Can we technologically evolve humans into a post-human, cyborg state? This article tells the story of the self-experimentation implant research carried out over the last few years by the author.
The term ‘cyborg’ has been widely used in the world of science fiction, yet it aptly describes a field of research still in its infancy. The Oxford English Dictionary describes a cyborg as ‘a person whose physical abilities are extended beyond normal human limitations by machine technology (as yet undeveloped)’. Meanwhile, others see the class of cyborgs (cybernetic organisms – part human, part machine) as including those with heart pacemakers or artificial hips, even those riding bicycles (Hayles, 1999). In this discussion, however, the concept of a cyborg is reserved for humans whose physical and/or mental abilities are extended by means of technology integral with the body. One interesting feature of cyborg research is that the technology developed can be considered in one of two ways. On one hand it can be seen as potentially augmenting all humans, giving them abilities over and above those of other humans. Alternatively, it can be viewed as helping those who have a physical or mental problem, such as a paralysis, to do things they would otherwise not be able to do. This dichotomy presents something of an ethical problem with regard to how far the research should be taken and whether it is a good thing or bad thing to ‘evolve’ humans in a technical, rather than biological, way.