“You’re only human” … but are you?

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Just this afternoon, encouraged by procrastination behaviours that were operating purely to avoid choosing a topic to blog about, I was undergoing my daily systematic scroll through Facebook when I stumbled across it. I don’t know why I did it. Maybe it was a sign. Maybe it was fate. Or maybe it was the sense of agency I seem to lack when using my iPhone. But I did it. I did one of those quizzes that come up on Facebook, the ones that I usually ignore. But because I was so busy procrastinating, I had to click it…

Are You Human or Cyborg?
Do you ever feel like you are a machine living in the matrix? Take the test and find out if you are Human, or secretly living as a Cyborg.

After answering a series of multiple-choice questions about my plans for the future and the involvement of technology in my day to day life, this online quiz taught me something new about myself…

I am a cyborg.

During our Social Research in the Digital World (#SRDW2017) workshop last week, our first task was to draw our own interpretation of a cyborg. As Donna Haraway notes, a cyborg is a “hybrid of machine and organism, a creature of social reality as well as a creature of fiction” (p.117). It is this image that seems almost necessary for fathoming perceptions of our own existence in 2017. Yet the majority of my classmates (myself included) associated the word ‘cyborg’ with science-fictional representations of super-humans hosting robotic limbs when we could have drawn self-portraits. Somewhere along the pathway that lead to the birth of Transhumanism, the word Ranisch and Sorgner label as key for describing the “transgression of human’s biological boundaries by means of technologies” (p.5), we became entities that merge the human and the technological. We became cyborgs.

Our minds and our electronic devices are interdependent. We upload our experiences, interests and thoughts onto social media every day — our memories become retweets, shares, and likes. We use our phone’s alarm system to wake us from sleep. We communicate with our international friends using a few taps of the screen. The realisation that I might be a cyborg was not a negative experience, it was strangely comforting. I now know why I felt so disoriented when I left my phone next to my bed instead of taking it to work with me. I now know why I felt dysfunctional and obtuse while my laptop was in for repair. Technology is embedded within us. It allows us to do things better than we can do with only our physical, human limitations — we are the “animal-human (organism) and machine” (p. 120) that Donna Haraway extricates by definition, but amalgamates through the figure of the ‘cyborg’.

We are the beings that, in our essence, destroy the traditionally held dichotomies of interest within most academic discourse. I am a product of both human intentionality and mechanical usefulness. I live more than half of my life through emails and text messages. Today it was technology that provided me with the realisation about my entirely human self as instead, a cyborg… I did not achieve this with my own, human limitations.

It does make me wonder, however, the extent to which this cultivated union of human-animal and machine has, or will, affect our sense of agency? Or even more so, as Jenna noted in response to my first edit, what it can, or does, to our psychology.

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