These Machines Will Harvest Your Energy – For A Good Cause

Our cyborg future is here and it may involve something ominous called “bioharvesting”. At one extreme, an Israeli designer is using what she calls “invasive jewelry” to harvest kinetic energy from the body. Naomi Kizhner's design concept called EnergyAddicts (spotted on Beautiful/Decay) consists of jewelry pieces made from gold and 3D-printed biopolymer that are worn on the bridge of the nose, back, and arms where their sharp spikes harvest energy from the body through blinking and neurological pulses. Some of the pieces look like metal parasites and the most cringeworthy ornament pierces the flesh and uses the blood flowing through a person's veins to propel an external conductor. The industrial designer suggests a future where the jewelry is as commonplace as wearing a Bluetooth device—that is, if your Bluetooth resembled an extreme form of body modification.

If this sounds like something from a David Cronenberg film, you would be right. The body horror auteur's 1999 science fiction film eXistenZ depicted the world of gaming gone… organic. Trading the traditional console for a fleshy, amoeba-like controller called a “game pod” (that comes with its own umbilical cord, even!), Cronenberg's gamers happily modify their bodies with “bio-ports” in the base of their spines that become outlets for the pod. It looks as gross as it sounds, but for hardcore gamers, it might not be out of the realm of possibilities.

Unless you've been living under a rock, then you already know we (and our gadgets) consume energy faster than it can be replenished. According to the Environmental Protection Agency website, the United States uses one million gallons of oil every two minutes. Can Naomi Kizhner's jewelry solve our energy crisis? Probably not—but it's a baby-step form of biotechnology already being put to use across the world in gyms, sustainable dance clubs (watch a demonstration), multitask-friendly clothing design, and more.

Combining human and solar energy, Green Microgym in Portland, Oregon (one of the first eco-friendly sweat spots in the States) boasts some impressive statistics thanks to their custom, electricity-generating equipment. “The Green Microgyms use about 85% less electricity and their carbon footprint is about one tenth that of a traditionally run gym, per square foot. A member of The Green Microgym saves about 1/4 ton of carbon compared to if they belonged to a traditional gym,” their website reports.

Why isn't this model used in more businesses? Mostly because it's still not economically viable to use gym rats as energy-saving guinea pigs. Read up on this hilarious experiment where a family spent 24 hours living in a house powered by 80 cyclists (“Some of the riders were in absolute agony, their legs were cramping, they were screaming in pain and sweating profusely.”) The Daily Mail writes: “Simply powering a hairdryer relied on the efforts of 18 cyclists. It took nine cyclists to power the toaster. And boiling the kettle, something most of us do a number of times a day, requires the combined effort of 30 cyclists pedalling as fast as possible.”

We're making big strides toward harnessing natural body energy, but our technology hasn't caught up with us yet. Green gyms and bloodsucking jewelry raise questions about humans being used as biological capital: what is a biotechnological user consenting to when they donate their body's energy, and what kind of compensation/fair treatment are they entitled to? Until we have the means to harness biotechnology more efficiently, those questions will remain the stuff of Cronenbergian speculation.

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