Meet the 'Cyborg' Who Feels Every Earthquake
Moon Ribas argues 'sensory extensions' are the way of the future
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 1, 2015 7:49 AM CST

(Newser) – Choreographer Moon Ribas describes herself as having two heartbeats: "my own heartbeat and the Earth's." She's not exactly speaking metaphorically. Thanks to a small chip grafted into her elbow, Ribas feels vibrations based on seismic readings from around the world. During her performances, dubbed Waiting for Earthquakes, audiences watch as she moves and shakes—sometimes slightly, sometimes violently for up to a minute—in response to the vibrations she feels. If there's no vibration, she remains still. "When you think about dance, you think about movement. Then you realize that not only humans move," Ribas tells Hopes and Fears. "The planet moves constantly." But even when Ribas is off stage, the tremors continue, meaning "Earth keeps interrupting my daily life," the self-described cyborg says. Surprisingly, "it's a nice feeling."

Ribas first experimented with gloves and earrings that vibrated based on how fast something was moving around her, creating a kind of new sense. Her chip, however, led her to create the nonprofit Cyborg Foundation—which aims to promote cybernetics and defend cyborg rights—together with colorblind friend Neil Harbisson, who says an antenna lodged in his skull helps him translate color into sound. Though the foundation faces critics in the bioethics community, Ribas hopes others won't shy away from "sensory extensions," which the Washington Post equates to the next generation of tattoos or plastic surgeries. While they may seem scary now, they could bring a wealth of good, Ribas says. In the future, "if everyone extends their sense of ultraviolet light, for example ... you would be more conscious of the sun and how it will affect your skin." (Read about 10 ways technology is changing our sex lives.)