A cyborg is a man-machine system in which the control
mechanisms of the human portion are modified externally by drugs or regulatory devices
enabling the being live in an environment different from the normal one. Manfred Clynes
and Nathan Kline used the term cyborg in an article about the advantages of
self-regulating human-machine systems in outer space. The cyborg is the mascot of cyberculture.
The cyborg represents a new structure of
technological fusion. Pacemakers, synthetic knee and hip joints, anabolic steroids, and
countless other technological advancements have enhanced the quality of daily life and
increased life expectancy dramatically.
As Donna Haraway asserts in her discussion of feminism, science, and technology, Simians, Cyborgs, and Women,
"we are all cyborgs" and the cyborg holds the promise of freedom from
established categories of difference by removing the physical/social distinctions based
upon class, race, sexuality, and most
importantly, gender. The liberatory potential offered
by the infusion of technology into cybercultural social
structure. Donna Haraway asserts "I would rather be a cyborg than a
Donna Haraway's vision of the cyborg as
harbinger of a postgender world has not necessarily come to fruition in this era of
technological fusion. Cyberculture has not fulfilled the promise of boundary transcendence
but rather reclaims technology as a positive image of capitalism.
Cybernetic fusion serves to "express
nostalgia for a time of masculine superiority". In many instances cybernetic fusion
posits a realm where previously contested paradigms have become reinstitutionalized.
The cyborg is seen today as an organism that has
technologically enhanced abilities.
Cyborgs in fiction portray human contempt for over-dependence on technology threatening
free will. Cyborgs are also often portrayed with physical or mental abilities far
Real cyborgs, unlike fictional cyborgs are more frequently people who use cybernetic
technology to repair or overcome the physical and mental constraints of their bodies, a
man or woman with bionic, or robotic, implants.
"Cyborg" is a science-fictional shorting of "cybernetic organism". The
idea is that, in the near future, we may have more and more artificial body parts - arms,
legs, hearts, eyes - and digital computing and communication supplements.
Prostheses like the C-Leg and the more advanced iLimb are
considered by some to be the first real steps towards the next generation of real-world
cyborg applications. Additionally cochlear implants and magnetic implants which provide
people with a sense that they would not otherwise have had can additionally be thought of
as creating cyborgs.
In 2002, under the heading Project Cyborg, a British scientist, Kevin Warwick, had an
array of 100 electrodes fired in to his nervous system in order to link his nervous system
into the internet. With this in place he successfully carried out a series of experiments
including extending his nervous system over the internet to control a robotic hand, a form
of extended sensory input and the first direct electronic communication between the
nervous systems of two humans.
Cyborgs in medicine
There are two types of cyborgs in medicine: these are the restorative cyborg and the
Restorative technologies restore lost function, organs, and limbs. The key
aspect of restorative cyborgization is the repair of broken or missing processes to revert
to a healthy or average level of function. There is no enhancement to the original
faculties and processes that were lost.
The enhanced cyborg follows a principle, and it is the principle of optimal
performance: maximising output (the information or modifications obtained) and minimising
input (the energy expended in the process) . Thus, the enhanced cyborg intends to
exceed normal processes or even gain new functions that were not originally present.
Retinal implants are another form of cyborgization in medicine. The theory behind retinal
stimulation to restore vision to people suffering from retinitis pigmentosa and vision
loss due to aging (conditions in which people have an abnormally low amount of ganglion
cells) is that the retinal implant and electrical stimulation would act as a substitute
for the missing ganglion cells (cells which connect the eye to the brain).
The "cyborg soldier" often refers to a soldier whose weapon and survival systems
are integrated into the self, creating a human-machine interface. A notable example is the
Pilot's Associate, first developed in 1985, which would use Artificial Intelligence to
assist a combat pilot. The push for further integration between pilot and aircraft would
include the Pilot Associate's ability to "initiate actions of its own when it deems
it necessary, including firing weapons and even taking over the aircraft from the pilot.
(Gray, Cyborg Handbook).
More broadly, the full term "cybernetic organism" is used to describe larger
networks of communication and control. For example, cities, networks of roads, networks of
software, corporations, markets, governments, and the collection of these things together.
A corporation can be considered as an artificial intelligence that makes use of
replaceable human components to function. People at all ranks can be considered
replaceable agents of their functionally intelligent government institutions, whether such
a view is desirable or not.
Cyborg proliferation in society
Many people could be making the transition to cyborg sooner than they thought. Applied
Digital Solutions leads in the development of the human implant RFID chip. This small,
rice sized chip has been marketed to help track medical records and keep credit
information safe and convenient. Although there is a large community that is critical of
this technology, RFID technology has done well in the past as a tracking chip in the
industrial world (RFID's reduction for out-of-stock study at Wal-Mart, RFID radio), and
for tracking pets and endangered wildlife (USDA Bets the Farm on Animal ID Program). This
in effect turns all chipped people or organisms into cyborgs, which is also a source of
discomfort to some. The critics of this movement claim that chipping people is an invasion
Cyborgization of the humankind
Fiction writers and futurists envisioning future technologically enhanced humans as
"cyborgs" -- creatures that will have human biological bodies as their legacy
core, but will hopefully have many important [and complex] biological parts directly
replaced with improved technological equivalents (and a variety of new ones added).
So while people have been playing with the images of cyborg future of their bodies, they
have overlooked the ongoing process of functional cyborgization they were already taking
In the scenario of physical integration of biological and technological structures, a
cyborg can (and has been) defined as a physically mixed system -- an organism with a
sufficiently large infusion of technological parts.
A functional cyborg ( should we call it a fyborg? funorg? fuborg? ) may be defined as a
biological organism functionally supplemented with technological extensions.
If you do not pay attention, the stream of technological supplements may turn you into a
functional cyborg through cyborgization before you notice it.
Cochlear implants and magnetic implants which provide
people with a sense that they would not otherwise have had can be thought of as creating
In 2002 Project Cyborg, Kevin Warwick, had an array of
100 electrodes fired in to his nervous system in order to link his nervous system into the
internet. He carried out a series of experiments including extending his nervous system
over the internet to control a robotic hand, a form of extended sensory input and the
first direct electronic communication between the nervous systems of two humans.
Gray, Chris Hables (ed.) (1995) The Cyborg Handbook New
Haraway, Donna (1985) `A manifesto for cyborgs: science,
technology, and socialist feminism in the 1980s' Socialist Review 80: 65-107
Haraway, Donna (1991) `The actors are cyborg, nature is
coyote, and the geography is elsewhere: postscript to `cyborgs at large'' in Penley,
Constance and Ross, Andrew (ed.) Technoculture Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press,
Jamison, P. K. (1994) `Contradictory spaces: pleasure and
the seduction of the cyborg discourse' Arachnet Electronic Journal on Virtual Culture 2
Morse, Margaret (1994) `What do cyborgs eat?" oral
logic in an information society' Discourse 16 (3): 86-127. Bibliography.
Penley, Constance and Ross, Andrew (1991) `Cyborgs at
large: interview with Donna Haraway' in Penley, Constance and Ross, Andrew (ed.)
Technoculture Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1-20. Bibliography.
Rayner, Alice (1994) `Cyborgs and replicants: on the
boundaries' Discourse 16 (3): 124-43
Yeaman, Andrew R. J. (1994) `Cyborgs are us' Arachnet
Electronic Journal on Virtual Culture 2 (1).