Friday, September 14, 2012

Cyborgs

I don't have anything to talk about re: professional sports aside from what I said last month. So, I'm going to write about cyborgs instead.

To you readers who woefully did not have a nerdy childhood, teenhood, or adulthood, a cyborg is a conglomerate of a human and a machine. Robocop is a pretty classical treatment of a cyborg.

The classical definition of a cyborg is typically a machine fused to a human. I think a more contemporary definition of a cyborg might allow this human to detach their machine parts. This definition, when treated loosy-goosily, might imply that the use of any tool would cyborgacize oneself.

Perhaps it comes down to the individual's perception of the machine or tool that they're using regarding whether they're a person using a tool or whether they're a cyborg and the tool is a part of them. For the sake of argument, let's assume that if an individual feels closer to their identity when they're using their tool than when they're not that they are exhibiting cyborgly behaviour.

Here are a few tools that I feel more like myself when using:

1) Glasses
My prescription is -6,000,000 ± 5,999,995, which, in layhuman terms, means that I'm more likely to end up at a Robin's Donuts than work if I left the house in the morning without them. The world feels more normal when it's in focus. Thanks glasses.

2) Bike
I was recently biking with someone who I had known fairly well for a very long time. They commented that they were surprised with the grace with which I handled myself while on a bike. I'll be the first (or, second I guess) to say that I'm not the most graceful human alive while walking. I definitely feel more comfortable on a bike while transporting myself as opposed to walking. And, as it turns out, apparently I'm much better and more graceful when transporting myself via bike. Thanks bike!

3) Cell Phone
It feels weird when I'm out and about, think about something I want to ask / tell someone, and not have the ability to send a thought to someone else via text/email. Similarly, I feel disconnected when I know others don't have this link to me. I'm not sure whether the cyborg component in this example is the phone or whether its the connectivity to the internet that causes this sensation.

4) Computer
A majority of my job is on my laptop. I use this same laptop at home. In other words, I interact with this computer a lot. Recently, I decided to use a second monitor for one particular task. When I was interacting with my laptop on the other monitor, I felt really weird. I felt exactly like when you clasp your hands together, then invert them, have someone touch them, and then your fingers feel as if they're on the wrong arm. If you don't know what I'm talking about, too bad, I actually couldn't find any pix or vidz to illustrate what I mean. Anyway, it was totally cray. I felt a different sensation (or rather, a sensation I was accustomed to was absent) when using the second monitor. I've developed a sensation to using a (my?) laptop. Super weird.

It's weird to think that I feel like I'm living closer to my identity when using this machines as compared to when I'm not. I'm not too worried about this -- I think it's pretty an interesting observation about the sensations that I'm accustomed to and makes me who I am.

I'm a cyborg, guys. PS: Sorry sports fans.

4 comments:

  1. This reminds me of this tumblr that went up a couple years ago on the 50th anniversary of the word "cyborg": http://50cyborgs.tumblr.com/

    I haven't gotten around to reading all of the content on it yet (two years later..) but the post about cooking-as-external-stomach (http://50cyborgs.tumblr.com/post/1075663418/cooking-acts-as-a-supplemental-external-stomach) really fascinated me and made me think of basically all tools and technology in a different way.

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  2. I've heard that cyborg theory is a pretty big area of thought, and it's definitely intriguing!

    One of the people I've met recently told me that she has a desktop computer, but doesn't have the internet. As I gaped at her, she said that that was how many people reacted to that information, and that she didn't want to become dependent on it (FUN FACT - just misspelled it as dependNET, which seems fitting). I'm very, very dependent on the internet - for finding out what the weather's like, for getting around town, for meeting and keeping in touch with people, and for doing my work. I think that the technology I most identify with as "part of me" probably is the internet.

    Cyborgization ++

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  3. It's interesting when people limit themselves from activities because they're worried that they will become dependent / addicted to them. I don't worry too much about that -- I usually just quit things cold turkey and I'm fine. The contrary example is that of cigars, however. Every time I smoke a cigar, within a few days my mind is like "Hey Scott... you know what would be good right now? Another cigar." Them's physical addiction talking, son.

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  4. Sometimes at work I feel the effects of "cyborgization". Structural engineering design software is an exceptionally tempting tool when faced with a problem. Rather than spend ten minutes thinking a problem through with my human brain, I find I am often attracted to using my borg brain that comes in a black box with a DELL logo. After an hour of fiddling around with a model and getting nowhere fast and thought hits me and I go back to good old organic hardware.

    This made me consider what design issues a future generation may face with the likely invention of neural enhancing devices. Some science fiction predicts we will have our brains wired to a form of internet or expanding our memory and thinking power with computer implants. I wonder what effects such enhancements may have on brain health and on our ability to be successful as human beings. Would we be able to switch off our borg brain in order contemplate more abstract thoughts? Would turning off such a borg brain impair us in the same way as one with a brain injury? If there is any one element of our existence which defines the human identity, it is our thoughts. How might neural enhancements change our identity? And would we really want that?

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