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A cyborg is a cybernetic organism (i.e. an organism that is a self-regulating integration of artificial and natural systems). The term was coined in 1960 when Manfred Clynes and Nathan Kline used it in an article about the advantages of self-regulating human-machine systems in outer space. Ever since then, it has often been used to name those creatures that complicate traditional boundaries between mind (or spirit) and matter, machine and animal, evolved and invented, living and dead: D. S. Halacy's Cyborg: Evolution of the Superman in 1965 featured an introduction by Manfred Clynes, who wrote of a "new frontier" that was "not merely space, but more profoundly the relationship between 'inner space' to 'outer space' -a bridge...between mind and matter." The cyborg is often seen today merely as an organism that has enhanced abilities due to technology, but this perhaps oversimplifies the category of feedback.
Fictional cyborgs are portrayed as a synthesis of organic and synthetic parts, and frequently pose the question of difference between human and machine as one concerned with morality, free will, and empathy. Fictional cyborgs may be represented as visibly mechanical (e.g. the Borg in the Star Trek franchise or the Cylons from the 1978 TV series, Battlestar Galactica); or as almost indistinguishable from humans (e.g. the Cylons from the re-imagining of Battlestar Galactica). These fictional portrayals often register our society's discomfort with its seemingly increasing reliance upon technology, particularly when used for war, and when used in ways that seem to threaten free will. Real cyborgs are more frequently people who use cybernetic technology to repair or overcome the physical and mental constraints of their bodies. While cyborgs are commonly thought of as mammals, they can be any kind of organism.
According to some definitions of the term, the metaphysical and physical attachments humanity has with even the most basic technologies have already made them cyborgs. In a typical example, a human fitted with a heart pacemaker or an insulin pump (if the person has diabetes) might be considered a cyborg, since these mechanical parts enhance the body's "natural" mechanisms through synthetic feedback mechanisms. Some theorists cite such modifications as contact lenses, hearing aids, or intraocular lenses as examples of fitting humans with technology to enhance their biological capabilities; however, these modifications are no more cybernetic than would be a pen, a wooden leg, or the spears used by chimps to hunt vertebrates. Cochlear implants that combine mechanical modification with any kind of feedback response are more accurately cyborg enhancements.
The prefix "cyber" is also used to address human-technology mixtures in the abstract. This includes artifacts that may not popularly be considered technology. Pen and paper, for example, as well as speech, language. Augmented with these technologies, and connected in communication with people in other times and places, a person becomes capable of much more than they were before. This is like computers, which gain power by using Internet protocols to connect with other computers. Cybernetic technologies include highways, pipes, electrical wiring, buildings, electrical plants, libraries, and other infrastructure that we hardly notice, but which are critical parts of the cybernetics that we work within.
Bruce Sterling suggested an idea of alternative cyborg called Omar, which is made not by using internal implants, but by using an external shell (e.g. a Powered Exoskeleton). (Bruce Sterling: Cicada Queen). Unlike human cyborgs that appear human externally while being synthetic internally, an Omar looks inhuman externally but contains a human internally. The computer game Deus Ex: Invisible War prominently featured three clans of Omar using that name. Sterling's distinction between cyborgs and Omars may have been a reaction to the Terminator films and their outwardly human, internally mechanical cyborgs dominating popular conception of the term. However, regardless of popular conception, Sterling's Omars are well within the technical definition of a cyborg, and so the term has no useful application outside of fiction.
The concept of a man-machine mixture was widespread in science fiction before World War II. In 1908 Jean de la Hire introduced Nyctalope (perhaps the first true superhero was also the first literary cyborg) in the novel L'Homme Qui Peut Vivre Dans L'eau (The Man Who Can Live in Water). Edmond Hamilton presented space explorers with a mixture of organic and machine parts in his novel The Comet Doom in 1928. He later featured the talking, living brain of an old scientist, Simon Wright, floating around in a transparent case, in all the adventures of his famous hero, Captain Future. In the short story "No Woman Born" in 1944, C. L. Moore wrote of Deirdre, a dancer, whose body was burned completely and whose brain was placed in a faceless but beautiful and supple mechanical body.
"For the exogenously extended organizational complex functioning as an integrated homeostatic system unconsciously, we propose the term ‘Cyborg'." Manfred E. Clynes and Nathan S. Kline
Their concept was the outcome of thinking about the need for an intimate relationship between human and machine as the new frontier of space exploration was beginning to take place. A designer of physiological instrumentation and electronic data-processing systems, Clynes was the chief research scientist in the Dynamic Simulation Laboratory at Rockland State Hospital in New York.
A book titled Cyborg: Digital Destiny and Human Possibility in the Age of the Wearable computer was published by Doubleday in 2001. Some of the ideas in the book were incorporated into the 35mm motion picture film Cyberman.
Today, the C-LEG system is used to replace human legs that were amputated because of injury or illness. The use of sensors in the artificial leg aids in walking significantly. These are the first real steps towards the next generation of cyborgs.
Cyborgs are also robots with human sense, or Half-robot and half-human.
More broadly, the full term "cybernetic organism" is used to describe larger networks of communication and control. For example, cities, networks of roads, networks of software, corporations, markets, governments, and the collection of these things together. A corporation can be considered as an artificial intelligence that makes use of replaceable human components to function. People at all ranks can be considered replaceable agents of their functionally intelligent government institutions, whether such a view is desirable or not.
Cyborg proliferation in society
In medicine, there are two important and different types of cyborgs which are the enhanced and restorative. Restorative technologies “restore lost function, organs, and limbs” (Gray 1995). The key aspect of restorative cyborgization is to repair broken processes to revert to normal function. There is no enhancement to the original faculties and processes that were lost. An enhanced cyborg “follows a principle, and it is the principle of optimal performance: maximising output (the information or modifications obtained) and minimising input (the energy expended in the process)” (Lyotard 1984). Thus, the enhanced cyborg then can exceed normal processes or even gain new functions that were not originally present.
Although prothesis in general supplement lost or damaged body parts with the integration of a mechanical artifice, bionic implants in medicine allow model organs or body parts to mimic the original function more closely. Michael Chorost wrote a memoir of his experience with cochlear implants, or bionic ear, titled "Rebuilt: How Becoming Part Computer Made Me More Human." Jesse Sullivan became one of the first people to operate a fully robotic limb through a nerve-muscle graft, enabling him a complex range of motions beyond that of previous prosthetics. By 2004, fully functioning artificial hearts were developed. The continued technological development of bionics and nanotechnologies raise the question enhancement, or a cyborg which surpasses the original functionality of its biological model. The ethics and desirability of "enhancement prosthetics" has been debated; its proponents include the transhumanist belief that new technologies can "evolve" the human race beyond many of its present, normative limitations such as aging and disease.
One of the more common and accepted forms of temporary modification occurs as a result of prenatal diagnosis technologies. Modern parents willingly use testing methods such as ultrasounds and amniocentesis to determine the sex or health of the fetus. The discovery of birth defects or other congenital problems by these procedures may lead to neonatal treatment in the form of open fetal surgery or the less invasive fetal intervention.
Brain-Computer Interfaces, or BCIs, provide a direct path of path of communication from the brain to an external device, effectively creating a cyborg. Research of Invasive BCIs, which utilize electrodes implanted directly into the grey matter of the brain, has focused on restoring damaged eye sight in the blind and providing functionality to paralyzed people, most notably those with severe cases, such as Locked-In Syndrome.
The "cyborg soldier" often refers to a soldier whose weapon and survival systems are integrated into the self, creating a human-machine interface. A notable example is the Pilot's Associate, first developed in 1985, which would use Artificial Intelligence to assist a combat pilot. The push for further integration between pilot and aircraft would include the Pilot Associate's ability to "initiate actions of its own when it deems it necessary, including firing weapons and even taking over the aircraft from the pilot. (Gray, Cyborg Handbook)
Military organizations' research has recently focused on the utilization of cyborg animals for inter-species relationships for the purposes of a supposed a tactical advantage. DARPA has announced its interest in developing "cyborg insects" to transmit data from sensors implanted into the insect during the pupal stage. The insect's motion would be controlled from a MEMS, or Micro-Electro-Mechanical System, and would conceivably surveil an environment and detect explosives or gas. Similarly, DARPA has developed a neural implant to remotely control the movement of sharks. The shark's unique senses would be exploited to provide data feedback in relation to enemy ship movement and underwater explosives.
Other proposals have integrated the mechanical into the intuitive abilities of the individual soldier. Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley have set out to "create an exoskeleton that combines a human control system with robotic muscle." The device is distinctly Cyborgian in that it is self-powered, and requires no conscious manipulation by the pilot soldier. The exoskeleton responds to the pilot, through constant computer calculations, to distribute and lessen weight exerted on the pilot, allowing hypothetically for soldiers to carry large amounts of medical supplies and carrying injured soldiers to safety.
- "Cyborgs and Space," in Astronautics (September 1960), by Manfred E. Clynes and Nathan S. Kline.
- D. S. Halacy, Cyborg: Evolution of the Superman (New York: Harper and Row Publishers, 1965), 7.
- Technology as extension of human functional architecture by Alexander Chislenko
- A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century by Donna Haraway
- Rowan Hooper, "Spear-wielding chimps snack on skewered bushbabies," New Scientist 22 February 2007
- Manfred E. Clynes, and Nathan S. Kline, (1960) "Cyborgs and space," Astronautics, September, pp. 26-27 and 74-75; reprinted in Gray, Mentor, and Figueroa-Sarriera, eds., The Cyborg Handbook, New York: Routledge, 1995, pp. 29-34. (hardback: ISBN 0-415-90848-5; paperback: ISBN 0-415-90849-3)
For further reading:
- Balsamo, Anne. Technologies of the Gendered Body: Reading Cyborg Women. Durham: Duke University Press, 1996.
- Caidin, Martin. Cyborg; A Novel. New York: Arbor House, 1972.
- Clark, Andy. Natural-Born Cyborgs. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.
- Crittenden, Chris. "Self-Deselection: Technopsychotic Annihilation via Cyborg." Ethics & the Environment 7.2 (Autumn 2002): 127-152.
- Flanagan, Mary, and Austin Booth, eds. Reload: Rethinking Women + Cyberculture. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2002.
- Gray, Chris Hables, ed. The Cyborg Handbook. New York: Routledge, 1995.
- Grenville, Bruce, ed. The Uncanny: Experiments in Cyborg Culture. Arsenal Pulp Press, 2002.
- Halacy, D. S. Cyborg: Evolution of the Superman. New York: Harper & Row, 1965.
- Halberstam, Judith, and Ira Livingston. Posthuman Bodies. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995.
- Haraway, Donna. Simians, Cyborgs, and Women; The Reinvention of Nature. New York: Routledge, 1990.
- Klugman, Craig. "From Cyborg Fiction to Medical Reality." Literature and Medicine 20.1 (Spring 2001): 39-54.
- Mann, Steve. "Telematic Tubs against Terror: Bathing in the Immersive Interactive Media of the Post-Cyborg Age." Leonardo 37.5 (October 2004): 372-373.
- Mann, Steve, and Hal Niedzviecki. Cyborg: digital destiny and human possibility in the age of the wearable computer Doubleday, 2001. ISBN 0-385-65825-7 (A paperback version also exists, ISBN 0-385-65826-5).
- Masamune Shirow, Ghost in the Shell. Endnotes, 1991. Kodansha ISBN 4-7700-2919-5.
- Mitchell, William. Me++: The Cyborg Self and the Networked City. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2003.
- Muri, Allison. The Enlightenment Cyborg: A History of Communications and Control in the Human Machine, 1660–1830. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2006.
- Muri, Allison. Of Shit and the Soul: Tropes of Cybernetic Disembodiment. Body & Society 9.3 (2003): 73–92.
- Nishime, LeiLani. "The Mulatto Cyborg: Imagining a Multiracial Future." Cinema Journal 44.2 (Winter 2005), 34-49.
- The Oxford English dictionary. 2nd ed. edited by J.A. Simpson and E.S.C. Weiner. Oxford: Clarendon Press; Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1989. Vol 4 p. 188.
- Rorvik, David M. As Man Becomes Machine: the Evolution of the Cyborg. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1971.
- Rushing, Janice Hocker, and Thomas S. Frentz. Projecting the Shadow: The Cyborg Hero in American Film. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995.
- The science fiction handbook for readers and writers. By George S. Elrick. Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 1978, p. 77.
- The science fiction encyclopaedia. General editor, Peter Nicholls, associate editor, John Clute, technical editor, Carolyn Eardley, contributing editors, Malcolm Edwards, Brian Stableford. 1st ed. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1979, p. 151.
- Yoshito Ikada, Bio Materials: an approach to Artificial Organs. (バイオマテリアル: 人工臓器へのアプローチ)
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