Tribeca 2021: Father of the Cyborgs (***)

By Dennis Hartley

(Originally posted on Digby’s Hullabaloo on June 19, 2021)

The story of pioneering neuroscientist Dr. Phil Kennedy is like a real-life version of Michael Crichton’s The Terminal Man (with more than a touch of Blade Runner). Kennedy invented the “neurotrophic electrode” brain implant device-a tiny glass cone with gold wires designed to artificially process and interpret brain signals. Ideally, the function of the implant is to enable activation of critical pathways that might be otherwise blocked by motor disease or paralyzing injuries.

In the 1990s, Kennedy famously tested his invention on a young man who had complete “locked-in” paralysis, teaching him to control a computer with his mind. This prompted ethical debates, which ignited anew in 2014 when Kennedy had electrodes implanted in his own brain (all in the name of science). David Burke’s documentary recounts Kennedy’s experiments and delves into all the associated issues in this fascinating profile.

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