Re: Any cyborgs out there?

From: Mike Lorrey (
Date: Tue Jul 10 2001 - 12:14:57 MDT

Helen Fowle wrote:
> Hi Mike and Hal
> Thanks for replying to the e-mail I sent out. I've been tracking the
> conversation that you've been having in regards to my research. It's
> been entertaining!
> Both of you have made some great points, particularly you Mike, your
> points about semantics and the negative stigmatisation of the word
> cyborg is what makes my research so interesting.
> I'd be grateful for any more comments that either of you have
> regarding the following questions. If anybody else on the list would
> also like to comment I'd be gratefull. This is all really useful for
> my work.
> 1) Do you know of anyone who calls themselves
> cyborg/transhuman/posthuman. Do you know why?

Several people I've known with prosthetics have made self deprecating
cracks about being cyborgs at one time or another as a source of
humorous reflection on their condition, which might be the sort of humor
you get with people sitting on the roofs of their houses in a flood
joking about their car floating by....

There is one fellow on the extropians list who is a bit of a New Age nut
who calls himself a posthuman, without any sort of augmentation at all.
I think its more of a metaphysical thing for him. We've tried to explain
how the definitions are in the past and he's mellowed out, but I don't
think he is at all interested in getting with the program. We extropes
tend to be, and tend to attract, some very independent minded people, so
I'm actually surprised that the terms we've developed over time have
held their meaning as much as they have. I suggest you peruse the
lextropicon at the site for some of the rather interesting
defintions that have developed over time (exampe: disasturbation
(pre-Y2K term), the practice of spending one's time talking, planning,
and preparing excessively, to an obsessional level, for a predicted
low-risk catastrophe (Y2K, comet strikes, etc)).

> 2) Do you think that how we see technology and machine-human
> interaction influences our response or attitide to technological
> modifications/alterations.

Oh, of course. If a person sees technology as a threat to one's
employability, that person is likely to develop negative sentiments
toward technology, as this was the basis of the first Luddite movement.
If instead they are shown that technology can enable them to make more
money and be more financially secure, then its a positive influence. The
problem is whether they are stasists or dynamists. A stasist, of course,
will tend to see the past and the future on a very linear, flat slope,
and will resist changes and accelerated rates of growth in technology,
society, culture, etc....

Religion, I think, is very important in an individual's view toward
technology. While christianity originally was a very forward-looking
theology, it has become very calcified and conservative over time, at
least in most of its sects, and other theologies like Hinduism, etc have
similar stasist views, either that everything repeats and cycles, that
there is no real progress in humanity, and/or that humanity should not
alter what the deity has decreed.

Other theologies, like Buddhism, which teach that the individual can
transcend the eternal wheel, as well as the more progressive christian
sects that popularize notions like the individual's ability to
personally communicate with and reach God. Modern humanism has tended
instead to move away from its 19th century transcendental roots toward a
more stasist approach that sees technology as a dehumanizing force that
institutions use to enslave the individual, putting the individual in
'their place in the wall', as 'a cog in the machine'. All of this tends
to come from disillusionment with both the industrial revolution's
promise to raise the quality of life of the former serf population, and
the socialist revolution's failed promise to do the same. Modern
socialistic individuals look today toward smaller collective units that
resemble more the primitivist tribal groupings of prehistory, and which
denigrate modern power industry in favor of human power and a very
pastoral/agrarian existence.

They see the biotechnology movement, for example, as a scheme by
industry to separate the farmer from the land, and make him dependent
more upon industry's ability to provide new forms of domesticated
species. Similarly, they see personal augmentation as a sort of chain
that binds the individual to high technology and makes the individual
dependent upon the technologists of industry rather than dependent upon
'they who know best' in government and intellegentsia.

I find it rather interesting that those who are most supportive of
progressive laws like the ADA to help those who are accidentally
disfigured, take such a dim view of an act of 'voluntary disfigurement'
to utilize technology that performs better than the body part it is
replacing, or which adds additional capabilities to a human that raises
that human above his unaugmented peers in ability. Of course, this is a
rather radical form of egalatarianism: if you can't share your candy
with the class, you can't have any yourself. The fact that some may not
want any candy is used as an excuse to deny everyone else candy.

> 3) Why do you think people who call themselves
> cyborgs/posthuman/transhuman are stigmatised by certain groups/people?
> 4) Why do you think people might want to refer to themsleves in this
> way? Yes Hal, my research is mostly about self-definition!

I would expect individuals who have rather iconoclastic temperaments to
delight in the shock value, because they know how terms like 'cyborg'
jar a humaniform conservatives sensibilities, as much as talking openly
about one's sexuality at a Baptist social would. Then you'd have the
crusader types, shouting 'equal rights for cyborgs' from the ramparts...

> 5)What is it about technology, the future etc that excites you?

Well, I'm a guy. ;)

I see technology as an empowering force for individual liberties, and
I've always been rather dissatisfied with current day existence. I guess
reading a lot of sci-fi as a kid was the root cause, and I'm rather
miffed that we don't all live a Jetson's lifestyle by now....

> 6) Do you think that future technological modficiations to the body
> may mean an end/beginning to humanity as we know it?

No. I suggest you look at my comments in the Singularity discussion that
occured a few years ago. Here's a link to the whole discussion and a
link to my comments specifically:

What is 'as we know it'? And why is our opinion at this point in time at
all relevant to the lives of people 50-100 years in the future? Do we
have a right to tell the future how to behave?

In my opinion, the only opinion that matters about whether an individual
should modify themselves is their own. Nobody else gets a say or has a
right. Of course, I'm rather anarchistic that way.

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