“The term ‘cyborg’ was first used in a paper published in 1960 by two aeronautics experts, Manfred Clynes and Nathan Kline. Their paper speculated how technological adaptations of physical functioning might enhance human performance in hostile environments. ” (Graham 2002:201). After this many scientific changes began that enhanced the bodies’ performance in one way or another, for example, implants and prosthetics. There are four types of cyborg technology; 1. Restorative – replacing lost parts. 2. Normalising – taking a creature back to normality. . Reconfiguring – making creatures out of old. 4. Enhancing – making bodies and minds more powerful. The cyborg has been seen by some as a symbol of society to come. A complete unification between body and technology, a human mastery of technology and nature. However, the above theory symbolises our western dependence on technology in our everyday lives. In this essay I wish to examine closely the relationships we have with each other, whether cyborg or not, and if our sexual identity and practise would in anyway change if were cyborgs.
Cyborgs have always been hard to define in respect of character, background and future within humanity. “The cyborg has no myth of origins, because it has no parents and, significantly, no divine creator… it’s self creating and self sustaining. ” (Graham 2002:202). Cyborgs do not enjoy the pleasure of birth and childhood, it has never experienced an age of innocence and ignorance, and without a notion of a divine creator or a god then the cyborg may never adequately dispute on theological matters. As a society are we to “dissolve the distinction between the ‘born’ and the ‘made’. ” (Graham 2002:202).
Cyborgs are commonly portrayed as the loner, a minority, with no biological family or religious inclinations. The study of psychology becomes irrelevant for cyborgs and in contrast with Christian humanity, a cyborgs goal is not to return to the Garden of Eden or God. “Unlike the hopes of Frankenstein’s monster, the cyborg does not expect its father to save it through restoration of the garden; that is through the fabrication of the heterosexual mate… The cyborg would not recognise the Garden of Eden; it is not made of mud and cannot dream of returning to dust. ” (Haraway 1991:151).
One of the most famous in the field of cyborg study is Donna Haraway, and in this essay I will mainly refer to the chapter “A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century,” in Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature. “This chapter is an argument for pleasure in the confusion of boundaries and for responsibility in their construction. ” (Haraway 1991:150) and a highly descriptive one at that. She describes man’s intimacy with power and the contradictory nature of our heterosexual society in its production and reproduction.
Modern war is a cyborg orgy” (Haraway 1991:150) and by living in the way in which we do we are supporting the development of the cyborg nation. Her proposition is that we are all indeed cyborgs ourselves, we aren’t just dreaming of a future to come, it is nigh. We fear the new and unknown yet we constantly miniaturise, compact and develop the machinery around us until the lay-man truly has no idea how the machine could possibly function, its just too advanced. Yet Haraway describes how these developments and explorations in science, biology and economy will shape the world to come.
Haraway constantly pursues the boundaries that inhibit us, essential and ever present boundaries are torn down, and not for the first time. As a race we have gone from ape to human, is it not now logical to go from humans to machines? However, unlike our primitive days we have a far more sophisticated sociological structure in which change, and especially that of human nature and appearance, is greatly feared and hard to cope with. Society views cyborgs as inhuman monsters as they have with many minorities that are ‘different’, “the creatures of the boundaries between species’ as ‘monstrous'” (Graham 2002:203).
An alternative aspect is that cyborgs are a scientific wonder and great triumph. This view is held by Haraway, “the cyborg embodies the ethical and political heart of critical studies of science. ” (Graham 2002:203). Cyborgs can be seen as taking the best from the best. The best of humanity fused with the best of technology to produce a perfect being. But how do we view the human parts of the cyborg, are they truly perfect enough to partake in this union? Haraway would contest that we have not completely separated from the animal yet and in consideration do we want to separate, we fear the loss of autonomy more than anything.
In this fusion would the human attributes be only physical or would mental attributes be desired as well? This begs the question whether a cyborg has a soul? If we are to intermixed with our technological counterparts than are we still liable to laws and human rights? “The machine is not an it to be animated, worshipped and dominated… we can be responsible for machines… we are responsible for boundaries; we are they. ” (Graham 2002:203-4). With the advent of the cyborg came many ethical problems, for example, are cyborgs free or controlled by the entity that made them?
If one starts a human then becomes a cyborg, is he more free than a cyborg created in metal first? Additional questions followed all relating to the cyborgs’ humanity. Do cyborgs have ambitions? Cyborgs essentially rely on boundary crossing, but what boundaries are set in stone? If we move to a more commercially technological age, by choice, (by increasing the capabilities of computers and dvd’s) then why have we the problem of moving towards an age where cyborgs play a part in our society? “technologized nature… he image of the planet Earth taken form an orbiting space station adapted as the symbol for an ecological campaign: ‘Love your Mother. ‘ Yet Haraway points out that without advanced technology, the very photograph that envokes feelings of solidarity with environmental protest could not have been taken. ” (Graham 2002:204). An interesting point I came across whilst reading Haraway (although not explicitly stated) was if we are to presume that the true marker of humanity is religion, and that humanity is preserved in the cyborg, then what religion would a cyborg reflect or subscribe to in order to fulfil its human components?
Haraway describes the ‘new’ cyborg as “an irreverent upstart god, mocking the Father’s ubiquity and spirituality. ” (Haraway 1991:153). Are cyborgs’ sexual identities, like humans, influenced by religion? A question not easily answered. An alternative aspect to the supposed problem of cyborgs is highlighted by Marsha Hewitt, “Hewitt argues for more of a commitment to humanism. ” (Graham 2002:205). Her point is whether we should create cyborgs when the human race is far from perfect. Even women, half of the human race, aren’t treated like they should, with aspects of discrimination and lower wages in high power jobs.
Will the cyborg really make our human nation perfect or are we looking for a quick fix, should we not just let nature and evolution takes its course? Haraway obviously disputes this point, arguing that it is too late to fully return to humanism since we rely so heavily on technology. However, one must always remember that Haraway is highly influenced by the science and technology of the day to see past the apparent failings of cyborgs, yet she does support her view with the “real-life cyborgs (for example, the Southeast Asian village women workers in Japanese and US electronics firms described by Aihwa Ong). Haraway 1991:177). Cyborgs often threaten western ideas concerning gender. Woman has always been the opposite to man, but is the cyborg now the opposite of woman? In the past woman have been portrayed as much unlike man as possible, an undesired and unnatural state of humanity. How ironic that just as women are being completely accepted in society they are, as Haraway illustrates, closely linked to cyborgs as having similar attributes.
Societies’ view of cyborgs mirrors the ancient view of woman, one is replaced by another, and how confusing that the group (woman) who were spared persecution join hands with their persecutors to degrade another to create a nation in fear of the cyborg. The cyborg is just the new ‘nigger’ on the block, something/one for society to center its hurtful gaze. I feel the lack of obvious gender in cyborgs leads to fear and distrust. Haraway views the gender identity of cyborgs as “a girl who is trying not to be a woman” (Graham 2002:207).
Haraway controversially wants women to pioneer the joining of human to machine to gain entitlement to enter the world of science and logic that has historically been denied. There are a wide variety of human-machines in popular culture and the media, for example, the Terminator, the Borg from Star Trek, Robocop and Frankesteins monster. “Many of the most popular representations of cyborgs appear as hypermasculine killing machines, more Marvel Comics than cyber-feminism. ” (Graham 2002:208).
These portray a super-human, omnipotent or extra intelligent wish for humanity. Everyone wants a super power in a day and age where mankind feels weak, or as Graham puts it “escaping the vulnerability of embodiment” (Graham 2002:208). However, with this wish for power also comes the wish for individualism so that none of their enemies will be as strong. An example against this is Star Trek Voyagers’ Borg crew mate, seven of nine, who fought against humanity and individualism, in an effort to return to a state of perfection and the ‘collective’.
Against popular ideals of fighting against the establishment and ‘assimilation’ this Borg woman actively wants to return to a zombie or ‘drone’ state of which she views as perfection. However, media bosses have attempted to curb too much controversy by making the character discover her ‘humanity’ and soften her cold image with a love interest. Seven’s instructed separation from the borg collective is a perfect example of the fear that grips society toward the idea of us all becoming cyborgs although we are all ironically ‘drones’ of the everyday.
The Borg, as a collective, are viewed as lethal killers and once assimilated there is no struggle between human (or alien) physiology and technology. Their victims who become assimilated into the collective are seen as losing the essential qualities of humanity; free will and independent thought. The main point here is that men and women are portrayed differently in cyborg roles. Men, the positive and indestructible hero’s/saviours and women as the radical anarchists. For example in Terminator 3, the Terminator (man) wants to save the main character whereas T3 (the woman) want to kill him.
Ironically however in the first Terminator he was designed to kill the main characters’ mother, yet he still remains the hero and revered for his abilities. Arnold Swartzenger himself strived for a better than human or cyborg body in real life with his bodybuilding. In a ironic twist the Terminator and his leather jacket brings with it a hint of gay culture, I don’t however think this was intended and the character was most probably a stereotypical image of a ‘butch’ guy. Is this hyper masculinity not another form of removal form the natural order?
Is anyone actually like that? In the movie Terminator 2, the Terminator was a father figure to the character of John Connor. He is very protective of him in a slightly motherly way, even if he was programmed to do it. The terminator is an example of a machine with added humanity, conversely Robocop was an example of a man made metal, and with this brings many different issues. Robocop was a very military figure in his cyborg state in contrast with his family man image as a human.
However, “Robocop’s superficial toughness conceals a deeper fragility… echnologies mark his superiority and strength, but this is tinged with a sense of the irrevocable loss of his humanity. ” (Graham 2002:209). The question is now posed whether after his unfortunate incident, was the cybernetic connections he received to make him a cyborg really a lifesaver, when in his extended life he must watch his family from afar and be detached from the norms of society? Protecting the vulnerabilities of the body with technology is an age-old quest and man has always endeavoured to be invincible to his enemies and gain a rather unfair advantage.
Does this wish to protect bodies with technology explain our scientific advancements so far or are we cyborgs already? Computers in this new technological age play a large part in our lives and in response to part of the essay question concerning sexual practise I have looked studies published on the Internet. An article I found of particular interest was Robin B. Hammans “Cyborgasms: Cybersex Amongst Multiple-Selves and Cyborgs in the Narrow-Bandwidth Space of America Online Chat Rooms” which talks of how people can have multiple (anonymous) identities on AOL chatrooms and experience cybersex in cyberspace.
It highlights how face-to-face communication is influenced heavily by body language and that due to the new electronic age we have had to develop a new language to avoid misinterpretations on the Internet. On the Internet people can become whatever they want to be, gender and identity become rather blurred and truth has little or no meaning. Hammans essay proposes that those who use the AOL chatrooms to have cybersex are in essence cyborgs. For instance, there are many elements that go toward a creating a whole person. For example, their personality, how they make their living, their families and their love life as but a few.
Hammans essay proposes that without one of these elements a person is not whole. Those who use AOL chatrooms for sex find it extremely hard to make contact with others in the ‘real world’ therefore without the chatrooms their sex lives are greatly inhibited. They need the chatrooms and their computers and are not complete or fully human without them, this denotes that they are cyborgs since the computer is an essential part of their lives. “People become cyborgs when two boundaries become problematic; 1. The boundary between animal and human and, 2. The boundary between human and machine. ” (socio-demon 12/11/03).
The problem is that these people feel they cannot express their sexual desires in the ‘real world’ and feel that society will view them dimly. Hammans essay proposes that the only way to stop people becoming cyborgs in this way is for society to become more lenient and accepting so that they can fully express themselves without discrimination. He effectively asks; is society repressing our souls and is becoming a cyborg the only way we can escape to explore all of our humanity and personalities? Susan Stryker suggests that Stephen Hawkings is an example of a merging of prosthesis and soul.
Stephen Hawking’s voice is provided by a machine, it is an extension of his will, soul and body. The boundaries between human and machine have broken down for him, his voice will forever remain the same, unchanged by age or disease. He has become one with his computer and in a sense he has become a cyborg, in an equally beneficial sense. Is cyberspace the next generation of human evolution? Humans like animals adapt and evolve to their environments, but also shape and mould new environments to suit evolutionary changes. “We can never cut all our ties to nature… e have however, evolved from what could be seen as our natural state. ” (Robin Hamman quoted in socio-demon, 12/11/03). We have effectively moulded a new playing field for humanity this is cyberspace. Society deeply influences how we behave and as with Mary Shelly’s Frankestein who was a monster due to lack of social interaction, the question still prevails whether we can survive in modern society as cyborgs or is society that must evolve to accommodate us? Hammans essay also highlights how through the aid of computers, gender can fully be explored.
It takes the case of a man called Rob (his actual name is hidden for purposes of confidentiality) who used AOL chatrooms to regularly pretend he was a woman and have cybersex with men. Rob was able to fully explore many aspects of his gender through the computer, but often betrays the trust of the men whom he has cybersex with. Although Rob can be whoever he wants to be online he still feels the guilt of lying to the men he meets. All inhibitions are lost online and there are few limitations to which you can present yourself to be.
This comes with both positive and negative points, it is liberating in a sense but can also lead to horrific abuse as older men find chatrooms a good place to ‘groom’ children. However, for those who use these chatrooms to explore their sexual identity and practise are in a sense cyborgs, although, “Most AOL users I have spoken to in the course of this research fight against becoming a cyborg… form using AOL. ” (socio-demon, 12/11/03), many also admit that they would not talk of their sexual relations if they were face to face with the interviewer.
Anonymity helps many to overcome their fears of exposure and “I have found because there is a certain honesty indicated when you do not know the other party, have nothing to lose, in fact everything to gain by being able to talk freely, in other words free counselling. ” (Sue 1997). Hammans essay tries to explain the transformation of these people into cyborgs by saying that “It is not the machine that seduces us, it is the ability to experiment with our multiplicity of selves…
If we can some day be free to more fully experiment with gender and sexuality in the real world, we will no longer need the aid of computers for this purpose. ” (socio-demon, 12/11/03). So what kind of sex is cybersex? There are two types of cybersex chat; the first is real time masturbation supported by computer mediated conversation as they each other what they are doing. The second is computer mediated conversation about past sexual experiences with the intent of arousal. They can be based on reality or fantasy but are usually highly erotic.
Both types are highly satisfying and often evoke physical orgasms. This kind of sex is not completely supported by society as a constructive way to conduct ones sex-life, yet it is increasingly being accepted as an effective way to be ‘satisfied’. People who ‘need’ cybersex are usually viewed as geeky or socially inept. However many find romantic love through cyberspace with dating agencies making a valuable profit form it. We have moved from ‘Blind Date’ to ‘Find a Mate’. Studies show that hundreds of people arrange meetings with their Internet lovers in attempts to establish a real life relationship.
Although, not many succeed and those who do meet are often disappointed by their Internet counterpart. It seems that the outside world and society are not as seductive and exciting as their cyberspace world. It seems that in the scientific world the move from human to cyborg seems a certain future. However, the question I pose in this essay is whether we are all cyborgs now and according to a multitude of sources I have looked at, certain individuals are, in many respects, but not all of us are yet.
This idea of becoming neither distinguishable as human or machine but a complete cyborg is contested by Professor Noel Sharkey, who on an online debate suggests that “its unlikely that anything we think of as a robot will be indistinguishable from a human. I believe that metal will never be mental. ” (www. bbc. co. uk, 12/11/03). Many scientists are now contesting whether cyborgs and their creation is actually a good idea, what are the repercussions? The advent of Artificial Intelligence (AI) highlights deep-set problems of control over computer components.
Scientists fear that the machines will take over and destroy all life on Earth, however if one takes a close look at the world today are we not destroying the Earth anyway? Science fiction has always cultivated aggressive ideas for and against scientific developments. Mark O’Brien presents an alternative point of view in that we have forsaken aspects of the body which aren’t perfect to become cyborgs, “our impulse to invent has come from a desire to supplement our strength or our senses”(Mark O’Brien quoted in Springer 1996:26).
So in conclusion, Mark O’Brien proposes that the key to our humanity is choice. Whether we choose to be cyborgs or not. However, some have already made that choice, usually unwittedly. We, as a society, heavily contest the idea of choosing to become a cyborg yet half of us already are. To sat that we are not heavily dependant on machines already is preposterous. However, as Haraway eloquently puts it; ” I would rather be a cyborg than a goddess. ” (Haraway 1991:181).