The NeoHuman and the Cyborg


In the above clip, taken from the 2001 film Waking Life, Eamonn Healy, biochemical researcher and professor for St. Edward’s University, discusses the possibilities for humanity as we evolve from cycle-based biological group evolution into a individualized technological neuro-biological evolutionary paradigm. As THEBRYCYCLE and CLARKAYWA discussed in their respective posts below, the possibilities of redefinition of life as it evolves into Transhumanism (or the Neohumanist concept of the elevation of humanity to a new level of universality as Healy describes in his scene in Waking Life) is not some far off possibility. The possibilities of AI and Transhumanism is something that could be said to be lurking in the shadows just around the next corner of our popular culture awareness

But, what if, anthropologically speaking, we are already there? What if we are all already cyborgs?

Cyborg Anthropologist Amber Case hypothesizes about just this question in her TEDTalks video (posted below). Amber defines her work as studying the interaction between human beings and computers, and more specifically, how our “relationship with information is changing the way cultures think, act, and understand [our] worlds” [1].  

If we define the term cyborg, as Amber Case does, as: “an organism to which exogenous components have been added for the purpose of adapting to environments” and apply that definition, as she has done, to the media landscape that we all live in today, then we are left with the uneasy idea that our progression towards transhumanity, or neohumanity, has already begun, and has been applicable to our way of life for some time.

As Ken pointed out, via our ongoing discussions about the literary works of Tiptree , Gibson, Cyberpunk and postmodernism, our way of life is constantly mediated to us via social networks and technology, and those mediated selves are as much of part of who we are in society as our human-to-human interactions are. The line between technology and our traditional selves is blurred, almost beyond recognition for most of us in the technological, mediated landscape we live in. Our phones, tablets, laptops, computers, and other technology has become an add-on, or an extension of our humanity as we interact with our environment. Just because these tools of technology are not implanted in our bodies (yet) doesn’t mean that it is not representative of our projected selves, nor does it mean that it is not used as a tool to interact with our world, just as our hands or words do. Further to that, our societal reliance on capitalism, and capitalism’s entrenchment in the commodification of daily life activities and forms of pseudo-individualism, supports this progression. In that, I think the progression towards transhumanity/neohumanity has already begun and began, arguably, with the invention of the telephone in 1876.

We Are Cyborg

 

 

[1] cited from Amber Case’s bio on her Cyborg Anthropology web site (Cyborg Anthropology)

4 thoughts on “The NeoHuman and the Cyborg”

  1. I agree with what you are saying, that we may already be cyborgs. No we haven’t implanted the technology in ourselves but we are definitely on the way there, we have Bluetooth and now Google glasses, we are only steps away from implants so we can answer the phone and contacts to have access to the internet. Not only that but we are also dependent on it. I know that I don’t feel like myself when I don’t have my phone with me and that shouldn’t be how it is, it’s just a piece of technology, it isn’t a part of me no matter how much it feels like it is. If we aren’t cyborgs yet we are definitely close.

  2. I agree! I never really thought of it much that way before this class but it really is the truth. I also thought immediately of Google glasses, which I have not tried, but there is also this iwatch that is coming out soon where you will be able to access everything (internet, phone,apps, etc) from your wrist watch. There are other strange things too like, for example, there is this Twitter account called House of Coates that is basically an automated twitter news feed for a house. The actual owner of the house has set it up, with some sort of program, for his twitter account to update the world (or at least the people following his twitter account) every time something happens in his house. If you follow the twitter account you get to read tweets such as: “It’s just hit 68 inside – that’s rather lovely. I’m pretty sure Tom [the houses owner] will be happy about that” or “Just checked on the grumpy ficus. Soil seems wet enough for him. It would be nice if he stopped complaining, but I wouldn’t bet on it”. Even in my house, we have an Xbox One (which is voice commanded) that my fiance’ is constantly talking to. It seems normal to me now for one of us to walk into a room and command the TV to turn on but just thinking about how far we have come from just ten years ago it is pretty unreal. The way we interact with technology hasn’t just changed the way we interact with our environment but it has changed how we live. We are so much more public than we were just ten years ago. Who would have thought back then there would be a twitter account for a house that would have thousands of followers. Certainly not me

  3. This was very interesting, and I entirely agree!
    A story that came into mind while I was reading your description of society’s reliance on capitalism was Tiptree’s “The Girl Who Was Plugged In”. I think it is really interesting that you incorporated capitalism with the concept of the cyborg. With the stress on capitalism and consumerism which is prevalent throughout contemporary society, the fear of replacing aspects of our personal existence through the purchasing of a product that can enhance our being is inevitable. Although Tiptree’s story explicitly portrays the image of removing the mind from the body, do you think that it is possible that she is playing more with the continuation of human enhancements that is ceasing due to the restrictions that the future has place on advertising? No matter what, it is in human nature to try to achieve the best version of selfhood as possible, and with this we have become cyborgs by definition of combining organics with machines.

    Thanks for you view, it was very enlightening!

    1. I think that Tiptree is for sure playing with the possibilities of how capitalism would push forward if there was a future that attempted to restrict it, if that is what you mean. I think that if suddenly tomorrow our government created rules that prohibited advertisement corporations would be forced to find a way around the restriction. In the society we live in capitalism and consumerism are so deeply entrenched in how we live that I think that people, in general, would go through a little bit of a shock as well. Nevermind that a version of this type of product placement is already applicable to our daily lives with reality TV. It is no coincidence that a reality TV star like Kim Kardashian is only seen drinking a certain type of water or wearing a certain type of lipstick. For her, and many people in general, money is the great motivator and they don’t need to become a plugged in girl to be convinced to shill products…haha.

      I am not so sure about the motivators for people. Perhaps achieving the best self-hood, as you said, is something we strive for but I guess I kind of question what definition of that is as well. What is ‘best’ and who defines it, you know? In The Girl Who Was Plugged In the ‘best’ version of self-hood was defined by capitalism, commodification and corporations operating within those parameters. Who influences the social structure and what supports that structure is important, I think.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *