Are we all already cyborgs?
That’s what thinkers like Donna Haraway believe. In her classic essay, “A Manifesto for Cyborgs,” she argues:
By the late twentieth century, our time, a mythic time, we are all chimeras, theorized and fabricated hybrids of machine and organism – in short, cyborgs… The cyborg is a condensed image of both imagination and material reality, the two joined centers structuring any possibility of historical transformation.
But what does this mean for the future of technology? In a recent talk at Nerd Nite NYC, Implosion Labs Founder Danya Glabau explained for an audience of tech and culture enthusiasts in Gowanus, Brooklyn.
Among the many implications for real-world technological development, the philosophical figure of the cyborg encourages us to:
- Rewrite our origin myths. As technology changes, our traditional stories about how the past informs the present and what counts as progress become less useful for the decisions we currently face. Cyborgs, as hybrids of machines and living beings, encourage us to rethink our origin myths and understanding of progress to better match the tools and possibilities that we currently face.
- Rethink the mind/body divide. Consumer tech like wearables and the ubiquitous use of smartphones extend our memory and knowledge base, even though we interact with them through our hands and bodies. These are great examples of how technologies are breaking down traditional divisions between mind and body.
- Understand the changing face of labor. With outsourcing, miniaturization, automation, and now artificial intelligence, the jobs humans do are changing, as are the kind and number of people who are doing them. Technological changes are forcing us to have difficult conversations about what work will look like in the future.
- Invent new metaphors. We might not yet have all the words and mental frameworks we will need to think about the future of technology. Cyborg theory encourages us to experiment with language to come up with new metaphors for the relationship between humans and technology.
- Finally, remember that technology is made by people. We should never forget that most technologies changing our world were conceived and made by people. People have control over future technologies – and can reclaim control over old ones that seem to have run amok.