Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Honestly, Who Isn't a Cyborg?

I've heard word that a stirring or scary posthumanity is aborning.

No question, medical and media devices are beginning to enter into some stunningly and disturbingly intimate relations with their makers these days. And in this intercourse of subjects and objects some deeply held expectations, norms, customs are twittering in ways that are edifying and upsetting by turns.

But are we right to think that the prostheticization of humanity is really so unprecedented as all that? Just who are the cyborgs? Who are these troubling chimeras, cyberneticized post-people, roboticized newcomers exactly?

Is it only Kevin Warwick or Steve Mann with their glamorous implants who count and conjure up the specter of scary cyborgological futures, or is it every boring paunchy uncle at the cookout with his cellphone and pacemaker who claws at Pandora's box-lid? Why don't vaccinations or shoe stores or sign language render Average Joe just as post-biological as Locutus of Borg?

When Aristotle defined "man" as a "political animal," that was the first cyborg manifesto as far as I can tell. It was a claim that human beings become different in their "essential natures" when they live together in cities. Already our embodied selves did not decisively end in our skins, but spread out into and were definitively impinged upon by culture and artifice.

Prostheticization does not make humans into posthumans, but defines the inaugural moment when humanity stepped onto the scene of history.

1 comment:

n8o said...

Is it only Warwick or Mann with their glamorous implants who count and conjure up the specter of scary cyborgological futures, or is it every boring paunchy uncle at the cookout with his cellphone and pacemaker who claws at Pandora's box-lid?

It's lines like these that make you a tremendous pleasure to read. HAH!

The is the same attitude I took on after synchronizing sci-fi concepts of machine intelligence and artificial personhood with the old, well-precedented legal traditions of corporations. Corporations as "legal persons" have been around since the late 1800s. "Corporation" derives from "corpus" which means "body", right? And if these "bodies" have most of the rights of "natural persons", then all they need now are heads. This tends to take the novelty out of the whole issue.