Cyborgs Among Us!

KiriKiri Member
edited August 2013 in Kiri Callaghan
What do you think about the cyborg movement? Is it a fad? Is it our future? Does it make you nervous or will you welcome the ability to use technology to augment our senses and attributes?

For content mentioned in this video:

Lepht Anonym's Lectures on Youtube:
The Cyborg Foundation:

If you're looking for more reading to devour, definitely check out some of Norbert Wiener's writing--I believe some of it is even available in PDF format on the web.

Also here's where I started and what originally spurred my curiosity--short but very fascinating documentary:

And a really amazing fictional video I stumbled across in the search called True Skin. It was a hit a while ago where it bounced around everywhere and then like most internet art sensations, seemed to fall into cyberspace semi-forgotten. I love it, it's awesome, I want to know more about this story and the characters--check it out:

As always please share your content and findings as my video definitely couldn't cover all of the awesome that's buzzing around out there!


  • ImpInMyHeadImpInMyHead Member
    edited August 2013 PM
    When I think of cyborgs, the first thing that pops in my head tends to be Shadowrun.  My first tabletop I ever played and will always have a special place in my heart.  While I generally liked playing physical adepts, a cybered punker was never far away as a 2nd choice.  I would created, re-create and re-re-create characters just for the fun of it to see what I could do and get with cyberware (and bioware).

    Think my brother had the combo down best for making a character like Wolverine/Weapon-X


    Oh, Shadowrun.

    I miss you.
    I am a wise fool.
  • This just confirms what I have long suspected: we are already living in the cyberpunk future!
  • Donna Haraway wrote an essay called "A Cyborg Manifesto" which talks about lots of things in relation to cyborgs and gender and race, but among them is the concept that humans are already cyborgs because of the way we interact with and build ourselves around technology like cars or the internet. It can be found here.

    It also has a nifty little section talking about cyborgs and Greek myths in there somewhere.
  • @DailyDael I actually did a presentation on that particular article for a class I did in university, though I did draw a parallel of technology (specifically the internet) being the new self as a technological being and thus making us all cyborgs. I also implied that its usage is a new manifestation of "invisible privilege". It's associated with upper classes, the "white race" and men. 

    I even used a Penny Arcade comic to further illustrate the point, using it to essentially imply that Gabe was cybering with another white, middle class dude
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  • The idea of augmenting our environment or adjusting our physical appearance has hardly been a new thing. Humans have been changing what they didn't like about their surrounds since they thought fire was a good idea to cook food. They didn't want to forget something, the wrote it down on paper. Want to see better, these crystal lenses seem to do the trick. Don't want to spend time grinding wheat at the mill, get the wind to do it for you. Cybernetics might just be (or might already be) the new tool in which to better coupe with our world. Might we be continuing the human tradition?
  • UeltomasUeltomas Member
    edited August 2013 PM
    NSFW music video, pretty sure it made it into the UK charts though.

    I like the idea of the exoskeleton. Seems like it could help a lot of people with mobility issues, while also making a lot of difficult and dangerous jobs that much easier.
  • @thatterigirl That is the coolest thing ever. You are SO cool. I haven't studied it in any classes (yet?) but I know bits and pieces of it through family members who have.
  • In your video @Kiri you asked if given the option would people become a cyborg, or would they stay organic. I was trying to think really hard on how I wanted to word my answer to that. If you are just getting cyborg implants to change or alter your body, that I would be against. If you are getting an implant because it’s medically warranted (like a person with a heart problem might get a pacemaker) that I would be okay with. I know a lot of people have looked cybernetics as a means to eventually give amputees a way to replace their lost limbs, and again I am okay with this idea. For some reason while thinking about that my mind drifted onto my own disability.

    I have a neurological disorder. I don’t think it is something that could possibly be fixed by cybernetics, but I can be wrong. For argument sake I will assume that it could be fixed with cybernetics, would I get the implants? No. Good or bad I think growing up with my disability helped make me into the person I am today. And I don’t want to risk changing some aspects of me, even if that means I would still have to keep some of my flaws. Would I hold anything against someone with the same disability as me if they got the implants? Again no. If they want to seek treatment for their condition they have the right to do so, and I do not have the right to judge them for that.
  • TranquilityTranquility Member
    edited August 2013 PM
    @BingoBard - you would still be the person you are today because, well, that's already happened, an implant can't change the past*.  Who's to say that having an implant from this moment on won't make you an even cooler and awesomerererer person than you already are? What if it could reduce unpleasant/negative aspects and leave the ones you can cope with? What if they were removable? Like wearing glasses.

    I too have a disability and would absolutely, with no qualms (other than safety, but for arguments sake, we'll assume it's all perfectly safe), accept implants that would ameliorate it.  According to what some people have suggested, I'm actually a cyborg already because I use a motorised wheelchair, use a computer almost exclusively to write (I was given a laptop computer at upper/high school -- years ago before laptops were common place items) and at night I use a ventilator to help me breath.

    Uh, yeah, that last one actually makes me sound like Darth Vader (literally, the noise is the same), so I'm not really selling the idea of being a cyborg that well here.

    Swiftly moving on... I've never believed that my personality, who I am today, was significantly influenced by my disability to the point that I'd be a completely different person without it.  I've always felt that I was a geek first and foremost and my interests and choices in life have been influenced by that more. I suppose what I'm saying is, even if I could do some things I can't do now, I probably wouldn't because it's not who I am regardless of physical ability.

    * Unless it's an implanted time machine. That would be cool, right?
  • @Tranquility “I've never believed that my personality, who I am today, was significantly influenced by my disability to the point that I'd be a completely different person without it.”

    I think part of my concern comes from the fact that my disorder is the result of how my brain was wired at birth. Any cyborg implant that would be used to treat it would likely have to change how my brain works, and that makes me a little worried that something unexpected could happen to my personality as a result.

    Note: I am trying not to say what my disability is because I am trying not to derail @Kiri’s cyborg conversation any more than I have too. So don’t think it is because I am ashamed of it or anything like that.

    Something I didn’t mentioned before because I thought my previous post was getting long enough as it was, is my condition vs. the need for surgery concept. Getting a cyborg implant would likely involve surgery regardless of what the implant is. I am going to talk about a documentary I saw about a different neurology disorder (not the one I have) because it will help paint a picture of what I’m talking about. Tourette syndrome is a neurology disorder were a person has verbal and/or motor tics. Tics are uncontrolled actions. Examples of verbal tics are making a squeaky noise, repeatedly saying certain words randomly (those words are not the same for each person that has this tic) and yelling. Examples of motor ticks are shaking your heard, twiddling your fingers, and shoulder shrugging. In this documentary one of the kids had a more extreme and rare motor tick. Running. Without warning or any control of any kind he would just start running in any random direction, and a few times he ended up running into the street. As you can see the running without control tic is a bigger concern than shoulder shrugging tic. Also in the documentary a doctor developed a means to help treat Tourette syndrome. I wish I could remember more than I do. From what I remember (and it is a slightly foggy memory) the doctor surgically installed a device that would give a small shock to the brain or the nervous system ever so often. The shock was supposed to combat the tic in some way. The kid still had a motor tic when he got this device installed. But it was greatly lessen. Instead of running his motor tic became a simple leg twitch, which is a whole lot safer to live with.

    I know this has been a long route to get here, but here comes the point I am trying to make. The doctor in the documentary said he would not use this procedure to treat all people with Tourette syndrome. That this should only be used on the more extreme cases and I think there is a fair amount of wisdom in that thinking. I have lived with my conduction for a number of years, I have gotten used to it. From my perspective I feel like my conduction would fall into the spectrum to the person who has the shrugging his shoulders tic. I do take medication to help lessen the effect of my conduction, but I don’t think it is the kind of thing I would seek surgery to try and treat. But like I said I also would not judge people if they sought out that kind of treatment. Some people with my disorder have a more severe case than I do.
  • @BingoBard, I like your point about technology that can potentially alter your brain function. There are undoubtedly cases where that could be of great benefit, like for the involuntary sprinter you mentioned, but in a whole lot of other circumstances the desirability of the procedure is far more questionable.

    The common parallel I've seen is the tendency for modern schools to pressure parents toward medicating children for attention deficit disorder. Mucking around with brain chemistry is pretty serious business, especially in a child, but the effects are so statistically satisfying to administrators in terms of getting a kid to sit quietly and focus on assignments that the recommendation to medicate gets pushed pretty frequently, and side effects be damned! It's easy to imagine cybernetic implants or other devices developing a similar popularity if the technology was commonplace. Once "straightening your brain" becomes as routine as orthodontistry and braces, it could become an expectation that anyone exhibiting "abnormal" behavior should undergo the procedure.

    Cyborg technology seems pretty cool, but I'd be pretty reluctant to pursue any modification. Even if you assume the surgery is completely safe and effective, and the benefits seem really valuable, I'd still worry about unintended side effects and consequences.
  • BingoBardBingoBard Member
    edited September 2013 PM
    @Farlander I know some people have debates about the use of medicines to treat disorders. I am not wanting to start one of those debates here. I just want to restate that I do take medication. The difference between taking medication vs a cyborg implant is medication is less invasive and cyborg implants would most likely involve surgery. If I have a bad reaction to the medication I can stop taking that medication and try something else. If I have a bad reaction to the cyborg implant… I imagine that would be a bit harder to fix. But I do think I have to concede the fact that the idea of brain surgery probably scares me a little. And in the theoretical scenario of treating my condition the cyborg implant would likely have to be installed on or in my brain.
  • @BingoBard, I picked medical prescription treatment as an example because I think it shows some of the interesting social effects that come into play when behavior-modifying technology becomes widely available and accepted. Another example might be cochlear implants, which are somewhat controversial in the deaf community, from what I've read. There are advocates and opponents who each feel quite strongly about whether those implants should be promoted for anyone with a hearing impairment.

    I can imagine plenty of cyborg tech that might follow the same trends. What happens when there is a common cybernetic chip that can be implanted in your brain to link to the Internet? Some people would embrace it enthusiastically, others would shun the idea. If it became pervasive enough, people with the implant might look down on others with unaugmented brains. There could be pressure to conform in the mainstream, and activists rallying to resist and "unplug your mind."

    Then there's the gamble of risk and reward. Optional surgery that has an 80% success rate in developing telekinetic power of varying degrees, with 20% of patients experiencing harsh side effects like vertigo or migraines when they use their ability, and 2% of patients who suffer those side effects sporadically without gaining any telekinetic potential. Maybe 0.1 percent die of a stroke during the surgery, or in an episode within one year of the operation. If you suffer from paralysis, that telekinetic power could vastly improve your ability to interact with the world; for others it might be little more than a novelty, used for party tricks and idle amusement. Who takes the risk and undergoes the procedure?

  • @Farlander “Another example might be cochlear implants, which are somewhat controversial in the deaf community, from what I've read.”

    The show Switched At Birth dealt with that a little. I found it interesting. With anyone unfamiliar with the show it is about two families who both had girls born on the same day, at the same hospital. It is not discovered until both the girls are in high school that the hospital mistakenly swapped the girls and the ended up going home with the wrong families. One of the girls ended up becoming deaf at an earlier age, allowing the show to gives us glimpse of the deaf community.

    @Farlander “What happens when there is a common cybernetic chip that can be implanted in your brain to link to the Internet?”

    Oh my gosh! There was a show that did a story about that. I forgot all about it till now. The show was called Bar Karma, had only one season. It was a bar that existed out of normal time and space, and people from different points of time would suddenly find themselves there. Usually these people had some kind of a problem or dilemma. In one episode that had a hacker from the future walk in. In the hacker’s time everyone had implants that connected them to the internet of every second of everyday. The downside, the hacker discovered that companies were hiding codes in software updates that would change people’s opinion on things. Like a newer higher tech version of subliminal messages.
  • Bar Karma sounds really interesting, @BingoBard, I might have to look it up. Your description also reminds me of the movie Branded that came out a year or two ago; it's available on Netflix streaming, but I haven't watched it, yet. I think the premise was something to do with subliminal advertising that got filtered into people's minds, and the protagonist becomes conscious of all the manipulative psychic phenomena that no one else can see.
  • BingoBardBingoBard Member
    edited September 2013 PM
    @Farlander Do note that the hacker from the future was just one episode. Don’t expect them to be all like that. In a different episode that had a guy from the 60’s walk into the bar. His dilemma was that he believed he was in love with two women and did not know which of the two women he should purse a dating relationship with.

    Also if you do find a way to watch all 12 episodes Bar Karma, let me know. I came into the middle of the series, and then lost cable for a days. As a result I only got to see three episodes. :( I keep hoping for it to appear on Hulu or Netflix, but it hasn’t happen yet. Again, :(
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