunk of neodymium in me is less freaky than a bent metal rod going through me

Jordan Bunker : @Lindy Would you say that your mods/implants have changed your life practically in any way, or would you say it's mostly about self expression/philosophy?

Thomas Shaddack : random note. some cpld/fpga (and many other) chips are available in cspbga packagings. as a concrete example, one with 5x5 balls and manageable 0.4mm pitch is a 2.5x2.5mm square. one such chip can handle all the glue logic needed to connect other electronics together. these chips are available on (inter alia). that's available now and here. it's however a royal pain to work with. (could we leverage eg. 3d printers into something similar to wirebonding machines?)

Lindy : Its entirely a "for fun experiment". I think we will look back on current mods like we look back on vintage computers.

Gartral : @Lindy excuse me if this has already been covered, but what mods do you have?

Lindy : I have an NFC, an magnet, and soon to be North Sense.

César Héctor : Hey, d o you know of cases in which implants are rejected by the immune system?

Lindy : Rejection can happen with ANY body mod, including regular piercings. Thats why its important to have someone who is qualified pierce you. They can advise you on how to have lowest chance of rejection. It is never 100% and there is no way to tell before doing it.

Lindy : There are things you can do to lessen the chance, like avoiding contact with the pierced or implanted area during the healing process ect.

ɖҿϝիɟթվ : that's another interesting area — are there any good "upgrade paths" for this, or are you stuck with old technology once you get one?

Lindy : Theres no upgrade path. You can have them surgically removed and new ones implanted.

Jordan Bunker : gentle reminder - please post questions in the comments section of the hack chat page here:

Lindy : I think the removal surgery is probably a lot more invasive than the implantation too !

Thomas Shaddack : i thought about the upgrades. came up with a speculative design, based on fpga and/or arm chip, with ability to bootload the code into it via e.g. near-infrared LEDs. then the only limits are the power consumption, the rf interface, and the amount of available gates and memory.

Gartral : @ɖҿϝիɟթվ take me for example, I'm at high risk for rejection of anything i'm pierced with because I'm allergic too too the products of my own sweat interacting with metals... I can't even wear gold for periods without developing a very severe rash

Thomas Shaddack : @gartral what about ceramics or glasses?

LindyThat is another thing about materials used.... Some are implant and medical grade, but none of them are "soft", except maybe the flex transponders, sort of, but not entirely.

Lindy : Our bodies are squishy, the tech is not. Thats a problem. It either needs to get small or squishy.

Gartral : @Thomas Shaddack glass is fine, ceramics depend on additives and what it's glazed with

Gartral : also I can do bone and silicone

Jordan Bunker : @Lindy On that note, it seems like a lot of the biohacking community is mostly interested in implanted tech. Do you think it will stay this way, or will things progress more toward wearable tech?

Thomas Shaddack : @lindy our soft tissues are squishy. we also have bones. putting things into bones is highly invasive, but we also have cavities enclosed with bones, e.g. the sinuses.

Lindy : I think wearable tech and body hacking are fundamentally different. I think they attract different types of people trying to do different things.

Lindy : I do see them evolving as two different paths completely.

Thomas Shaddack : @lindy they can work together. implanted sensor, wearable readout device.

Gartral : I would imagine as an implant, a magnetic mesh that wearables are attached too externally being the least invasive option for upgrade path/utility

Lindy : I think part of the problem is we aren't really good at upgradable technologies. How would you feel fi you got a micro USB implanted? hahah. Technology needs to plateau a bit before we can get to that realm.

ɖҿϝիɟթվ : @Gartral I don't think you want any force exerted on those implants, that's just asking for inflamation

Jordan Bunker : @Lindy Do you see either of the paths as more or less "cyborg"?

Thomas Shaddack : @lindy consumer technology yes. industrial, not so. we still have to deal with ancient modbus and profibus, and the dsub-9 connectors won't go away anytime soon.

Christopher Bruce Sabine : Firewire implants 😅

Lindy : Oh yes. I want things integrated seamlessly with my body. The seamless transfer if information is my goal. I don't want to have to think about these extra senses, I just want them to happen.

LindySo that is more cyborg to me.

Jordan Bunker : Question from @César Héctor : How have your mods change your interaction with your peers, society and the world in general?

Lindy : People generally have more questions then I can answer when I show them my implants. A lot of not only "why" but wild expectations of what NFCs or magnets can do, which I think is interesting and does highlight how mysterious tech is to many people.

Lindy : the implants are mostly hidden though, so I don't have to share if I don't want to. The NS will be different though. I am preparing myself for a load of questions. probably about whether it is a medical device or not, I'd imagine.

Thomas Shaddack : @lindy can you get fake paperwork it is medical? would make interaction with "authorities" easier.

David : @Lindy Where on your body will the NS be located?

Lindy : People often think theres some big, philosophical reason for this. I don't think there is one. I just think its fun, maybe a little silly. I like thinking about the future and how we are so desperate to get there, even if the tech isn't ready (IMO).

Lindy : My NS will be on my chest. There are nearly no other locations on the body that those types of piercings in that configuration wont reject.

Lindy : I'm not "worried" about people's reactions per se. Just conscious of it. I dont mind explaining, but the "whys" are endless ;)

Jordan Bunker : Interesting! Do you know any folks that have a NS currently?

Lindy : I don't know anyone with one actually

Jordan Bunker : Sounds exciting!

Lindy : I'm really excited. I think it will be a completely different experience from the implants. It will be a more persistent sense.

Jordan Bunker : @toani wants to know: Have you had inquires on airports about implants?

Lindy : Nope. Thats actually one of my most common questions. No one has ever said anything about it, and I've never had to say anything to anyone.

Lindy : And I fly quite a bit!

David : @Lindy How many people do you know who have had implants other than magnets and RFID/NFC chips?

Lindy : Well, I know a lot of people who have more "traditional" body mods. Like piercings or silicon implants. But I don't know anyone personally who has had tech things other than NFC/magnet. I know several who have them though.

Jordan Bunker : We're just about out of time, although everyone is welcome to stay longer if they like!

Jordan Bunker : @César Héctor asks: What about someone hacking on your implants?

César Héctor : My only concern about high-tech implants are hackers :-P

Lindy : Its been a concern with the makerspace I am a part of and whether my NFC should unlock our door. I don't want to put my tag in our system, so I didn't enable it. Its something I've been thinking about, and not sure how to navigate.

Jordan Bunker : Thank you so much @Lindy for coming to chat!

Jordan Bunker : And thanks to everyone who submitted questions and participated in the discussion!

César Héctor : Yeah, thanks a lot. It's being really informative and a pleasure to meet you :-)

Lindy : Thanks everyone!

toani : Thank you guys & @Lindy . It was quite enlightening.