How do we define the human self in an age of blurry borderline between organism and machine?
A cyborg is an organism with both biological and technological components. Individuals can enhance their organisms, which include improved senses, abilities or implants of their limbs, and communication over great distances. In the past, the concept of cyborgs was brought up as a dystopian idea of science-fiction, but nowadays the modern technological advancement has already made it a reality.
The cyborg foundation was created to help people to become cyborgs and defend their rights. It is a platform for the research, development and promotion of projects related to the creation of new senses and perceptions by applying gadgets to the human body. Cyborgs are no longer categorised by the born definition of gender, but implants can be added to their bodies to achieve customised perspectives of nudity by each individual. This in turn leads to the emergence of a new form of collective identity that goes way beyond the political boundaries drawn in the past.
The line that separates organisms from machines is also slowly diminishing, as organisms can now be manufactured in the laboratory and the computers are granted their own artificial intelligence. One after another, the definitions that characterise organisms as something different from the machines are being erased. The totalizing definition that establishes human as the superior being is now at stake, while the opportunity to rethink the definition of living matters as a non-binary, multivocal concept has emerged.
In this dialog, we will discuss the new relation between human and machine, in terms of how it changes our self-identity as a member of the mechanised society. The established beliefs of the original human body is being challenged, and a new form of coexistence is needed to take its place.
Key words: fiction & real, human & machine, boundaries & inclusion, identity & rights, context & coexistence, original body & mechanised body.
Enlin Guo has his arm disconnected from his nervous system, so he contacted the Cyborg Foundation to get a robotic arm implant. He is meeting Doctor Erkskine to design the surgery and is being explained with an understanding of the social implications of becoming a cyborg. Elon Musk arrives and discusses why the patient has not chosen to get a Neuralink chip.
They move to the testing facility to undergo different evaluations of the patient’s body and brain, as Elon Musk tries to convince the patient to get his chip instead of the whole arm. The patient disagrees and prefers the implant. Elon Musk is angry that Enlin didn’t get the chip, so he finds a way to implant it without anyone knowing about it.
After making sure that everything is working properly, they continue with the surgery, while the other characters are overlooking.
One week after the patient comes back to the testing centre for a review. As they see that the implant was successful, they start talking about his experience and new life as a cyborg. Neil Harbisson realises that the patient has been treated unfairly and is unhappy with the situation. He comes and talks about his rights as a cyborg and how it is now part of his identity.
Things start to go unplanned as the two different implants are not working together as one.
The discussion continues as Elon, the doctor, and Neil Harbisson try to come up with a solution to this issue.
Neil Harbisson is a 40 year old British/Irish Artist and Activist. He was born without the ability to see any colour and was therefore inspired to design a prosthetic device, which he refers to as an ‘eyeborg’. This device worn by Neil allows him to hear colours, as the colour’s light frequencies are transformed into sound frequencies. Consequently, he is often referred to as the world’s first cyborg. Neil co-founded the Cyborg Foundation, which is an organisation that helps humans transform into cyborgs and defends their rights as a newly identified cyborg.
Elon Musk is a 51 year old South African, Canadian and American Businessman and is known as the world’s richest man. One of the companies he has recently founded is known as Neuralink, an organisation that aims to develop technologies which intensifies the connection between human and computer by inserting a chip into the human brain. This can be used not only for more complicated medical purposes, but may also be used simply to enhance the cognitive behaviour of patients.
Enlin Guo (Patient)
Enlin Guo is a 32 year old Asian Canadian who has been working in the Tech industry for the past 6 years. Due to an injury that caused his arm to be disconnected <<<from his nervous system, he is now interested in the world of cyborgs and the various options which may allow him to get the functions back to his arm. He is both curious and open minded, seeing the potential enhancement in the connection between human and technology.
Doctor Erkskine is a 51 year old medical doctor who grew up in southern Germany. From an early age, he became interested in the area of robotics, and he later managed to merge this technology with his career in medicine. He is a non- traditionalist and is eager to push the boundaries of the medical field; however, he has a specific scepticism towards the altering of one’s brain functions through surgery.
One week after the operation, the patient returns for assessment of the implant’s adaptive performance on his body. As they await the results from the lab, the conversation continues…
Hey Neil, have you ever felt like increasing the quality of life, empowering the function of the body are equal to sacrificing nakedness, the true nature of the human body?
I would not call it sacrificing Enlin. if my identity is now determined by biological facts – that in no way depend on my will, and over which I have no control – then the construction of something like a personal ethics becomes problematic. What relationship could someone with his arms missing establish with fingerprints if they don’t have an arm? How would my genetic code be read?
Enlin, do you think a person is naked if he’s not wearing clothes? Traditional thinkers say yes but cyborg theory says no as ´human´ and ´machine´ have no rigid boundaries and the separation is erased between the two. We are moving past having to put genders, species etc. in boxes and labels.
I don’t know. Recently, I was passing by and saw a group of nudist activists. Then a question popped up in my mind: could I call myself naked with this arm, and would they acknowledge me as so?
Enlin, you should accept the fact that If your intention is employing something to your body and still be recognized as natural, then what you applied must be invisible to human eyes but still function.
I do not agree with Elon. Enlin, once I read a quote saying that “Though they were not covered by any human clothing before the Fall, Adam and Eve were not naked; rather, they were covered by clothing of grace, which clung to them as a garment of glory”. I think that is the thing that should matter.
Being naked is profoundly liberating. It’s not just the physical feeling of the air, sun or sea over your entire body: there’s a psychological release, too. When you shed your clothes, many social pressures also somehow fall away. Having this equipment attached to your body may make you feel like you are still under pressure from an artefact object. In this case maybe another form of implant, such as that implemented in your brain, may free your mind from these concerns.
To me, being a cyborg has nothing to do with the body. You may have many implants but do not consider them as organs within your body. Similarly, you could have no implants, but feel an inherent connection to technology and identify yourself as a cyborg. The question here is how strong is your relationship with technology? Is it altering your reality? If yes, then you’re a cyborg.
Of course, that is another point of view. I could not say which one is right or wrong, or maybe it is not that kind of question that requires an answer. Perhaps, it is only about the reality that each person perceives differently?
Having a different form of extension attached to your body may not seem natural in terms of appearance; however, I would like to remind you that this extension will function as your own arm enabling you to gain what you lack in terms of functionality. Now you think this way, but I think sooner you get used to this condition, you will feel something is missing without it.
Definitely, If it is something that compliments you, it should not be recognized as an addition, it is supposed to be an extension of yourself instead.
Then a nurse suddenly opens the door handing the test results to the doctor.
Hm..,Enlin, your medical test results are available, seemingly there are no issues. However, an unknown chip found inside your brain….
To Be Continued..
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Rise of the Cyborg is a project of IAAC, Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia developed at Masters in Advanced Architecture in 2022/2023 by students: Brian Paul Woodtli Bahena, James Alcock, Sabina Javanli, Emily Jane Rackstraw, Cansu Kılınç, Enlin Guo, and faculty: Manuel Gausa, Jordi Vivaldi