“ Some might think that we might become less human if we modify ourselves but I believe there is nothing more human than doing that. ” – Neil Harbisson
Cyborg technology is slowly but surely advancing and already making significant ripples in the form of bionic humans. While “technological singularity” might still be a phenomenon of the future for many, it is already being achieved by quite some individuals who are turning science-fiction into reality.
What Are Cyborgs?
The word Cyborg was originally used to refer to human beings with bodily functions controlled or assisted by technology in the form of an oxygen tank, pacemakers or insulin pump. “Cyborg”, which is a combination of words cybernetics and organism, was coined by Manfred Clynes to describe the need for mankind to artificially enhance biological functions in order to combat physical disabilities. Over a period of time, the term has found a much more general use that refers to a greater dependence of human beings on technology.
The Understanding of Augmentation
Human augmentation is not a novel phenomenon. Much on the contrary, transhumanism – the desire to perpetually and fundamentally keep transforming the human condition – has been existing for ages. Technical augmentation brings in great capabilities, so much so that many people go on to believe that it makes one superhuman. However, it is important to dispel that myth and stay grounded in scientific reality. On the flip side, some people come from the school of thought that when humans begin to augment themselves, they might lose control of themselves or become annatural.
A very concrete answer to that was given by artist Neil Harbisson who wears an antenna that allows him to “hear colour”. He is assertive when he says, “I strongly disagree with those who think that our union with technology will alienate ourselves from reality, from nature or from other livings. In my case, becoming technology doesn’t make me feel closer to machines, or to robots, but quite the opposite. Having an antenna makes me feel closer to insects and other creatures that have antennae. I feel a stronger connection with nature now than I ever did before. Technology can bring us back to nature.” Neil was born with achromatopsia, or extreme colorblindness that allowed him to see the world only in black-and-white. However, using the antenna, he is now capable of experiencing colours beyond the scope of normal human perception. In addition, Neil Harbisson said, “Some might think that we might become less human if we modify ourselves but I believe there is nothing more human than doing that.”
Cyborgs In Our World
It would be surprising to know that more number of cyborgs than you believe live among us in the world today. Like the following, they are all making unachievable feats a reality and it’s awefetching.
In 2002, Naumann became the first person in the world to get an artificial vision system in the form of an electronic eye. Even though it comes with its own limits, Nauman actually sees the world which is not possible using other cyborg implants that translate visual information into other senses.
Claudia Mitchell became the first woman to become a cyborg when she was outfitted with a bionic limb that is connected to her nervous system. The range of motion is extraordinary, allowing her to use it for all kinds of daily tasks.
Nigel Ackland got an incredibly advance robotic prosthetic after losing part of his arm during an accident. The range of movement is truly extraordinary as Ackland can control the arm through muscle movements in his forearm. In the same line, paraplegic Nathan Copeland was fitted with a prosthetic hand that was equipped with a two-way feedback mechanism allowing him to not only use his hand but also “feel” when it’s being touched. Jalava made use of a 2GB USB port to embed it into his prosthetic hand after losing a finger in a motorcycle accident thus being a total opportunist.
Taking his profession way too seriously, Kevin Warwick, professor of cybernetics at the University of Reading, UK is on his way to become the world’s most complete cyborg. He has been experimenting with various electronic implants since 1998 and also owns the Cyborg Foundation.
Moreover, Cyborg technology is proving to be quite useful for amputees who are now being equipped with new robotic limbs that can be operated just like normal limbs.
What is the Future Like?
The “Man and Machine” amalgamation is going to be an evolutionary one in biology. Certain individuals like Tesla founder Elon Musk have gone ahead to highlight the importance of living up with the future of mankind and he believes that, “Humans must become cyborgs if they are to stay relevant in a future dominated by artificial intelligence.” Musk argued that as artificial intelligence becomes more sophisticated, it will lead to mass unemployment. “There will be fewer and fewer jobs that a robot can’t do better.” He also added that if humans want to continue adding value to the economy, they must augment their capabilities through a “merger of biological intelligence and machine intelligence”. Considering the fact that the human race is driven by dissatisfaction and would not be able to resist the temptation to ‘upgrade’ themselves, some people have gone ahead to say that an increasing gap between the rich and poor would be witnessed, as wealthy humans are likely to become cyborgs within the next 200 years.
While the thought of humans turning into cyborgs is scary as it does increase the pressure, it does not mean that the human race will become obsolete forever. Experts have also gone ahead to call Elon Musk’s prediction that AI will surpass the human brain ‘total baloney’ because humans won’t become irrelevant until machines can replicate the human brain.
Either ways, we cannot wait to see, like all technological wonders, what changes Generation Termination aka Cyborg has in store for humanity.