Cyborg, Distinctively Cyborg?

This is the second section of a two part blog post. For the earlier segment, view last week’s post.

Written by: Jordan Ehrlich

Cyborg, Distinctively Cyborg?

Last week, we discussed how humans are ever changing in relation to our history and other species. We entertained a more abstract definition of humanity. Today, we continue that conversation by introducing another TED Talk.

In her 2010 TED Talk, We are all cyborgs now, Amber Chase explains that each of us, right now, is actually a cyborg. How strange. For many of us, our image of a “cyborg” is a machine-adapted creature, one with metal arms and legs. Maybe it wears a mask. But the definition of cyborg that she uses is, “an organism to which exogenous components have been added for the purpose of adapting to new environments.” As we come to understand in her Talk, instead of utilizing exogenous physical additions, we frequently use exogenous mental components to adapt: phones, computers, and other smart devices. We basically have a brain assisting our brains at all times of the day, enhancing our performance whenever we need.

“Now what we’re looking at is not an extension of the physical self, but an extension of the mental self”

As our previous image of a cyborg relies on its bionic legs to jump higher, we now use our bionic minds (computers) to think deeper, to progress further. So if a cyborg now looks an awful lot like a human, and a human looks an awful lot like a cyborg, what does that say about the definition of either? They’re fuzzy. To be human is not so distinct. Recalling last week’s blog, maybe we’re just the lucky chimps operating computers, somewhere in between apes and cyborgs.

…the lucky chimps operating computers…

Maybe that is the case. Jared Diamond shares in his book The Third Chimpanzee that we share ninety eight percent of our genes with chimpanzees. This means that we are not all that different from these primitive creatures we see as so un-advanced. Maybe we are just the animals that got lucky and accumulated knowledge more effectively. Though our habits and mating rituals are outwardly more complex than other species, these are all outcomes of deep biological drives that we share with many other species on Earth. So what is so special about a human?

That’s up to you.

Nothing in human history has ever stayed the same: our lifestyles, our knowledge, nor our definitions of self. Our placement on the spectrum of advancement is just that, a point on a spectrum, not a concrete area. Maybe there is no absolute human image. Maybe the human is the ape that becomes non-finite. Fuzzy. Indistinct.