Future Cinema

Course Site for Future Cinema 1 (and sometimes Future Cinema 2: Applied Theory) at York University, Canada

“Our Cyborg selves” by Terry Dartell

Posted on | October 18, 2006 | No Comments

The following text is excerpted from: “Our Cyborg selves” by Terry Dartell, on line opinion.com, Australia’s e-journal of social and political debate.

The term “cyborg” was coined by Manfred Clynes and Nathan Kline in a 1960’s paper called Cyborgs and Space – Kline said it sounded like a town in Denmark. Their idea was to engineer people for space by implanting electrical devices that would regulate wakefulness, metabolism, respiration, heartbeat and other physiological functions. Onboard devices would bypass lung-based breathing, alter heart rate and temperature, reduce metabolism and food intake, and control wakefulness.

Little work has been done on modifying our bodies in this way, but recent research in cognitive science suggests that we are cyborgs anyway, not in the sense that we have modified our bodies, but in the deeper and more penetrating sense that we have modified our minds by extending and amplifying them with external technologies. We are so enmeshed with these technologies that removing them would be akin to brain damage. We are cyborgs now – and we always have been.

The philosopher and cognitive scientist Andy Clark, who has pioneered much of this research, points out that our cyborg status solves various puzzles. One is the way in which, despite our genetic similarity to other species, there is something that makes us different and sets us apart. This is the cyborg modification of our minds with external, cognitive technologies.

Language is what Clark calls a “transparent technology”. We are so well integrated with it that it is almost invisible in use. We are surrounded by such technologies (pens, watches, computers, telephones … ) and are rapidly developing new ones. “Pseudo-neural” implants in our bodies will communicate with one-another – where we are and how we are. Augmented reality will overlay our experience of the world with personalised information, beamed to us by satellite. Lost on campus we will enter “library”, don an eyeglass and see a green arrow pointing to the library.


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