Cyborg or Human/Machine hybrid technology

    “I am Locutus; of borg.”

Perhaps one of the most famous lines in the Star Trek shows and in the sci-fi genre, the comment above portrays Captain Jean Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) of the Starship Enterprise as having been taken over by the multi-manned but single-minded collective of the borg, a race that is controlled by technology, and who’s very existence relies on that technology. The race is feared and hated throughout the Star Trek universe for the fact that it enters an area, uses it’s technology to “assimilate” or transform and take over the beings in the area, and then moves on. The Borg portray the darker side of what are potentially thought of as Cyborg technology, or Human/Machine hybrid beings.

But there are people in our very day and age that fit that definition of humans using technology to enhance ourselves. A good example of that is portrayed in an article by Janet Kornblum of USA Today, in her article titled: “Today’s Cyborgs get an Eyeful.” Where she discusses the mixed definition of what is and is not a cyborg.

    “Thad Starner is lying flat on his back on his office couch, staring at the ceiling. Don’t bother him. He’s working.”

The article starts off to describe how Thad Starner is using a set of computer imaging displays on his glasses, about the size of a chiclet, and his hand is gliding over a one-handed keyboard called a “Twiddler.” His glasses contain a “MicroOptical” display in which he can see words, or pictures, or whatever else you might see on a computer screen.

Starner is an assistant prof. of computer science at The Georgia Institute of Technology, and is just about the closest as anyone can be to being a cyborg, which stands for “Cybernetic Organism,” without actually being one. He’s not exactly like the Borg of Star Trek fame- humanoids who get assimilated into a giant collective and are controlled through mechanical implants. But the few people who consider themselves to be actual cyborgs, aren’t that far away from it.

Starner would consider himself more to be “extremely wired.” The people who fit that description often have the technology on them almost constantly. They wear it everywhere; sewn into their clothes, or mounted onto their eyeglasses- sometimes nearly invisibly. They use these machines to constantly integrate the virtual, with the real. While people like Starner, and Steve Mann, who pioneered cyborg technology (and has been wearing it for 22 years, now at the age of 40) are talking to you, they may also be answering mail, or finding information on the world-wide-web, or even altering their perceptions of their surroundings.

The device he uses, known as an EyeTap device, causes the rays of eyeward-bound light to be replaced with rays of synthetic light having the same characteristics. What does this do? Essentially he can send the image of his garden to his eye, and see a garden, whereas others see what is actually there. (But no need to worry- he’d still see an oncoming car.)

The conclusion? As Janet Kornblum puts it-

    "people who consider themselves cyborgs are quick to point out that a lot of us regular folks are dancing on the edges, if not tumbling to the center, of borgdom. Wearable computers are being deployed everywhere from the military to the assembly line. Thousands of people depend on electronic pacemakers and cochlear implants, among the computerized health equipment. And an increasing number consider the addition of cell phones, pagers, and PDA’s as part of daily dress.”

Overall the effect of these cyborg implants and additions to humans is merely to help us, or hurt us, depending on the use. The view that each man takes is his own unto himself, but the technology has great capabilities; put to the right uses it could make any number of great things possible. Look at The Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman. They show the great potential of this technology. The effects differ by the use, but can potentially increase our lifespan (or decrease it in the case of The Terminator) and they can help us live a better, healthier life.

Actually, in truth this technology, which I talked about above, is more likely inspired by science fiction; inspired by old stories; inspired by the tale of Daedelus and Icarus. (See also The Flight of Icarus) Thanks to Psuedo_Intellectual for pointing that out to me.


  • "Legacy Systems and Functional Cyborgization of Humans"

    Chrislenko, Alexander 1995- (As soon as I find the website, I will put it up.)
  • "Todays Cyborgs get an Eyeful"

    Kornblum, Janet USA Today