THINGS CAN BE OTHERWISE
I AM A CYBORG
I plan to explore the meaning of what being a Cyborg really means. To do so I must first question “Is being cyborg a part of Mankind” and distinguish the differences between what it means to be human and what it is to be Cyborg. I will explore how this opinion may have changed over time with society’s moving forward and world developments, as well as how different cultures could be perceived on this subject. To begin, a basic understanding is important and to know the key contrasts between the definitions of what being a human is and what being a cyborg is.
The Oxford English dictionary definitions of;
Human Being – “A man, woman, or child of the species “Homo sapiens”, distinguished from other animals by superior mental development, power of articulate speech, and upright stance.”
Cyborg – “A fictional or hypothetical person whose physical abilities are extended beyond normal human limitations by mechanical elements built into the body.”
In this current climate the average person will interact with all types of technology every day. Whether that be in their spare time, at work, at home and so on. Doctors equipment, mechanics tools, business mans computers, teachers electronic white boards are just a few of the examples that make us Cyborg. This intertwined intercommunication way of life where we so heavily reliant upon technology, that we have in fact become part Cyborg. I will explore the different aspects in our lives that contribute to our being as Human and Cyborg combined.
Although many may not realise I believe on a day to day level we exist as cyborgs. Everything around us, that we co-exist with, incorporate in our lives and use on a daily basis suggests that we are cyborgs. More so in westernised civilisations than third world countries and poverty stricken areas. With more wealth comes the wider availability of technology to a person, higher end products and more advanced science and electronics become more avidly involved in their lives. Large communities and cultures across the world that lack in using or having advanced technology could be exempt from being part Cyborg. Their struggle to integrate technology into their culture would suggest they are more true to their Humanity. On a more basic platform that is relevant to most, is my first example that we are part Cyborg: The technology of glasses and contact lenses, obviously used to improve our sight vision. A technology, and this one in particular that so many people rely on, allows us to exceed and improve on our natural ability or disability as some may have. We take this technology for granted often and do not see it as a luxury where others perhaps would in less fortunate cases. It enables us to go beyond our natural ability and over come limits therefore I believe we are no longer just Human singularly but Cyborg intertwined. The same theory goes for people with prosthetic limbs, as a result of accidents, birth defects and so on, this kind of technology has allowed them to become functional and mobile once again. There has been studies carried out looking at the advantages and disadvantages of bionic limbs – how they extend the human life span, boost self confidence, improves mobility and how they conserve energy especially in elder people. The disadvantages of this are when the limb causes irritation and sometimes can be rejected by the body, this kind of technology is also very costly and time consuming. This is also relevant to components such as pace makers that keep your heart beating at a steady rate. For some people now mechanical enhancements are vital to being able to live a normal life, or as normal as possible. In the future I believe we may become much more dependant on these technological enhancements for many reasons, in particular perhaps disease or environmental factors, the rate of obesity is rising alarmingly among young generations causing more heart struggles and a variety of different health problems in relation, and so forth. The human race is constantly moving forward, growing and evolving so we could never prepare fully for the technology we would need until that point in time. There has been research carried out to test whether in fact prosthetic limbs are more capable and efficient than natural human legs especially in sports. The pivot point on the hip in a paraplegic person has better mobility as the leg is shorter being more able to move and at a faster rate than an average person. Because of this it would result in more steps taken per minute and being far more manoeuvrable. Does advanced technological prosthetic blade runners give an unfair advantage over human limbs? Has technology out done the power of biology and natural talent and ability? There has been other similar tests carried out that the prosthetic blades could help exceed natural abilities of even the fastest sprinter so would be considered an unfair advantage if compared against a non disabled runner, making them exceptionally capable and proves being part cyborg could improve our existing talents.
I would not say that society itself is cyborg but the way it is conducted represents a cyborg culture. Technology particularly in westernised areas is a massive way of life. How many of us are glued to our phones, computers, game consoles. Particularly over the last decade the increase in the use of technology from a young age has been stifling and the pattern in which this is correlating in will only continue to get younger through generations. I question whether in the future we will be cyborgs from almost new born or will have the technology available to alter the human embryo before it is even fully developed, perhaps changing us as a species by choice to benefit us in some way, shape or form. At the current time social media has become such a massive obsession with many, a desire and need for most. A study has shown that alone in the United States 24% of people had a social networking profile in 2008 and this has dramatically risen to 81% in 2017. I think that this clearly suggests we are becoming slaves to the cyborg world rather than thinking society has cyborg elements that we choose to conform with. Many do not even realise the control that it has over us compared to say a hundred years ago when social media (and such technology) didn’t exist yet. A large proportion of people could not function or carry out everyday tasks and jobs without the use of technology these days, we spend our lives enslaved by the modern way of life. Perhaps in the future we should be cautious about the rapid development of technology, the idea of it over powering man kind fully to become more superior is a worrying thought as discussed previously, we are very much under the control of technology in the cyborg world already.
I am questioning whether becoming cyborg through the use of all social media platforms we have become emotionless, just a face behind a screen. There has been many cases of bullying through twitter and Facebook especially as well as newspaper and magazine articles victimising individuals in the public eye. To reference Black Mirror, a British science-fiction anthology series that explores what life could be like with extensive and advanced technology in a futuristic scenario, in series 3 episode 1 ‘Nosedive’ this particular episode it shows characters in an alternative reality where the nation rates each other, out of five, through mobile devices based on their interactions with each other, it quickly becomes a competition to get the highest ratings on their personalities and communication skills. It focuses on a young woman who becomes so obsessed with this technology and creates almost a whole new life for herself with a very much fake front. It goes on to show how most of society conformed along with putting on a facade, but it becomes to much for her she has an outburst causing her ratings to go down, along with the disapproval with the rest of society. This programme’s particular episode made me think about the high potential of this kind of scenario happening in the near future. More and more younger people believe the social norm of thinking social media is a necessary aspect of their lives and would feel outcast if they were not involved. I believe this would conclude that cyborg is a part of humanity in this day and age and most likely will grow greater and even more significant in the foreseeable future.
Being Cyborg or at least partially means we are loosing ourselves, our freedom, spirit and soul, our conscious and raw emotions to technology that we once had as free mammals before. In Clyne and Klines work ‘Cyborgs and Space’ they talk about the proposal of space travel and the effects on mankind combining the human structure of life with this advanced kind of technology. “If man in space, in addition to flying his vehicle, must continuously be checking on things and making adjustments merely in order to keep himself alive, he becomes a slave to the machine.” (Taken from Clyne and Kline, Cyborgs and Space, 1960, p27.) Clyne’s opinion on man being a slave to the machine I think describes accurately what is happening to the human race in the present.
We are all so consumed by this cyber world that we are very close to loosing our authenticity as the natural human species. I believe that as a species we should be living unrefined and wholesome rather than being so absorbed in the cold mechanical cyborg realm. We have developed so much from the beginning of our time but perhaps we have forgotten the true meaning of living free. This outlook on life I simply depicted from the Oxford definition itself that I introduced at the beginning -“[A Human] whose physical abilities are extended beyond normal human limitations by mechanical elements.” Cyborgs are essentially emotionless and lack in empathy in which defines us as Human, makes us become disconnected and enslaved to its innovative advances. I question what is so wrong about the rich naturalistic life we had before modern technology was fabricated and appreciated the little things in life. I believe that technology that assists us in necessary parts of life, for instance surgeons equipment to carry out procedures more effectively and accurately should be embraced however phones, game consoles and other devices that are not compulsory to living and distract us from our natural humanity should be thought about more subsequently about how they morphing our lives more and more into Cyborg. I admire those that choose to live against the way of our society, living as free spirits much like the hippie community, who encourage people to free themselves from society’s limitations and social norms, find and form their own paths and discover new meanings of life without their lives revolving around technology. Other religions and cults such as the Mennonites and Amish are self reliant and do not believe in the use of modern technology. They appear to live a much more content life with a strong sense community rather than how people live side by side in cities as complete strangers, it is a simpler way of life and undamaged from the bombardment of technology in the rest of society.
In “On Naturally Embodied Cyborgs: Identities, Metaphors, and Models”, Evan Selinger and Timothy Engström discussed their ideas on, “What makes us distinctly human is our capacity to rebuild our own mental circuitry, continually as an empowering web of culture, education, technology, and artefacts” (Selinger and Engström, 2007, pg558.) I depict this as, as Mankind we exist as a product of everything that we have ever experienced. Everything we do, feel, see, hear, touch, dream and create, shapes us in a way that no technology ever could alone. Mankind requires the consolation, stimulation, incitement from nature itself to form ourselves as beings. We need every single memory and experience to construct us as individuals and continue to be invigorated and empowered by what is already around us. The rapid evolvement of technology and all the resources used to create it could have a devastating effect on the earth and the chances from the effect of development and continuation of mass producing could mean that one day all natural resources, nature and the environment could be lost or permanently ruined. As Cyborgs we are all so consumed by the wonders of travel and even the employment manufacturing can bring that we have become careless and have a lack of respect for our planet using the earths limited resources that are available to us, not always thinking about the long lasting effects that are inevitably killing the earth.
What does it mean to truly be human? I would interpret this is be an animal but with kindness compassion and laughter. Does all this technology take away our individuality, kindred spirit, our natural growth and development. Change us into something that is no longer human at all? With the fast progressing technology could all aspects of nature one day be completely gone, ruined by the development of man and machine combined?
Is being Cyborg a part of being human? I believe yes. At the present I do not think that anyone can be considered completely human in the western world but a large proportion of us are somewhat Cyborg and are so intertwined with technology in our lives as it is far to late to propose that we could never possibly rid of it now. I don’t believe that it is a bad thing as there are so many advantages to living in the Cyborg world to help and enable us in life, to do things we could not do on our own. At the moment we still have a certain amount of choice when it comes to the magnitude of Cyborg elements we allow in our lives, minds and bodies, however in the future I think that this could potentially become a problem the way technology is advancing and how controlled and obsessed we are already by it. I have come to the conclusion that to become Cyborg you must firstly exist and experience as a Human. As soon as we introduce and intertwine technology within our lives is when we make the change between complete Human and Cyborg. We must allow all mechanical elements of the Cyborg world to disconnect us from being Human in our spirit and physical form to the slavery of technology to fully become Cyborg. To answer my beginning question of “Is being Cyborg part of Mankind?” The simple answer is yes, but only as result from the last decades worth of development of technology. As time goes on and the Cyborg world becomes more relevant and ever expanding into all humans lives, Cyborg will be an ever bigger instalment in to the living, surviving of all Mankind.
Clyne and Kline, Cyborgs and Space, 1960, p27
Selinger and Engström, On Naturally Embodied Cyborgs: Identities, Metaphors, and Models2007, pg558