Present-Day Cyborgs and Body Modification

Changing technologies within the past 50 years have given rise to fears of the power of these new technologies. In the movie Blade Runner (based on the book “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep” by Philip K. Dick) for example, robots in human form live among the general population and are only distinguishable by their inability to feel emotion. What happens when the line between android and human is blurred? This is where the concept of a cyborg comes into play. A cyborg is a human who has been altered with computer technology either for the purpose of replacing missing parts (think Luke Skywalker’s robotic arm) or make existing parts better (think Terminator, as pictured).

I propose that the transition to cyborg culture is already underway. What is a pacemaker but a part of the human body replaced by a piece of technology that better performs that role? As a type 1 diabetic, my pancreas has been replaced by a mechanical pump that fulfills the same role beyond the boundaries of my body. It is connected to me, and it has become a part of me. Without it (assuming I do not fulfill the same needs with insulin injections) I would die. What are contact lenses or glasses but another type of technology? It is not something that your body could simply create to improve itself. Even tennis shoes are a type of technology that improve your capabilities as a human.

What about improvements not for the sake of human capability but for aesthetic values? Making a hole in your skin to fit a shiny gem is a type of body modification. If a Hollywood starlet decides she doesn’t like the shape of her nose, she can go to a doctor and have it changed. This is not the way she was born, but because of technologies that we have access to, it is a change that she is enabled through aspects of her environment.

terminator

Cyborgs are humans with parts that have been replaced with things that are not human. Our bodies are already being modified and improved by things like, say, colored contact lenses which change our abilities as well as our aesthetics. If I wanted to, I could pierce my skin and put a piece of metal through my eyebrow without any drastic cultural consequences. In the next 50 years, then, cyborgs will become more and more prevalent with technologies that allow us to make ourselves more capable than even now.

The transition is and will be slow, but I think it won’t be quite as pivotal as some science-fiction would have us suspect. Very few, if any, will notice the change and even fewer will care. As long as these changes mean that we are improved as a species, no one will speak out about it. It is not a bad thing- on the contrary, I think it is a wonderful thing (although I am biased, since the technology that I live with makes my life much easier). What it has done, however, is allowed us to operate beyond the limitations of the Darwinian theory of survival of the fittest. With our technologies, we can put everyone (who can afford it) on a level playing field so that near-sighted people or a person born without legs can live a relatively normal life and will still have the ability to contribute their genes to subsequent generations.

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