Are Cyborgs Taking Over?

April 23, 2019

Joe Ntayagabiri ’20

According to Technomedia, a cyborg is an “organism with both biological and technological components.” We normally encounter cyborgs in fictional movies or TV shows, where the person happens to be half-human, half-machine. However, when we think about it it, even a person with an implant such as a heart pacemaker can be considered. We might wonder–what differentiates a person with a prosthetic and a cyborg? The difference is quite simple: if one has an implant that gives them abilities surpassing human capacities, such as lifting a car with their hands, they are definitely a cyborg.

The most famous case concerning this topic is a man named Neil Harbisson. He was born with an extreme condition of colorblindness, so all he could see was black and white. His doctors implanted an antenna at the back of his head, which is now a part of him. This antenna helps him see color beyond human abilities. He is able to see music! He says that Amy Winehouse is red and pink, and that ringtones are green. Another feature that comes with this antenna is unlimited internet access.

The BioScience COE had the chance to interview Lisa Ikemoto over Skype.  She is a lawyer and a professor of law at the University of California, Davis. Her field of law concerns cyborg rights. She discussed with us the dangers that come with biohacking. DIY Bio is an organization that strives to involve local communities more in the science world, giving regular citizens access to certain equipment and helping them learn more about experiments and reactions. It is fun but there is a risk of some innocent citizen accidentally creating some deadly bacteria.

Biohacking, on the other hand, “is not socially acceptable and many people find it weird,” says Ms. Ikemoto. She talked about chips, implanted in our heads to help us use our technology with more efficiency, being heavily commercialized in Sweden. This means that the product is very expensive and might only be accessible to the wealthy, so this might create “more inequality,” she says.

Hunter Zamzow ’19 asked her how to separate prosthetic and cyborg and she said that she is interested in the categorization of “normal” and “abnormal.” Ms. Ikemoto comments, “It is concerning that the notion of a cyborg challenges a lot of what it means to be human. Striving to be perfect is human, but being flawed is what makes us human.”

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