Integration

19 Sep 2011

Pagan Kennedy of the New York Times relays her “first” cyborg experience:

I was not aware of blinking or moving the muscles of my face. The phone seemed to have merged with my body, to be as much a part of me as a finger or toe. I found myself laughing. I couldn’t stop saying, “This is freaky.” And it was.

Kennedy’s article is excellent on a number of points, but there is one where she gets it dead wrong:

For years, computers have been creeping ever nearer to our neurons. Thousands of people have become cyborgs, of a sort, for medical reasons.

There is no “of a sort”. We are, almost all of us, already cyborgs. Neural implants and machine-based telepathy are not the defining attributes; it is, instead, the connection that we have with our tools. No longer are computers devices that we use, they have become a facet of our own being. Our very understanding of ourselves and, indeed, our very capacity for thought is directly connected to these things that we are not physically entwined with.

It is true that those with mechanical and electrical replacements to their bodies are, in a manner of speaking, different than the rest of us, but that difference is akin that of owning a motorcycle over a station wagon. Both users are still, fundamentally and unarguably, human beings.

When our devices cease to merely be tools and, instead, become necessary aspects of ourselves, we are no longer human beings. We are a new species altogether, distinct and separate. We are cyborgs.

(Via Matt Thomas)