Are You Part-Cyborg? – Issues of Posthumanism

Does wearing a cochlear implant make you part-cyborg? What about technical modifications to your body such as a pacemaker; a technology enhancing if not prolonging your life?

The cyberpunk subculture was established with the widespread use of the internet and growth of personal computers in the 1990s. Without these two technological advancements, it would fail to exist in our contemporary society.

Stemming from cyberpunk are two key tropes: posthumanism and cyborgs. Both of these tropes are conceptually explored in the podcast below, and a question of ethics prevails: Who will be responsible if something goes wrong?

By noting foundational literary texts within the sci-fi genre and by addressing concerns of both ‘transhumanists‘ and ‘bioconservatives‘, one can begin to fathom the immense impact technology has had upon human life and the functioning of society.

Please find the transcript below.


Since the inception of the personal computer and the formation of cyberspace, the cyberpunk genre has become increasingly popular among users of technology and the internet. The founding fathers of the cyberpunk subculture, William Gibson, Bruce Sterling and Neal Stephenson have each contributed immensely to the establishment of this utopian movement. Without the cyberpunk paradigm there would be a lack of exploration into ideas associated with this new technological frontier. In particular, the core cyberpunk tropes of posthumanism and cyborgs would cease to exist.

Posthuman thought acknowledges that the technologies created and utilised by humans shape individual thought and behaviour. As a result, technology constructs and reconstructs the human world. Explored in Steven Best’s ‘Technoculture, Posthumanism and the End of “Reality”is the notion that as technology advances, it extends human capacity. Consequently, as our social existence is shaped by science, biotechnology and the mass media there is a significant implosion between these elements.

The concept of cyborgs derives from the cyberpunk subculture also. As Steven Best describes, these ‘cyborgs’ exist when there are fusions between the natural body and technology. The technology will become invisible or internalised, devaluing the natural body as it is no longer useful. Many believe that the establishment of cyborgs ought to be embraced as a way to better oneself and society and new possibilities have the potential to extend human capacity.

Despite this, there is significant debate surrounding such complex posthuman ideals and technobodied possibilities. Where does one draw the line between human and inhumane? How do you define what is natural and what is enhanced?

‘Transhumanists’ believe human enhancement technologies should not only be promoted, but should be made widely available to all members of society. Contrasting this view is that of ‘bioconservatives’ who argue that such technological developments would be ‘dehumanising’, and would thus alter that indefinable something that makes us identify as ‘human’.

Many pieces of science-fiction literature have scrutinised the ideas central to posthumanism and the tropes fundamental to cyberpunk as a genre. In particular, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein can be interpreted as a warning surrounding posthuman development. Shelley examines ethical responsibility and inhumane technoscience, an argument key to that of bioconservative points of view.  Similarly, the dystopian depiction of technoscience portrayed in Gattaca further implores the question: who is responsible if something goes wrong?

Whilst technology is becoming more and more integrated with humanity it is also fraught with complex issues. Posthumanism and cyborg developments must address concerns of ethics, ought to be open to the reevaluation of social norms and moreover needs to acknowledge social and ethical responsibility.


References:

Advertisements

11 thoughts on “Are You Part-Cyborg? – Issues of Posthumanism

  1. Hey Melissa,
    Your post is an extremely well thought out and well researched blog, which can be used by others as a source of information in their explorations of post-humanism and cyber enhancements to the biological body. I appreciate how you have used a variety of different sources in your own research, and you have brought up a whole new aspect of interest that varies from our weekly topic information.

    Whenever I think on the development of ‘cyborgs’ and in integration of biology and technology in the aim of betterment for the human condition, I cannot help but imagine the world as presented in Will Smith’s movie ‘iRobot’. A world where humans become the endangered species because the technology we have created has determined the best way to better humans is to eliminate the largest threat to the world we live in: ironically, us. Humans. Though this movie is in no way a scientific source, it does present the same notions that Steven Best does in relevance to the natural body becoming obsolete in the face of the far-advanced cyborg, as well as reflects Mary Shelley’s ethical concerns of a world without conscience nor social and ethical responsibility.

    Thank you for a very informative post :).

    • Hi Hayley!
      I am glad you enjoyed the read! When I think of cyborgs I also cannot help but think of iRobot too! I think it is dystopian plots in cinema like this one that contribute immensely to our ideas on posthuman possibilities. I appreciate your comment and feedback! 🙂

  2. The way you have used a variety of sources and included hyperlinks in your blog allowed me to perform greater research and grasp a deeper understanding as to what topic you’re explaining and the many elements embedded in your post. Post humanism and cyborgs is a topic I hadn’t really looked into or thought about before this weeks lecture. It’s quite scary the vast amount of technology that we have where man and technology can mix to the point where humans may indefinitely become what is known as an ‘endangered species.’ It’s astounding that we have escalated to a point where we as humans can possibly create a dystopia in our quest to finding a utopia via integrating the internet into every day life. Your post had me thinking a lot about the 1982 movie ‘Blade Runner’ – here is the trailer if you wanted to have a look https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KPcZHjKJBnE

    It predicts the futuristic world of where technology has taken over man, and has in turn created a dystopia.

    • I am glad that the post not only informed you but led you to other information regarding posthumanism. It is a truly interesting concept and is quite frightening to think about what could be. I will check the link out! Thanks for your feedback!

  3. I must admit I panicked because I missed the part where it said “Please find the transcript below” and I thought your post was just massively longer than the 150 word limit. Sighs of relief. Now to listen to the podcast…
    You managed to pack a lot of content into a little podcast, which is really impressive. Especially since it’s full of links to other texts for further reading. I don’t really know what to add except that whenever someone throws in the concept of ethics it can never really be a finished conversation. So I Googled “cyborg ethics” within the past year and I found an interesting and comprehensive article in the UK Telegraph (http://s.telegraph.co.uk/graphics/projects/the-future-is-android/index.html).
    I guess because I was reading along with the transcript while the podcast played I also noticed areas where you actually say something different from what’s written so maybe just keep on top of that?

    • Hi Kae,
      Cyborgs and posthumanism are both such interesting and innovative fields and I agree with what you said about ethics never being a finished conversation. I feel that no matter how much you discuss ethics there is always something else to add and not everyone can be pleased with the final outcomes. But such is life I guess!
      Thanks for linking me to that source! I found it really interesting.
      As for the transcript, I did find that I was getting a little ahead of myself when actually reading it aloud so in the future I will be sure to edit it so it fits exactly to what is said in the podcast.
      Thank you so much for the constructive criticism, I appreciate it loads!

  4. First of all I found this post really engaging. I liked your point about science-fiction literature and its scrutiny of the idea of mixing science and humanity. Frankenstein was a great reflection of the views and fears in the Victorian era: a time where a society was moving away from god and towards science. I think the question, “are we playing god?” still exists to this day with the rise in technological advancements. A good modern example of “literature” reflecting these fears of so-called bio conservatives is the British miniseries “Black Mirror”. If you haven’t watched it yet I suggest as a digital media student you do as it really mirrors the fears that still exist today (plus it’s easy to binge watch with only 7 episodes!)
    Your podcast brings up a lot of questions that are really hard to answer. But I think that’s because we as a society haven’t come to a conclusion or consensus. That’s why it’s great that you’re bringing these questions to our attention, because discussion is really important (even though I personally don’t have any answers!)
    Once again, it was a really interesting post!

  5. Your blog is very well researched and it’s obvious it’s a topic you find especially interesting. I can’t critique because I was learning as I was reading. However, I applaud you for teaching me something about ‘cyberpunk’ and ‘posthumanism’, too concepts which confuse me quite a bit.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s