Monday, April 30, 2012

I + Tech + Body = The World

Musings on the Future of the Human Body and Technology

The growth of bio-technologies has forced us to reconsider our collective definitions of what it means to be human.

Cyborgian theories, expressed in a variety of media, crystalized in research with the publishing of Donna Haraway’s cyborg manifesto in 1991.  The melding of organic and technological systems in sporting bodies has been investigated by a number of excellent researchers including Dr. Ted Butryn, and colleagues, who have written extensively about the integration of technology into elite athletic bodies.

In the new century, we will have to confront our notions of the organic and the technological; the human and the cyborg. We will be forced to extend the boundaries: morally, ethically, politically, socially, and economically. For many it will be uncomfortable. Others tragic. Others beyond imagination.  This evolution will transform the human experience.   As with all social issues...access, power, and privilege will be concerns.  Not ironically, I hope technology allows me to live long enough to see these transformations occur in earnest.    

We are already cyborgs to some degree, using various technologies to enhance our bodies, extend our lives, and buffer against illness, disease, and injury.  The line of transgression is often drawn when we discuss elective augmentation of the human body via technology.  Yet, we are already there. Vaccinations, inoculations, pharmaceutical drugs, performance enhancing drugs, contact lenses, synthetic body parts, laser surgery, nano-bio-technologies, tissue regrowth…we have not been 100% human for a long time. And it’s exciting.

The oldest in our societies often have bodies reconstituted via medical technologies.  Grandmother with the hip replacement due to osteoarthritis; Grandfather with a pace maker due to a heart attack.  Cyborgs all. Marginalized populations such as returning war veterans equipped with C-Leg prosthetics - cyborgs.  

It leads to questions.  What is human?  Where do you draw the line?  And how does that definition relate to legality and power?

How much of me “needs” to be human to be considered by human law and be eligible for the human rights applied therein.  What is the nutritional label? Which percentage balance of human to tech? Will we have a cyborg bill of rights and how will this differ from human rights charter?  An VI or AI bill of rights? 

Classic science fiction films such as Blade Runner and Gattica have mined this bio-genetically enhanced, stratified future social structure. Separate societies of the enhanced and the non-enhanced.  The Digital Divide at its most spacious. 

Casting into the far-near techno-future, we will see a great diversity in expressions of human life.

I + technology + my body insert into the world – both digital and physical.

Which Kind of Cybrog are You?
a) Human consciousness that lives entirely in organic-techo computer systems, never manifesting in human body form
b) Human consciousness that can be downloaded into avatar bodies
c) % human to % cyborg (from 1% human to 99% cyborg, in reverse, and all ratios in between)
d) Non-genetically enhanced humans
e) Genetically enhanced humans

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