Peter the human cyborg’s journey to ‘cheat death’ as part man, part machine

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A scientist is taking a leaf out of sci-fi novels as he embarks on a mission to transform himself into a real-life human cyborg.

In 2017, 59-year-old scientist Dr Peter Scott-Morgan was given the devastated news he had the muscle-wasting motor neurone disease – similar to that of Stephen Hawking.

Instead of accepting the diagnosis as a death sentence, Peter wants to use it as the motivation to transform himself with hi-tech "upgrades".

He is now fully committed to becoming part human, part machine as the world's first full cyborg – as documented in a mind-blowing new Channel 4 documentary Peter: The Human Cyborg.

Peter, from Torquay, Devon, said he wanted to push the boundaries of what science can achieve and by doing so, extend his life.

And he has already beaten the odds, having been given two years to live by doctors in 2017, meaning under that prognosis he should have died last year.

The world-renowned roboticist has already undergone a series of incredibly complex and risky operations to extend his life, including developing a remarkably life-like avatar of his face before he lost any muscle.

Peter has also explored eye-tracking technology to enable him to control multiple computers using only his eyes and control his own electronic bed and hoist.

In addition, he has undergone pioneering surgery to insert a feeding tube directly into his stomach, a catheter directly into his bladder and a colostomy bag directly onto his colon.

In October last year, he announced the final procedure in his transition when he traded his voice for potentially decades of life.

He also underwent a laryngectomy, meaning he lost his physical voice, but in doing so, avoided the added danger of saliva potentially entering his lungs.

Dr Scott-Morgan marked this final procedure with a post on Twitter: "This is my last post as Peter 1.0.

"Tomorrow I trade my voice for potentially decades of life as we complete the final medical procedure for my transition to Full Cyborg, the month I was told statistically I would be dead. I'm not dying, I'm transforming. Oh, how I love science."

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His silence was broken in mid-November when a post appeared on Dr Scott-Morgan's account saying: "Just home from 24 days in Intensive Care.

"All medical procedures now complete and a huge success.

"My mini-ventilator keeping me breathing is a LOT quieter than Darth Vader's. All speech is synthetic but at last sounds like me again."

With unprecedented access to Peter and an international group of doctors, scientists, engineers and designers, this fascinating documentary covers 18 months of one of the most audacious transitions ever undertaken.

It explains how, throughout his career, Dr Scott-Morgan was granted unparalleled confidential access to government organisations, banks and major corporations, and he has used this expertise to make the transition to Peter 2.0.

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Dr Scott-Morgan remains positive and often humorous, seeing his situation as a chance to explore what it means to be human and truly embrace scientific capabilities.

At the heart of it all is the inspiring story of a remarkable man and his family taking huge risks and fighting for a better future.

Now The Scott-Morgan Foundation, which Peter set up with his husband, Francis, seeks to use artificial intelligence, robotics and other high-technology systems to transform the lives of others also "restricted by age, ill-health, disability, or other physical or mental disadvantage."

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"Thanks to HiTech – I will talk again," he said last year.

"I will convey emotion and personality. And I'll reach out and touch the people I love. And I will not be the only one.

"Over time, more and more with MND, with extreme disability, with old age, with a passion simply to break free from their physical straight-jacket, will choose to stand beside me.

"And we will all stand tall. And we will stand proud. And we will stand unbowed. And we will keep standing, year after year after year after year after year. Because we refuse simply to 'Stay Alive'. We choose to thrive."

However plans for an exoskeleton to replace upper body and for an adaptive self-drive vehicle which holds him upright have had to be shelved due to the deterioration of his health.

When asked what he wanted the legacy of the film to be, Peter said one word: "Hope!"

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He added: "This is ‘terminal disease’ like we’ve never seen it before – and certainly not on television. The whole blindingly overriding reason for Francis and me to subject ourselves to the invasion of a very private time by public scrutiny was to get our message of ‘thriving’ out there to counter the defeatism in our culture around terminal illness.

"I remember saying to the director early on how it felt as if society just expected people like me to 'statistically curl up and die on cue'. The Channel 4 film is an opportunity to get a different kind of message out there – a radical message.

"If Francis and I can inspire people to go out there and encourage a change in attitude, then the film will have done its job."

Peter: The Human Cyborg is on Channel 4.

  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Science
  • Robots

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