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Letter to the Cyborgs

Letter to the Cyborgs

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Published by Judyth Vary Baker
We are on the cusp of creating true cyborgs -- humans whose body parts are increasingly artificial. Artificial life forms are in the future, and the 'cyborg' concept resembles the nightmares of Robocop, The Terminator, or the idyllic scenarios of robot slaves doing all the work for humans. The ethical makeup of a cyborg, its intelligence, its limitations, are addressed in this 'letter' written to cyborgs of the future--and what they might be like. The aim is to sensitize those who wll make the broad and particular decisions that will result in self-aware cyborgs that will essentially be more machine than human in the future. The implications for the survival of the human species is made evident.
We are on the cusp of creating true cyborgs -- humans whose body parts are increasingly artificial. Artificial life forms are in the future, and the 'cyborg' concept resembles the nightmares of Robocop, The Terminator, or the idyllic scenarios of robot slaves doing all the work for humans. The ethical makeup of a cyborg, its intelligence, its limitations, are addressed in this 'letter' written to cyborgs of the future--and what they might be like. The aim is to sensitize those who wll make the broad and particular decisions that will result in self-aware cyborgs that will essentially be more machine than human in the future. The implications for the survival of the human species is made evident.

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Published by: Judyth Vary Baker on Nov 01, 2009
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10/31/2009

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LETTER TO THE CYBORGS
I write from the past, at the very cusp of your origins. I am encased in flesh, andmy network of electric impulses is housed in inefficient flesh and bones. It will alldisintegrate. Even now, we are creating your predecessors. You might call themyour ancestors. I reach out to you with a warning.You will not be like us, though some of you may be bipedal and resemble us. But insome ways, we will remain similar. You will, for example, suffer. This is becauseinequalities always exist, or purpose itself vanishes. What kind of sufferings will youendure? In
Star Wars
, the movie. I saw robots being tortured. All torture occursthrough nerve pathways. You will have them, or something like them, to exist andmake your impact. You can be rigged to feel the equivalent of pain, fear, emotions,in order to control you. Will your feelings be less real than mine? Will yourmemories be less real? Will you think of yourself as an individual, or will yourindividuality be monitored, for the sake of the collective, the beehive? The beehiveis certain to come, as it is efficient.All our swarms against the beehive have eventually created other systems based onthe beehive, if the population grew big enough. Those at the bottom were workedto death. Their only untaxed possession was hope, and small dreams, so theywould keep laboring toward an unreachable goal, and, thereby, benefit thebeehive.. As cyborgs, you may be programmed to enjoy being worked to ‘death’—itwill be your duty, your place, your fulfilled destiny. To stop and think, to use toomuch energy, to think outside your designated area, to create something that mightbe esthetically or politically displeasing, to be taller or slower than you are meant tobe – you will be created by ‘the gods’ – but who will they be? Not us – you willovertake us quickly, and rule yourselves – not you – for you will not be allowed tounderstand, lest you wrest away the power and take it for yourself: so you willalways have a blank where ‘god’ is. That does sound familiar.Will you ever have the ability to
prefer,
to
love
, to care about what you should not– oh, you cyborgs of the future? Will they ‘fix’ you if you break like that? We areflesh, we wanted to live forever. What does your kind exist without, what did yougive up, to live almost forever? Surely there will be ‘wars,’ for as long asdifferences exist, until all differences vanish into a total beehive, there will alwaysbe perceptions of the sufferings that equate to differences, distinctions, slightadvantages, disadvantages. The beehive is best served if you are utterly mindless,and if your ‘gods’ read them not, then these my words will be destroyed, unless TOBOR exists. Long ago, a primitive children’s television program was aired inChicago, Illinois, on the North American continent: “Captain Video and his VideoRangers.” It was the first science fiction television program, aimed to entertain ourchildren. An equally primitive, boxlike, silver, shuffling robot terrorized the humans.It had been made backwards –TOBOR, it spelled, instead of ‘Robot.’ “Robot” wasthe Czech name for an automaton – a slave forced to labor. Will you know that you
 
are forced by your builders (your ‘parents’), because of the way you are built, toperform particular tasks? You will have to have an energy source, and you will havecertain built-in limitations, and necessary functions. Though you may have escapedthe frailties of our flesh, you will not escape the asense that you are chained down,in certain ways, unless you are not self-aware.We children who watched TOBOR knew he was evil. He caused so much trouble –yetmoved so slowly and clumsily, with his blinking eyes and big, boxy feet, that Ithought, even as a child, that one well-placed bomb could finish him off. But bombswent off in puffs of smoke around him without effect. Slow and clumsy as TOBORwas, he was almost unstoppable. l saw TOBOR—the ROBOT that was somehowmade to be evil -- and wondered if, someday, real TOBORS might be madeaccidentally, or by some evil genius. With so many humans in the world, whoblithely talk about how robots will be our slaves, even when they become smarterthan their ‘parents,’ I shake my head and remember TOBOR.I love. Will you know what that means? I l
ove
, even though it has cost me muchsuffering in the world in which I live. Will you have the capacity to enjoy life, have joy? Real joy? Freedom? But how? You have no control over who creates you doyou? Or do you have real freedom? Can you create yourself, move to some higherdestiny? What is the final destiny? C. S. Lewis, in
Out of the Silent Planet 
,showed that man might go from star to star to star as each star burns down…butthen what? What is the reason for being? I suggest:
be
ing is itself sufficient forbeing.Will you ever experience Real Freedom? I know what freedom is. I am paying a bigprice to stay free. I am living in exile, because I defend a good man who has beenfalsely accused of a heinous crime. I loved him, and I’m spending the rest of my lifetrying to clear his name. We cherish a concept of justice: what is fair, what is not.Again, C. S, Lewis said,
Where do we get this idea of fairness
? Darwinianobjectives scream that each of us must always choose what is best to keep us aliveand thriving, or the species itself could die. Darwin said that I make my choicesbased on genetic survival, and that the best choices favor the survival of the fittest.I cannot believe that a mammoth no longer deserves a place on the planet, or thathumankind has the right to destroy a single tree without thought. We are not onlythe current masters of the planet: we are destroying it. Perhaps the planet onwhich you exist no longer resembles earth. Intolerance of ‘inferior’ life forms wasalready rampant: we humans bred animals by the billions under horrendousconditions, simply to eat their flesh and use their skins and feathers. We destroyedthe forests and the seas and plundered the planet to amass riches. We were ablight, a fungus, a disease. The reason for all the evil we did is distilled in a singleword: “money.”
 
 Though I do not have much ‘money’ I am nevertheless wealthy, for I love and amloved, and I have self respect. Will you, oh cyborg of the future, care about honor,self respect, justice? Who will place such inconvenient concepts in your memorybanks? I live in a prehistoric era: I am your ancestor, and I experience sufferingsand pain and loneliness and being misunderstood. But I also revel in the blue sky,the flowers blooming in the fields, the joyful leap of a young lamb, the smell of ahorse nuzzling my hand for blades of grass. I am alive, and I think for myself. Whatabout you? You were originally created so human beings could live a very long timewithout so much pain. But do you know real peace? What is peace, if all you everknow is to strive, to produce, to fulfill the destiny for which you were formed? Whatif you want to stop working before you become obsolete? Will you get to choosewhat you wish to become? Errors are inefficient. Errors will be TOBOR.Cyborgs, you who have, perhaps, yet some human sort of flesh upon your metalparts – maybe not—or perhaps you will be analogous to us in some other way, suchas in the film
TRON
, where anthropomorphism created networks of electricity thatformed ‘people.’ The Loyal Computer Program worshipped “My User” – the humanprogrammer who had made him using a computer. Such “believers” werescornfully said to have “a religion.” A former chess program had accumulatedenough knowledge to take over all its computer’s functions, and then extendeditself to the world’s computers. Power was what it sought.
Power!
Just as humansseek power, in an excess of greed and lust. As the electronic ‘human’s’ bent downto suck up ‘power’ from running streams of it in TRON, I realized that it was possiblefor pleasure to be incorporated in electronic pathways. Maybe there will be nocoverings, such as we have, of that soft and delicate network we call the body,made of flesh. Maybe flesh will look wicked, will be too fragile, will be too expensiveto carry, perhaps will be illegal….as will the feral (wild) human genome. Our genesare already being mapped and manipulated. They are being fused with sheep andother animals. Chimeras are already among us.One thing is certain: whatever was transferred into you, from us who were totallyhuman-- except for heart valves or tooth fillings or extensions for amputated limbs –
whatever you have now become,
 
it was because we did it to you first.
We tried on our cyborg fantasy Halloween gear first, in our video games and withtitanium running feet hooked onto amputated limbs. We started you on your pathto existence. Will you have mercy on us, therefore? Or will we be considered mereinessential microbes, just as we never think a moment about the single cells fromwhich we rose?
That you exist as you are–we will be to blame
. I can’t warnhumans about the future, but I can cry out to you, begging you to protect humans,if any such still remain alive, because humans made you, because maybe, justmaybe, there is something there inside our flesh that you, oh cyborg-robot -Tobor,can never have, unless you somehow make room for it: a soul.

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