I believe that cyborgs are the future...

...teach them well and let them lead the way. OK, perhaps we're not ready to sing inspirational songs about cyborgs yet, but they do occupy a special place in our imagination.

Let's define a few terms: robots are mechanism that can move automatically; androids are robots that have a humanoid form; and cyborgs, or cybernetic organisms, are beings that have biological and artificial parts.

In science fiction, cyborgs seem determined to subjugate humanity, make us more machine-like, or destroy us outright (see: Darth Vader, the Terminator, the Borg, and the most recent Cylons).

While menacing, I don't believe the fear we have of these characters springs from concerns about technology. Sci-fi cyborgs are stand-ins for humans who slavishly embrace a belief system or a cause, especially one that requires them to keep compassionate impulses in check. In other words, it's the absence of something distinctly human, not the addition of technology, that makes them villains.

Technology does play an interesting role in these stories, though. Mechanical enhancements give cyborgs physical and mental prowess that can't easily be matched by (puny) humans. Vipers, phasers, and blasters are useful (and cool), but the successful human heroes also need the right psychological (or spiritual) tools to be successful. Sure enough, many of popular cyborg stories conclude not with the physical defeat of cyborg enemies but a cyborg breaking from an oppressive system and sometimes sacrificing themselves for humans.

In reality, tech-enhanced people fill an aspirational space instead of an anxiety-filled one. Their augmentations address disabilities and compliment their humanity rather than threaten it. This is why I suspect we will take to (or physically take in) cybornetic technology as it becomes more advanced and accessible.

I wonder how long it will be before technology reaches a point in which robotic body parts become an attractive alternative to what we're born with. I'm not talking about replacements for injured or missing pieces. For better or worse, I can imagine a time when we begin to trade in healthy features for 'enhanced' versions. What do you think? Does this sound believable or too creepy to come true?

Related video:

From TED: Athlete, actor and activist Aimee Mullins talks about her prosthetic legs--she's got a dozen amazing pairs--and the super-powers they grant her: speed, beauty, an extra 6 inches of height... Quite simply, she redefines what the body can be.

From EYBORG: Take a one eyed film maker, an unemployed engineer, and a vision for something that’s never been done before and you have yourself the EyeBorg Project. Rob Spence and Kosta Grammatis are trying to make history by embedding a video camera and a transmitter in a prosthetic eye. That eye is going in Robs eye socket, and will record the world from a perspective that’s never been seen before.


Andy Joe said...

Is Our Techno-Human Marriage in Need of Counseling http://www.slate.com/id/2303277/entry/2303507/

Andy Joe said...

The Robots Are Winning!