Cyborgs are usually depicted as human-machine hybrids in popular fiction. They’ll either be robots with human brains or people who’ve had some of their limbs replaced with machine parts. That’s pretty cool. But, let’s be honest: those are your grandparent’s cyborgs. Ours are better.
In the modern world, the idea of putting a computer chip in your brain isn’t far-fetched at all. And robotic limbs are quickly becoming a reality. But neither of these cybernetic solutions are intended to augment healthy people.
For non-medical cybernetic applications, the ultimate goal of human-machine hybrids should be optimization. It might be super cool to have robotic arms that can bend steel but, arguably, there are better ways to accomplish such feats than to graft metal to your flesh.
A fork in the road
Experts argue that the advent of always-on internet connectivity and technologies such as Google Search, Wikipedia, and YouTube have created an entirely new species of human.
Rather than a physiological evolution, such as those our ancestors went through on their way out of the oceans, into the trees, and ultimately walking upright, we’re undergoing a technology-induced separation of the species.
Arguably, homo-sapiens are a critically endangered species. Most humans interface with the internet via smart phones or computers on a daily basis. Eventually, nearly every person on Earth will have always-on connectivity to the internet via a personal device.
And, when that happens, homo-sapiens will become something else. Homo-sapien 2.0 perhaps. Or maybe something else entirely, it’s quite conceivable we’ll experience physiological changes to our brains as we continue to integrate our mental space with machines.
Many humans are already cyborgs. If you take everything that’s cool about RoboCop and then say “what if we made it wireless instead,” what you get is a cop with an iPhone and a smart gun.
This is because the modern definition of cyborg includes the idea of using computers as an extension of our own minds.
Think about it: how many phone numbers do you have memorized? Probably not as many as you would have in the 1990s.
For most of us, this is because of we’ve allowed our technology to ease our mental burdens. Why memorize phone numbers when our phones can do it for us?
As Slate’s Will Oremus pointed out back in 2018, this is actually by design:
Google is now beckoning you to accept its software as part of your extended mind, in all kinds of new ways. It promises to think for you, speak for you, and carry out actions in the real world on your behalf.
One need look no further than social media to see a clear depiction of both cyborgs and old school homo-sapiens interacting with one another.
When we tell people to “Google it,” we’re asking them to use their readily available cybernetic augmentations to access the hive mind in order to save time. We’re trying to optimize the human race. Because we’re cyborgs.
However, not everyone is a cyborg. Homo-sapiens often choose human interaction over a Google Search because they’re genuinely curious about other people’s opinions.
Perhaps they’re not interested in feeling like a cloud-connected, boring version of RoboCop who summons his Tesla with an app and controls his home via Amazon Alexa.
Only future historians will have the proper perspective by which to declare the beginning of the cyborg era.
But we’re going to go ahead and say that it’s already begun.
Googling celebrity birthdays and using a calculator app might not make you feel like a badass cyborg, but the sheer amount of information available to humans in the modern world is unfathomable.
You could live a thousand lifetimes and never learn everything there is to know on the internet. And that makes being able to find what you’re looking for on the internet quickly a life skill that will likely only grow in importance.
Those of us capable of embracing our technology to the fullest, who commit to the cyborg paradigm, stand to gain the most. We’ll be always-connected, cutting-edge, and able to stay a step ahead of the unevolved homo-sapiens.
At least until the power goes out.
At the end of the day, you don’t have to purchase property in the metaverse or own NFT collectibles to embrace modern technology.
You’re a cyborg if you rely on personal technology to do your light work so you can free up your beautiful organic brain for more important things.
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