Jul 29, 2013

The third eye that hears - about Neil Harbisson

I live with a few friends in a bachelor bunk and we had a small screen TV at our home. One fine thunderous night, it lost its ability to show colour and typically impeded by the bachelor negligence, none of us cared to get it repaired or replaced. Every time when India plays a cricket match, we assemble in front of the TV and make a resolution to do something about the TV within a week. And thus we spent almost a year! We were so used to watching TV in black and white that when we finally replaced the TV with another one, we were collectively amazed by the phenomenon of color. It almost brought tears of wonder to my eyes to see a familiar movie song in TV but in colour for the first time. That one year taught me what magic colour can do to your senses.

My grandfather witnessed the magic when black and white movies were replaced by colour movies. My father witnessed the magic when black and white television sets were replaced by colour TVs. It was a magical experience for me to see colour display in a mobile phone after being used to the black and white displays of the early phones. What I witnessed in Neil Harbisson's speech recently took the magical experience of color to the next level.  This is stuff taken straight from the sci-fi stories! But in reality!

Neil Harbisson delivered this speech at the TEDxGateway Mumbai in 2012 and Franklin Templeton Investments partnered the event. 

Neil is a colour-blind person who had a tough time adapting to life in this colourful world before becoming a cyborg. Colour-blindness is never considered to be a very serious physical handicap by us but an affected person like Neil would know what it means to live off-stream. The world speaks in colour. We have colour codes in traffic signals, national identities, food labelling and several other areas in everyday life. Colour-blindness is like touring a foreign country without knowing its language. You are very much there but never there! The painful fact is that the colour-blind ones have to spend all their life as a mere tourist in this colour-speaking world. Neil has made the Cyborg technology his permanent visa to stay in the world and be part of the mainstream with a greatly unique identity to himself.