The Rise of the Cyborg
It’s no question that our world is changing before our eyes. The way we see and perceive information has changed drastically. We, as a race, have changed considerably. The human being is an evolving creature that adapts to the world around them. Humans thrive on innovation, which has opened the door for many new means of communication, allowing us to reach our potential. With the advancement of our race, inventions have grown bolder, and have brought forth a new echelon of technology. Through the access of technology humans have learned to think and work differently; faster, longer and more efficient. The modern day human is constantly connected to technology and a new human has emerged: The Cyborg. My claim will show that modern day humans are cyborgs with support from academic texts, media pieces and a short story.
The modern human being is someone who is a productive member of society and puts forth an effort out of collective goals to improve the human race, knowingly or unknowingly. The modern day human is also someone who is a part of the globalized world and is within the Media Age. A cyborg, according to Donna Haraway’s A Cyborg Manifestois a “cybernetic organism, a hybrid of machine and organism, a creature of social reality as well as a creature of fiction”. Humans today have been equipped with devices that can do nearly anything, from telling the time, to contacting anyone instantly; this is the world we live in. With this extension of one’s self we have gained access to a whole new world of being a self-sufficient being. If we ever have a question all we have to do is ask the device, and within seconds we have the answer. We are never without the devices; there aren’t many situations where you wouldn’t be without the device. The devices can be worn, held, or even displayed in front of you. The device is a fully functional part of the current human.
The union between human and technology is what makes the human a cyborg. We see there is no difference between the two and they are truly one. In order to find how essential the role of technology is in the functionality of the human we must dig into our daily lives to find the truth. Octavia Butler’s short story, Bloodchild, brought to life hidden truths to what a cyborg could be. WithinBloodchild there are many significant roles that surface when the theme of cyborg is implied. There exists a unique relationship between the Tlics, an alien race, and the Terran, Butler’s term for humans. Within Bloodchild the Tlics use the Terran as mates to breed their offspring and in turn the Tlics nurture and take care of the Terran. When the Tlics came to earth they needed to use the Terran as hosts for their larva, when theTlic’s babies are ready to be born they cut open the Terran after sedation and take each baby out one by one carefully, making sure they don’t hurt the Terran, however the larva’s can eat the insides of the Terran if the Tlics aren’t careful. This role the Terran play for the Tlics are required for the Tlics to survive, they are an extension of themselves. The role is also reversed as well, the Terran in order to survive in the world that was created by the Tlics the Terran need their protection and care to survive. The eggs that the Tlics produce are used to sedate, feed, and nurture the Terran. The egg itself can be considered a technology that both races rely on heavily in order to breed, and live. For the Tlics they need the eggs so that the Terran will rely on the Tlics. The Terran need the eggs because of their role in the breeding process. This is similar to the function of the modern human with the use of the devices we use. They are extensions of our bodies and we’ve become reliant on them for survival.
The devices we use in today’s world have become a staple in every human’s life. The technology can vary from wearing it on your wrist, to your face, and even simply having it in your pocket. The devices can tell time and date, record text, sound, images and videos. We can ask it almost any question and have the answer relayed to us immediately. There are countless applications that our devices are capable of delivering. In the past it would take days on end to receive news or any sort of communication from someone who lived far away from you, with this technology we’ve became a globalized world, we can stay connected to anyone from anywhere in the world and communicate instantly. This constant communication has become a necessity in today’s work force, instead of being a 9 to 5 culture; we are now always connected and have turned our workdays into a 24-hour culture. These technologies have become extensions of us. We rely on our devices just like the Terran relies on the eggs and how the Tlics rely on the Terran. We need these devices to maintain our role in the world.
The cyborg can be perceived in many different ways, however the role that the cyborg plays in the fusion between machine and organism has stayed the same. In Star Trek: First Contact, the cyborgs are referred to as the “Borg” and play as the bad guys. The Borg is a joining of organism and machine, however a queen commands them, and they all share a collective consciousness. When a Borg takes over a human being it implants a piece of itself inside of them and it takes over the body, turning the human (can be any other race of alien as well) into a Borg. The Borg’s main features are half human and half cybernetic, they have mechanical parts sticking out of them and every one of them has one human eye and a red laser for another eye. The Borg’s main goal is to take over a race and have them assimilate and become one of their own. This in turn would make the one perfect race, this is what the Borg strives to be. The Borg’s rely on other races to continue their own species; with the use of their mechanic and human technologies they continue to preserve their race. This mirrors the Bloodchildraces and their reliance on one another; in turn this is how our modern day humans interact with the technology that we are so dependent on.
Much like Harraway’s description of a cyborg in her manifesto, Joanna Zylinska, takes a similar approach to the concept of being a cyborg. In her essay,The Cyborg Experiments: The Extensions of the Body in the Media Age She has an interesting look at the human and what is cyborg, she claims that through media the human has become and always has been a cyborg. The use of media has become prevalent in our culture and proceeds to be the biggest industry that determines the innovation of technology. The use of our technology to communicate with each other has been the genesis of each of our devices that we use and carry at all times. However the devices have only existed within the age of Media, previous to that the human race would communicate through linguistics. The creation of a language can be considered a form of technology, for the use of communicating became a necessity for survival at the peak of humanity. Through this extension the human being progressed and language has become key in the evolution of communication as we know it. The adaption of technology to survive and continue life is a prime role in Zylinska’s piece. The integration of technology to help support and extend life makes the human a cyborg.
In the 2014 adaption of the film Robocop, a new cyborg has emerged. Through the use of amputation and modification of the brain and body, the cyborg that was developed in the movie is a Hollywood version of the cyborg. However these modifications can hold truth to how we are and what may come in the future. In the movie, police detective Alex Murphy is fatally injured in an assassination attempt on his life, he had only one shot at surviving and that was through the means of OmniCorp, a Military Robotics company that specializes in making robots for the army. They needed to break into the American market so they needed to appeal to the human emotions — by taking a handicapped police officer and making him into a cyborg. Through the scientific advancements, OmniCorp was able to take Alex and advance his human attributes with robotic limbs for super human strength, head up display with Internet access, and life support. This leads to the discussion about where our actual technology may go. As of today we already have robotic limbs that help provide a better life for the handicap. We currently have wearable technology that can access databases, and keep us in contact with one another. Life support has been a staple in the medical field in order to help people survive after their own organs have failed to do so.
In the New York Times magazine an article, The Cyborg in Us All, author Pagan Kennedy dives into the fusion between machine and the brain. The article discusses the current research effort to make the thoughts that our brains have and to convey them and control things on a computer screen, this in turn would result in a fusion with the machine. Kennedy shows that breakthroughs have already been discovered. Through the use of music, the brain can project and recreate the sound within the brain, as well as control the video game Galaga. The research that is being done seeks to make telepathy an actual function of the human brain with the use of technology. Towards the end of the article the reporter was able to go to Dartmouth College and use an EEG (electroencephalography) headset and was able to play a guessing game where the game had a 90% chance of being correct. Through the use of the technology that was being showcased the fusion between man and machine isn’t just happening on the exterior of the body, but inside the human body. This extension of the brain can lead to telepathy.
With wearable technology becoming a core essential to the human being it has lead greatly in many aspects such as communication, recording data, and keeping track of health. With technology being a huge driving force in the health care industry, technology by itself has redefined the way the industry works. In the article, Becoming Cyborgs: Wearable Tech Disrupts Healthcare, author Lydia Leavitt discusses how the healthcare industry, through technology, has redefined how to treat and help people. Unlike replacement bionic limbs, Leavitt tells of the role wearable technology will have now and in the future. The current abilities that the technology has are extraordinary and do benefit most people but this is only the beginning. Leavitt suggests doctors will be able to perform more accurate surgery while wearing heads up displays and babies will be able to be monitored just by the onesies that they wear. The merger between human and machine is prevalent in today’s culture and the future is just around the corner.
In Bloodchild we see a mutual effort at prolonging life between two separate beings using each other to work together and continue each of their races. Through the fusion of machine and organisms, the Tlic and Terran prolong each of their lives and are mutually benefited through the use of the egg. Within Star Trek: First Contact we see the same effect taking place, however it’s not for mutual benefit but for the dominance of the Borg way of life, through fusion and assimilation. The cross between human and the Borg may prolong and exceed the human limit and eventually lead to the perfect race. The Hollywood take on the cyborg in the film Robocop sheds light onto what is expected in the future. In today’s world we have technology such as life support, constant connections to mass media and the ability to help improve the human body when part of the body has failed. However, through innovation and time we will see a deeper merger between technologies and human tissue. In current education facilities around our country we are seeing innovation being pushed to its limits by researchers. Whether it’s the ability to play video games through brain waves, or the ability to replicate music that is heard through the brain then shown on a screen, or being able to project images from a brain through the use of a guessing game, we are already seeing a fusion of brain and machine. Technological innovations haven’t just affected education, it has also impacted the healthcare industry as well. With wearable technology being a fundamental tool for the patient, it’s also more prevalent in the role of the doctor. From monitoring babies through clothes they wear, to being able to see the current heart rate of the patient without having to look up while performing heart surgery. The role of wearable technology is forever becoming a staple within the field. Zylinska said it best — that human’s adoption of technology isn’t a new thing; with the use of speaking or manifesting communication that shows evidence that we are, and always have been a cyborg. Harraway’s explanation of what is a cyborg provides further evidence as to not what a cyborg is, but to what we are. Cyborgs are no longer the subject of science fiction — they walk among us.