Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Cyborgs of the Modern Age

Technology; does it rob us of our humanity or is it precisely what makes us human? No matter which side of this age-old debate a person may stand, technology is an undeniable part of daily life. Arguably one of the most unique aspects of our species is the ability to create and use complex tools. This evolutionary trait, this capacity to improvise and innovate has determined the course of human society, weapons of war and lifesaving innovations alike. As we look to the future, like so many science-fiction storytellers have, we begin to contemplate the implications technology may have.

One of the most enduring sci-fi themes, popularized in the 1960’s, is the concept of cyborgs. Dictionary.com defines a cyborg as, “A person whose physiological functioning is aided by or dependent-upon a mechanical or electronic device." Following this logic almost every single one of us could be considered a cyborg, some people with machinery build directly into their bodies. We may not look like Darth Vader or Robo-cop but technology certainly allows us to far exceed our physical limitations. From automobiles to aircraft, clothing to smartphones, MRI machines to ventilators, pacemakers to wheelchairs, prosthetic limbs and even eyeglasses make us more than our basic biology.

"Resistance is futile."
When it comes to science-fiction however, cyborgs are many times presented in a somewhat cautionary light, tales of what could go wrong. A powerful example of this is The Borg from the Star Trek: The Next Generation series. This hostile alien collective had surrendered all notions of free-will and become a terrifying mechanical hybrid bent on galactic domination. The Borg and other insidious cyborgs may be in the realm of fiction but the stories we create often parallel real life problems and opinions. The sci-fi genre often and accurately suggests that progress without a conscience can be deadly.

For all the good technology does, it is still very much a double-edged sword; humanity's ability to create is rivaled only by it’s ability to destroy. As a civilization we have constructed and continue to manufacture tools specifically designed to end lives and inflict pain on the most massive levels imaginable. Even so many of the things we take for granted every day, create enormous amounts of pollution and devastate the ecosystem. However, our ingenuity may be the only to way overcome this destructive path, evolving past the need for violence and creating devices with reduced environmental impact. The future must be built on sustainability, both morally and physically.

Throughout the course of history there have always been individuals who warn of our growing dependence on devices and machinery, those who fear what we will become. For someone such as myself though, a life without these things is simply not possible. Personally, I am proud to call myself a cyborg of this modern age. The question is not whether we should have technology but rather what we will do with it. As Spiderman’s Uncle Ben once said, “With great power comes great responsibility."

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