Cyborg au Naturale

We commonly talk about cyborgs as mysterious beings with threatening intentions with incomprehensible uses for their super abilities. But surely it’s perfectly human to try to adjust malfunctions? Where does the line lie between cures and enhancements? & Where are the boundaries of restoration that leaks into a realm of enrichments?

So here I am, sitting at the opticians, finally unplugging from the streams of audiobooks in order to strain for a shout of my name. I’ve abstained from writing for a period in a vain attempt to restrain myself from gluing my eyes to the screen immediately after having my eyes beamed. It’s a common procedure but I figured that sight is a big asset to my work.

Does an internal cardiac defibrillator make you more of a cyborg? We don’t seem to view these survival uses of technology with controversy because they have a clear cause, for survival. It’s when technologies give abilities that surpass other human that initiate debate, mockery and even fear.

We’ve been making the assumption that all technologies in Human Computer Interactions are simple extensions of our phenotypes. Are we still threatened by a potential dependence on technology? Too late. But what about “an unfair advantage” to those with appliances that allows them exceed other humans? Traditionally superhuman traites are only obtained by villians on purpose. Superheros usually have this happening to them without choice. Think of the Hulk, Spiderman and Superman. When Amy Purdy talks about her leg extensions on TED, she slowly weaves in the pain and loss of her legs, which somehow justifies to the audience the new longer, beautiful designer legs.  We still apply the century old principle of no pain, no gain -even with technology. There is always a sacrifice for the enhancements. Imagine if someone had to saw off their own legs in order to obtain the beautiful, height-extending legs that Purdy has?

An individual under the username of Apotheosis is one of the first few successful individuals to have extended their legs. This selective club has ‘sacrificed’ a 6 figure sum and 3 months of intensely painful physiotherapy but still seem to be a misunderstood subculture. Many people don’t imagine that shortness could be as debilitating as not being able to walk but what about a cultural debilitation? Apotheosis compares the procedure to wearing braces, which is accepted as apart of a health and hygiene system. In theory, the risk of loosing all of one’s teeth (or eyes in an eye surgery) are scary enough to compare with losing one’s legs. Surely the situations are only different because we are unsure of the technology of leg extension whereas that of tooth straightening and eye correction are well established.

Cyborg is a state of psychology. It’s just the aspirational term for gadgetry that brings us one step closer to our dreams, whether it’s living for longer, recovering from injuries or just being able to read the street sign when my glasses gets knocked off of my face.

Traditionally cyborgs are implants of mechanisms that give enhancement. My glasses were simply attachments, no more than a pencil because it has no synthetic feedback mechanism. What about a laser that ‘burns’ away? Surely it’s a just a slight removal from the myopic lens than any intelligent implantations? Do we still demand for genetic honesty?? Should we? Neil Harbisson proudly displays the obviously inorganic gadgetry in front of his face to augment his colour blindness. He’s making a statement of our normalities and understands of our phenotypes.

 In fact, cyber is just a grand prefix of technological possibilities suspended in the uncanny limbo between our wildest imaginations and the accepted everyday. I guess it ‘cyber’ sounds better than ‘limbo future technology’ though.

In hindsight, it is definitely a terrifying thing to have one’s eyes operated on. The only sensory detector that could accurately confirm any understandable information was having to coordinate it’s own operation. It’s like getting instructions on how to fix your phone over the phone, only this is an phone that you can never replace.

I miss my glasses. I suppose the first users of sight-enhancements were seen as extra-humans with the ability to see more clearly than others. It made an elite trade of goldsmiths, biologists and astronomers. Now the empty frames function only as a part of my identity. Wearing them seems as incomprehensible as the long heritage of vanity itself but what can I say? They makes me, me. It is the geeky, clumsy Clark Kent that has real family and friends, not Superman.

Image from: http://cache.io9.com/assets/resources/2008/02/VisionMain.jpg 

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  1. [...] Op-ed: “Cyborg is a state of psychology” and the line between cure and enhancement [...]



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