Cyborg America: inside the strange new world of basement body hackers | The Verge

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Shawn Sarver took a deep breath and stared at the bottle of Listerine on the counter. “A minty fresh feeling for your mouth… cures bad breath,” he repeated to himself, as the scalpel sliced open his ring finger. His left arm was stretched out on the operating table, his sleeve rolled up past the elbow, revealing his first tattoo, the Air Force insignia he got at age 18, a few weeks after graduating from high school. Sarver was trying a technique he learned in the military to block out the pain, since it was illegal to administer anesthetic for his procedure.

“A minty fresh feeling… cures bad breath,” Sarver muttered through gritted teeth, his eyes staring off into a void.

Tim, the proprietor of Hot Rod Piercing in downtown Pittsburgh, put down the scalpel and picked up an instrument called an elevator, which he used to separate the flesh inside in Sarver’s finger, creating a small empty pocket of space. Then, with practiced hands, he slid a tiny rare earth metal inside the open wound, the width of a pencil eraser and thinner than a dime. When he tried to remove his tool, however, the metal disc stuck to the tweezers. “Let’s try this again,” Tim said. “Almost done.”

The implant stayed put the second time. Tim quickly stitched the cut shut, and cleaned off the blood. “Want to try it out?” he asked Sarver, who nodded with excitement. Tim dangled the needle from a string of suture next to Sarver’s finger, closer and closer, until suddenly, it jumped through the air and stuck to his flesh, attracted by the magnetic pull of the mineral implant.

“I’m a cyborg!” Sarver cried, getting up to join his friends in the waiting room outside. Tim started prepping a new tray of clean surgical tools. Now it was my turn.

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