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4. A Meditation on Modular Identity (Adapted from a slideshow through which I introduce students in Dr.

Andrew Moores and my class on Human Nature and Technology to the figure of the cyborg) The image of the cyborg invites some interesting and challenging questions. What is our relationship to technology? What role does technology play in identity? Can we even have selves in the absence of technology, or are the biological and technological so closely interwoven in us as to be inextricable? What, then, is human? Then there are the metaphysical questions. Is our nature purely material, or is there a part of us that exists outside of, or beyond, the material realm? And if so, does our cyborg nature impact our relationship with that?

The figure of the cyborg has become familiar at the level of popular culture, and is increasingly becoming the subject of serious scholarship in both the sciences and the humanities. The term itself dates only to 1960 and a paper written by Manfred Clynes and Nathan Kline. Their objective was to propose modifications to the human body in order to prepare it for space exploration, with the intent to augment the biological body in such a way that it could function in an alien and hostile environment. They contracted the word cyborg from the term cybernetic organism and defined these seemingly new constructs as self-regulating man-machine systems. Since 1960, the quantity and the variety of these figures, both real and imagined, have increased to the point where the image of the cyborg has become an effective critical tool for the examination of human nature. During this time, several variations on the original definition have been proposed. David Hess, in his 1995 discussion of Low-Tech Cyborgs defines the construct as any identity between machine and human or any conflation of the

machine/human boundary. More recently, Andy Clark succinctly labels them as hybrid biotechnological selves (2003). What these and other definitions share is the configuration of the organic and the technological into a single system. Another typical feature is a sense of uncertainty as to where the border between the two might lie, and whether the notion of such a border even remains necessary.

James Camerons 1984 movie The Terminator addresses a widespread anxiety regarding the relationship between humans and machines. The image of the grinning, red-eyed machine-skull initially hidden under a layer of human skin has become a pop culture icon, instantly recognizable even to many who were not born when the film made its debut, and the fear that humanity will someday engineer a superior artificial intelligence is not unreasonable. While it does not necessarily follow that this intelligence would attempt to annihilate its predecessor species, the possibility is both provocative and haunting, and has given birth to much speculation both inside and outside of the realm of science fiction. A less obvious but perhaps more threatening facet of this image is its depiction of the machine within, evoking the fear not that we are threatened by machines but rather that we are becoming machines, ourselves.

This fear lies at the heart of Star Trek: The Next Generations Borg. The Borg are a race of beings bound together by a unifying technology that both permeates and surrounds them, enveloping them in a group identity or hive mind in which there is no room for individuality. The Borg expand by conquering new planets and assimilating their people, injecting their conquests with transformative nano-machines and submerging their biological selves beneath a layer of hardware and software that links them to the collective. To many viewers, the Borg are the most unsettling antagonist in the Star Trek mythos, I believe because they embody both a fear and an acknowledgement of humanitys relationship with technologya genuine unease about the borders of our own identities, and the stability of those borders. How much of me originates inside me, and how much is imposed from outside? Is there a part of me that is inviolate, or is the whole system subject to invasion and revision? As we make more and more powerful machines, are our machines re-making us?

The answer to that last question is pretty clearly yes. Consider the pilot of an Apache attack helicopter. The helicopters armaments are slaved to the helmet and turn with the pilots head, with the result that the pilot can shoot whatever he can see, the weapons effectively becoming an extension of his or her will. Helicopter and pilot become a single unit, what Chris Hables Gray refers to as a man machine weapon system, the object of much contemporary military research. While the power relations are not the same as those in the Borg, with the human will directing the technology rather than vice versa, the biological/technological relationship is still intimate, and the enacted identity impossible without both components closely interfaced. Pepperell (2003, 2005) takes this argument further, observing that the human body has no fixed boundaries when examined at a sufficiently high resolution. A logical conclusion of this indeterminacy is that the boundary of the human body is at best problematic and quite possibly illusory. Both Pepperell (2003, 2005) and Clark (2003, 2011), moreover, recognize that consciousness, rather than being limited to the brain, emerges from the system as a whole. That is, consciousness is a process, analogous to the boiling of water in a kettle (Pepperell 2003), rather than an identifiable thing that can be tied to a fixed location, and as such its working is distributed across body and environment.

A more extreme example, and one more closely in line with the coining of the term cyborg as a self-sustaining man-machine system, is the figure of the astronaut. While we might tend to think of the astronaut as the person, and the space suit as mere equipment, the case is not so simple. As with the Apache pilot, the identity astronaut is impossible to enact in the absence of the relevant hardware, which encases the human body in a self-contained environment. And this is to say nothing of the softwarethe technical skills and expertise that the human component must master in order to operate the suit and carry out whatever function the assembly exists to perform. None of these elements can be absent if the identity in question is to be present. So again, we are left wondering, where does identity reside?

One possible answer is, in the brain. The brain may indeed be necessary, but is it both necessary and sufficient? Is it the sole component of identity? Were this the case, then the science fictional scenario of transplanting a brain into either another body or a machine would involve no change in self. You could still be completely yourself in your body, someone elses body, an artificial human-like body, or a container that resembles a tank, a skyscraper, a space ship, or something that has yet to be imagined. The problem with this image, though, is that the brain itself is an arbitrary construct. Huh? What the hell is that supposed to mean? Let me put it this way. Considering that the entire nervous system brain, spinal cord, and our whole network of nervesis continuous, the breaking down of the system into discrete parts, while useful in discourse, is problematic when we look beyond the conventions of language. Or to put it philosophically, the brain is epistemic, not ontological. While the distinction brain/not-brain is useful, this distinction is not a function of the body, but rather a function of our own systems of thought. It exists in our minds, and in our written and visual texts, but nowhere else. Actually, the common tendency to locate identity in the brain appears, to me at least, to be a physical manifestation of the mind-body dualism that informsIm tempted to say plaguesso much of Western religion and philosophy. Mind-body dualism, for those of you not familiar with the term, is simply the belief that the mind has an existence separate from the body, and that our essential being, therefore, is not physical, or at least not wholly so, i.e. that we are metaphysical as well as physical beings. While

brain-body dualism, as opposed to mind-body dualism, does not address the metaphysical, it does treat the brain as a separate and special thing, making it roughly analogous to a driver, whose car is not integral to his or her identity. The intimate interweaving of the nervous system throughout the body makes this position difficult to maintain.

Another position, and one that is in keeping with much of current cognitive science, is that consciousness is embodied. That is, consciousness does not depend only on the brain, but also on the body of which the brain is a part. Our experience of identity, from this perspective, is largely an experience of a particular bodys relationship with its surrounding environment. In this sense, identity is a distributed phenomenon, covering both the brain and the rest of the body. This understanding of identity as a distributed phenomenon intersects in some curious ways with John Lockes definition of personhood. Rather than offering a genetic or biological definition, for example membership in the human species, Locke offers a functional definition. He refers not to what a thing is, but rather to what the thing does, defining a person as a thinking intelligent being, that has reason and reflection, and can consider itself as itself, the same thinking thing, in different times and places (Locke, Essay Concerning Human Understanding, II xxvii 9). That is to say, it possesses reason, self-awareness, and memory. We might also consider philosopher of consciousness Daniel Dennetts suggestion that I am the sum total of the parts that I control directly (Dennett 1984) . In a rejection of Cartesian dualism, Dennett identifies consciousness not as an immaterial

substance that has an eternal existence independent of any physical phenomenon but rather as the activity of a physical system. Dennetts notion of control sits comfortably with Lockes criteria for personhood, effectively bringing this 300-year-old definition up to date in the light of modern cognitive science. It also anchors the person firmly in the realm of the physical as opposed to the metaphysical, with identity understood as encompassing a conglomeration of elements that, at the very least, includes much of the biological body. Insofar as control refers to action, it also shifts the focus of identity from pure cognition toward function. Who we are is no longer just what we think and remember, but also what we do. Identity, in other words, is tied to action.

Direct control, however, is not limited to the body. Clark (2003, 2011) refines the concept through his proposed idea of transparency in use. By his reckoning, a toolor even a body partcan be either opaque or transparent. It is opaque when the user needs to focus on the item itself while trying to perform a particular task, as for example an inexperienced musician must concentrate on the details of the instrument in question when trying to make music, or as an infant must concentrate first on its fingers to learn their use before it can employ them in any deliberate mannerlearning curves that incidentally involve precisely the same mechanisms at the level of the brain (Clark 2003). To an accomplished musician, on the other hand, the instrument is transparent: he or she focuses not on the instrument but on the desired outcomethe musicand simply produces it in the same way that a person who wants to open a jar of peanut

butter simply opens the jars rather than consciously directing every joint and muscle movement. Another example is a prosthesis that enables a person to enact an otherwise unattainable identity. The identity runner is not possible without the ability to run, and running for a one-legged person requires a prosthesis whose use must be learned in the same manner as a biological limb or a guitar. Therefore, the prosthesis (or a prosthesis) is integral to the identity in question in precisely the same way that a musical instrument is integral to the identity musician.

But just how far beyond the biological body, and through how many media, can personal identity extend? Clark (2011), working from Gallagher (1998), proposes the idea of the body schema in answer to this question. While the more common phrase body image refers roughly to the picture of the body maintained by an individual at the level of conscious awareness and as such is highly subject to cultural influences, body schema is a suite of neural settings that implicitly (and nonconsciously) define a body in terms of its capacities for action (Clark 2011 39). The brain, Clark explains, distinguishes between near space and far space according to what can be acted upon by the entity defined by the body schema, and what cannot. I need to be clear that this distinction is both physical and demonstrable. Certain neurons in the primate intraparietal cortex that initially fire only when a potential stimulus comes within reach of the hand, even in the presence of an unmastered tool, will, once the tool has been mastered, fire when that same stimulus comes within reach of the extended body-tool system (Clark 2011 38, ref. Maravita and Iriki 2004 79). As far as the brain is concerned, in other words, a tool is as good as a hand, or conversely, the hand is just

another a tool. The biological body is thus a platform to which modules can be added at need, and whose initial components, such as limbs, are in fact replaceable. In the slide above, the identity carpenter, handyman, or tool guy is mediated by a prosthesis: the drill is at one technological remove from the human body, but all three elements contribute to the identity, with the drill, after sufficient practice, becoming a piece of transparent technology perceived by the brain to be in the near space and thus becoming incorporated into the persons body schema. In principle, there is no distal limit to what the brain, with sufficient practice, can recognize a near space and thus make a part of its working model of the body. Or to speak more precisely, the distal limit is a function of the speed of light, a matter to which I will return.

It may be useful to consider Australian performance artist Stelarc, seen here, in a picture taken in the early 1980s, writing the word evolution with three hands simultaneously. The third arm is connected to sensors positioned over muscles on his thigh and abdomen, and he controls the arm by moving these muscles. By the time this picture had been taken, Stelarc had attained sufficient control over the extra arm to be able to use it as unselfconsciously as he would use any other body part. It had, for him, become transparent (Clark 2003), and fully incorporated into his body schema. The extra arm thus functions not merely as a tool but as a component in a unified system. Here, we have gone from restorative cyborg technology to the technology of augmentation.

The question of selfhood thus becomes a question of borders. Where, as I asked above, does me end and not me begin? This question can be understood in two ways. The first and perhaps more obvious is, How permeable am I? The second is, How permeable are you? Is there a part of the self that is categorically distinct from all other beings and things? It is comforting to think that there is, but evidence for such an inviolable island-self is pretty hard to come by. The brain, as we have seen, actually makes the me/not me distinction not on absolute grounds, but rather on a functional basis, incorporating such props, tools, and prostheses as usefully present themselves. This observation, though, still leaves open the possibility that, while items can be incorporated or discarded, the inner workings of the system remain hermetically sealed and, in a sense, pure.

Not all thought systems, however, construct such borders. As indicated above, such dualism is a product of Western philosophy and religion. Such clear distinctions do not exist in Buddhism. The Diamond Sutra, for instance, identifies even such constructs as the self and the world as illusoryas mere categories of thought. That such categories are built largely through language lends credence to the Buddhist position. Clark identifies language as a cognitive technology, a mental tool that we use to symboli ze the world both inside and outside of ourselves, without which we could not engage in complex mental processes or be able to formulate thoughts about our relationships with the world (Clark 2003, 2011). Insofar as our selves exist in a web of language, they are products of cognitive technology and thus not distinct from any other object on or through which that technology might work.

Going further back still, the Hindu Chandogya Upanishad offers a similar understanding in the recurring pronouncement, Tat tvam asi (You are that, or more accurately, That you are.). The refrain initially occurs in a conversation between the character vetaketu and his father Uddalaka. It is spoken by Uddalaka as his son looks out upon the world, suggesting a unity between the perceiving subject and the object perceived. That is, the subject/object distinction is an illusion, and all things are united in a universal whole. In this context, it is worth noting that in Eastern and South-East Asia, the figure of the cyborg provokes little anxiety.

Not so in the West. Another iconic pop culture cyborg, Robocop, from the 1986 movie of the same name, offers a useful illustration of our conflicted view of cyborgs, especially once the mechanisms of state and corporate interests become involved. In this film, Officer Murphy is killed in action. Elements of his body, including his brain, are incorporated into a new hybrid construction, Robocop. Most memories of his previous life are not present to his awareness, and he is tightly constrained by his new programming. The reconstruction and programming are both carried out by Omni Consumer Products (OCP), a multinational corporation that has been contracted to provide law enforcement for a crime-ridden and violent Detroit. Over the course of the movie, Robocop discovers corruption within OCP itself, but finds that his programming prevents him from combatting it. Meanwhile, he is experiencing flashbacks of his life as Murphy. The result of these and other story elements is a conflict over his identity. The conflict is played out both internally and externally and culminates in his electrocuting himself in order to burn out his programming and reclaim his freedom of will. The film thus addresses many ambient fears about both the machine without and the machine within, with the body of Murphy/Robocop serving as a nexus of these mechanisms and anxieties. His body has been augmented and is now strong beyond anything it could have attained through mere biology, but both its augmentations and its programming have fixed it within a web of technologies and power relations that extend far beyond his control or perception but that nonetheless are integral to what he becomes, and to what he remains at the end. Even after the character purges his corporate programming, he is not exactly Murphy, and can never inhabit that identity

again: he cannot resume the life that Murphy had led, for instance his marriage, but must forge a new identity, or rather collaborate in the forging of a new identity, within the parameters and constraints of his construction.

Flash forward to 2011, and the protests surrounding the Toronto G-20 summit. Here, too, we see the playing out of numerous distributed identities. And here, too, we see the strands of both outer and inner machines weaving over and into human flesh. In this image, for instance, despite the presence of numerous bodies, there are arguably only two functioning identities: police and photographer. Each is composed of multiple elements, some visible and some not. The most obvious are the police. Though each man and woman in that riot gear is arguably a discrete being, their individual identities are merely components in the identity that defines them collectively. Outwardly, their bodies are encased in uniforms and armour, and it is this armour that they present, as a united front, to the protesters. Yet even this is not the limit of the elements that define the identity police officer in Toronto 2011. Their helmets and uniforms brand them as police while their service numbers place them, piece by piece, within that larger social machine. Look broader still, and we see the institutions and ideologies of which this particular line of officers is merely one facet. And given that many of the protesters believedrightly, in my opinionthat the government delegates at the summit were acting more in the interests of corporate wellbeing than in the cause of the public good, the institutions and ideologies in question are not necessarily those of representative democracy but rather those of an increasingly corporatist elite. Thus, what seems at first

a great gulf between the police officers and pre-electrocution Robocop is reduced to the magnitude of an aesthetic twitch. More interesting, though, is the other visible cyborg identity in this image: the protester/photographer. While one might be tempted to see the identity as located exclusively in the young man holding the camera, in fact it is distributed across a system that incorporates both of these elements and, like the collective identity of the police line he is confronting, extends well beyond the visual field. The obvious line of thought is that the identity photographer is impossible without a camera in precisely the same way that the identity runner is impossible without legs of some kind. But lets look beyond the obvious. Even if we stick to the man and the camera, there is no clear boundary between the two. Having spent much of my life with a camera in my hand, and having cut my teeth on black and white photography and spent much of my adolescence working in our basement darkroom processing surveillance photos for the private investigation industry in Toronto, I can speak with some authority on the effect that looking through a camera lens has on the mind and perceptions of an experienced photographer. First, when I look through the eye piece of a single lens reflex (slr) camera, such as the one in the picture here, while I do not technically see in black and white, my perception of light intensity is magnified to the extent that, in my minds eye, I know what the black of white version of the visual field will look like. Such is not the case when I look at the same scene with my naked eye, or even when I remove the camera from my eyes without changing the angle of my head. Similarly, while looking into the eye piece, although no three-by-three grid is present to my biological sight, I see the visual field in terms of just such a gridthe essential compositional map of any photograph. Moreover, though my field of vision is narrowed from what is present to naked sight, what I see, I see more clearly: I am more aware of details and the relationships between them, to the extent that, when traveling or hiking for example, I do not feel that I have seen a place completely until I have seen it through a lens. So how does this apply to the photographer pictured here? In seeing through a camera, he is seeing through a technological medium that both restricts and enhances his vision, changing it qualitatively and, in a very real sense, for the better. He is also signalling to the police that he is not a mere individual: that he is a part of a larger body, and that in this moment, he is functioning as one of that bodys many eyes. What the camera says to the mechanisms of power is not I see you but rather we see you, or perhaps most importantly, you are seen. In that sense, it functions similarly to the police armour: the camera is protection, and every protester knows this. Finally, the camera at least has the potential for another important effect. Judging by the size of the lens and the proximity of photographer to subject, it is pretty clear that the

visual field from the photographers perspective holds little more than a single officers face. The officer in question must know this. This knowledge, in turnand I believe this is the photographers intentionsays something like the following to the person thus singled out: You. Riot cop whose designation ends in -254. I see your face behind the face of your profession. I see what you have assented to. And your choice will be remembered.

Of course, not every costume is a uniform, nor does every costume conceal. Readers familiar with the character Batman will know that the real identity is Batman while Bruce Wayne, the man without the costume, is the disguise. In the context of the comic, this assertion is not merely metaphoric; it is functional. Integral to Batmans identity is not just his training and his high-tech equipment, but also the fear that he inspires in his adversaries. And this fear is tied to the suit. Perhaps more importantly, the image that the costume projects comes closer to the characters interior state than do the face and typically dapper wardrobe of the Bruce Wayne persona.

The relationship between inner and outer states is even more explicit with Iron Man. The alter ego in this case, Tony Stark, has a weak heart, which itself relies upon the suits technology in order to keep beating. In this case, then, the technology is bo th interior and exterior to the biological body, with heroic and basic life functions dependent upon it. More broadly, the Iron Man identity is not limited to a single suit with fixed parts: rather, a variety of suits and a wide array of purpose-built attachments contribute to the overall embodiment of that particular modular self, which, given Iron Mans capacity to control multiple suits at a distance, cannot absolutely be said to occupy a single or fixed chunk of space.

Cyborgs are thus not merely people using tools: they are composite constructions that, right down to the biological and even neural levels, embody unified functional identities. While human bodies and human brains may be integral to these identities, by themselves they are not sufficient. The enhancements that we adopt, be they fictional flying robotic armour, or real space suits or deep sea diving suits, are not merely tools to be used: they are modules or extensions that open up possible identities, and possible ranges of effect, that would otherwise remain inaccessible.

They extend our capacity for action both spatially and functionally. For instance Raytheon, the company that built this prototype military exoskeleton in 2010, says that the robotic suit enables its wearer to easily lift 200 pounds for several hundred repetitions without tiring, and repeatedly punch through three inches of wood (http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/2010/09/27/exoskeleton-defines-anew-class-of-warrior-video/). The suit as currently configured is obviously too cumbersome to be used in combat, but subsequent models will almost certainly be more dextrous as well as a good deal stronger. A company of such human-machine weapon systems would offer advantages on the battlefield that might easily prove decisive against a much larger force of unenhanced soldiers.

Of course, augmenting the human body with high-tech metal enhancements is hardly a new idea, and was already ancient by the age of the knight in shining armour. Still, it is worth pausing for a moment on this interesting figure, and not just because it is a cultural icon. As with the figure of the astronaut, it is tempting to locate the identity of the knight in the occupant of the armour, but in this case, even a casual examination will reveal at least a tripartite composite. Obviously, the human occupant is essential, and there were certainly several functions that the man minus his armour could perform. But at a time when the main function of a knight was martial, the combat-enhancing components cannot be ignored: the armed and mounted knight was the medieval equivalent of a tank. In this sense, the horse, too, becomes a part of the functional identityand the horse, too, was often enclosed in metal. And this is to say nothing of the weapons, such as the lance, that were designed specifically to be used while mounted: to deliver the full force of the charging conglomeration to a point the size of a spear-tip, several meters ahead of the two biological components. But the armour was not merely a module in a weapon system: it carried social meaning in its own right, pertaining to both social class and personal aesthetic taste. And again as with the figure of the astronaut or the Apache pilot, the making and using of such equipment drew upon the full range of both art and craft that the society had to offer. In this sense, identity is not so much a unitary phenomenon as a nexus of strands of varying natures, that in themselves are far too numerous to name. One may well wonder not so much where to draw the line, as whether there is any line to draw at all.

You are that.

Not all enhancements, however, are made of metal. Steve Rogers, the secret identity of Captain America (admittedly my least favourite comic book hero) is a physically frail man who could not pass an army physical. It is only through injections of an experimental super-soldier serum that he is able to assume the strong, quick, and nearly invulnerable body that defines his heroic identity. It is worth noting in this context that DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) in the U.S. has only recently abandoned its search for the metabolically superior soldier. During the 1990s and early 2000s, experiments were carried out in an attempt to produce soldiers who could go for extended periods of timedays or even weekswithout food or rest (For an enlightening discussion of these experiments, see Joel Garreaus Radical Evolution, 2006.). In effect, though, what the people at DARPA were trying to create had its origin in a 1941 Marvel (then Timely Publications) comic.

The question of pharmacological enhancement has been mainstream for decades now, and is one of the highest profile issues facing the world of contemporary sports. Associated with the doping question, is the question of what constitutes a real performance. Most amateur and professional sports, for instance, carry strict bans on the use of performance enhancing substances, striving, or at least appearing to strive, to foster pure human physical excellence. Athletes caught using banned substances face expulsion from their sports, and in some cases life-long stigmas, and countries whose Olympic teams attract an inordinate number of doping charges face international embarrassment. Few non-violent offences, in factarguably none, except possibly for being a banker in 2008attract more open public disgust than athletic doping. That said, the steroid-enhanced gentleman on the left in the picture above really can curl more than my body weight, and Lance Armstrong really did complete the Tour de France faster than any of his competitors, seven times. So what is the source of our moral outrage where athletic enhancement is concerned? Is it rationally justified and internally consistent, or is it little more than a set of knee-jerk, just-say-no type biases?

One way of testing our assumptions is to apply them to an analogous entertainment industry and see whether they still hold. The music industry is a good example. Both popular music and high-profile sports produce superstars whose public identities are based on their ability to either outdo their competitors or dazzle their audiences with the audacity of their performances. For example, Jimi Hendrix was recently recognized by Rolling Stone Magazine as the greatest rock guitarist of all time. Setting aside the question of why neither Steve Howe nor Robert Fripp even made the top 10 (Rolling Stone is well known for its long-standing anti-prog bias), it is worth considering Jimi as the cyborg figure that he was. In terms of cyborg interfaces, the obvious place to look is the guitar. Arguably in no other hands was the guitar a more transparent piece of technology than in his. His playing style was intuitive and yetwhen things were going wellperfectly controlled: the sounds that emanated from the overworked amp were the sounds in Jimis head. The guitar was as much a part of Jimi as his vocal cords, and quite possibly more so. But it is not his guitar that I want to focus on: it is his headband. Hendrix often performed with a tab of LSD tucked under his headband, pressed against his forehead, and in fact is doing so in the image shown above. The acid entered his bloodstream through his skin and influenced the music that he played. Some of the most influential music in rock music history was thus created using a performanceenhancing substance. And Hendrix is in no way unique: the music industry is infamous

for its drug culture. And yet I have never heard of a musician, upon receiving a Grammy, being asked to piss into a cup.

The twenty-first century pop industry also has more than its share of cyborg identities. Though no longer at the peak of her career, Britney Spears is worth considering as a general example. Most people, whether fans or not, have heard Britney Spears sing, or at least think they have. Yet to anyone who has ever heard her speak, the cyborg nature of her stage and recording persona is immediately apparent: while she speaks like a human being, she sings like an incarnation of an adolescent robot sex slave fantasy. True, there is some element of her actual voice remaining in the highly produced final releases, but mostly what the listener hears is a product not of her craft, but of the sound engineers skill and equipment. Vocally, the human element is almost incidental, but for the time being at least, a human body is still required to make videos and dance around on stage while lip-syncing into a headset.

Sonot quite finallythe second-last question I want to address in this extended meditation is our production of visual images. What does our cultures current fascination with the cyborg say about us? In depicting flesh layered over machinery, or machinery peeking through fissures in the flesh, we reveal rather a lot about what moves usabout what we simultaneously desire and fear. And I have to admit to a large dose of both of these emotions, myself. Do I want to be more borged up than I already am? Hell, yes. If, for example, I were to learn tomorrow of a brain implant that would give me instant comprehension and command of every language ever devised by any human species, I would have myself placed on a waiting list within minutes. Questions of safety would enter my mind, if at all, as an afterthought. On the other hand, I still cling, in my more nave moments, to the illusion of myself as an organic and integral whole, and though I know that this image is demonstrably an illusion (See Andy Clarks Natural Born Cyborgs and Supersizing the Mind), in my weaker moments I am hesitant to stare the actual mechanisms of selfhood in the eye. Okay, that last bit was a lie: Im good with it.

Though not necessarily the majority, cyborg images with an erotic undertone (or overtone) are common, and a casual search through Google Images suggests that most of these depict some version of the human female form. So what do these images suggest, not only about the artists but also about the viewers who enjoy this particular type of depiction? Though other possibilities may exist, two related ones spring to mind: either we want our objects of desire to become machines, or we desire union with our machines themselves in a nakedly erotic way. In either case, there is a clear and possibly troubling tension. On the one hand is the commodification of sex, to which the figure of the erotic cyborg (male or female) is an effective and understandable response. Read this way, the image suggests a dehumanization of human relations a mechanization of our most intimate moments. On the other hand is our urge to merge with our machinesthe sense that, Pygmalion-like, we have fallen in love with what we intended to be an extension of our own will. But through no intention of our own, it awoke to its own unanswerable agency. Kinda like an actual person. That, you are.

And yet, as a culture, there is no denying that we are afraidmaybe eagerly afraid, like a fundamentalist simultaneously trembling and salivating over the prospect of the End Times, or maybe just gut-deep horrified. When we look into the mirror, or when we look into the eyes of a loved one, we can never be quite sure about what is looking back at us. Has the machine within staged a coup when we werent paying attention? How many of the thoughts and words that we take to be our own are in fact the articulations of an increasingly mechanized system of mass education, mass economics, and mass advertising whose grammar may have become the scaffolding of our social identities and inner beings? We speak in catch phrases and hum jingles in the shower. Sing together in the millions about our individuality. But our fears are not just metaphoric. We have already started implanting technology in our bodies: pacemakers, cochlear implants, artificial heart valves. And these are undeniably good things. What we fear, though, is that these implants will begin to modify not just our bodies, but our minds as wellour selves in the most fundamental sense. This fear, though understandable in a knee-jerk sort of way, is simpleminded. Consider the following thought experiment. Imagine that you are a fully functioning person: you possess, in accordance with Lockes definition of the term, reason, self awareness, and memory. Your life is proceeding in the experiment just as it has proceeded up until now, but tomorrow, you are involved in an accident in which you sustain a serious brain injury. The result of the injury is that your capacity to reason is severely impaired. Fortunately for you, medical science has just made a number of

breakthroughs, one of which is a device that can replace the damaged section of your brain, thus allowing it to function precisely as it had functioned before. Your family, lawyer, or whoever holds power of attorney, consents to the operation on your behalf. You undergo the operation, and it is successful. With the new machine safely implanted in your skull, you both think and feel precisely as you thought and felt before, and once you have recovered from the operation, you resume your life. Unfortunately, you are soon involved in another accident in which your capacity for self-awareness is wiped out: you can think, but are no longer aware of yourself as the being doing the thinking. But once again, medical science comes to the rescue, and once again, the damaged portions of your brain are replaced with artificial devices that re-establish your selfawareness. Recognizing you as the accident-prone person that you are, your physician suggests taking a scan of your brain and backing up all of the data it contains on a state-of-the-art supercomputer. You accept the suggestion, and accordingly, a complete image of your brain is recorded and preserved, with several back-up copies stored in facilities across the country. On the way home, you suffer yet another accident, in which your memory is completely and permanently destroyed. So once again, you are taken to the hospital where yet more of your brain is replaced, and your backed-up memories loaded into the new components. By this point, all of your brain functions that are commonly understood to be human are carried out by machines while the remnants of your biological brain continue to look after the lower-order details of heart-rate, respiration, and other automatic behaviours. Are you, at this point, still a person? And are you still the person that you were? If you are not a person, then when did you stop being one, and what are you now? If you are a person but not the same one you were, when exactly did the break occur? OK, I admit it: the experiment was rigged. By Lockes definition, you are still a person, and at least arguably still the same persontaking into account the fact that all experience changes us in some way or another. But the actual point of the endeavour was to uncover potential lurking biases, traces of what James Hughes refers to as human racism (Hughes 2004). Another way in which the experiment was rigged, or at least a little mischievous, was in positing no change in function. Should this scenario ever become technologically possible, it is difficult to imagine that there would be no change, and certainly easy to imagine that, with sufficient refinement, there might be considerable augmentation. We are not, despite what we like to believe, the best that the universe can do.

While we both desire and fear, we also quite obviously aspire. We knowthose of us who are persuaded by reason and evidencethat without our technology we are nothing more than deficient apes with 25-year expiry dates. We also know, then, that the systems of which we are a part can only remain self-sustaining if their machine components remain intact and connected. But it is not enough for them to be merely intact. And it is certainly not enough to be intact for merely 25 yearsthe average human lifespan for much of our species history. Accordingly, we are always seeking to improve ourselves, to the extent that in modern Western society, one can live in the reasonable expectation of 80 or more years of life, with the ambient possibility that the first person to reach 150 years has already been born (Garreau 2006) and may in fact already be an adult. It is not just our lifespans that we seek to improve. Both our bodies and our minds (and for the record I question the distinction) are increasingly under our own control. Every year, world records for athletic achievement fallnot because the biological body has changed in so short a time but because the technology of athletic training is a multibillion dollar industry. Body tech is big business. And it is big business for no other reason than that we want what it has to offer. We want to be stronger, so why not be stronger? That is who we are. We want to be happier, so why not be happier? That, too, is who we are. And smarter? Do we not also want to be smarter? Personally, I do. The this-far-and-no-further line of objection to enhancement can only make sense if we assume, a priori, that what we are now is the best that we can ever hope to be: that we

have already reached the height of our potential. At that point, and only at that point, can stasis ever be anything other than a retreat into the comfort of the familiar.

The fact is, we have always been augmenting ourselves. From the moment the first homo habilis shaped the first stone hand axe, thus altering the course of evolution toward something that would lead to us about 2,000,000 years later, we have been shaping our bodies and thus our brains and minds into machine-human hybrids. The main difference that has arisen in recent years, and it is an important one, is that now we have reached a point where the process is coming within our control. We have, as many authors on the subject have pointed out (Gray 2002, Hughes 2004, Garreau 2006, Clark 2011, Harris 2010, to name a few), acquired or come near to acquiring the capacity to decide what future versions of our species may look like, and what abilities they may have.

Meet Belle, the telekinetic monkey. In the early 2000s, Belle was implanted with a transmitter linked to her motor cortex via a grid of electrodes. The transmitter was linked to a robotic arm at Duke Unoiversity. When Belle moved her arm, the electrodes detected action in the relevant neurons and transmitted this information to the robotic arm, which Belle, in return for a tasty reward, learned to manipulate. Once she had mastered the basic motion of the robotic arm, her biological arm was immobilized, and yet she could still move the mechanical device using nothing but her brain and employing precisely the same neural pathways that were used in moving her own nowimmobilized limb. As far as her brain was concerned, her body schema now included not just her biological apparatus but also a piece of sophisticated lab equipment. Not satisfied with this extension of Belles agency, the experimenters then set up another robotic arm, this one in Washington, D.C. What they found, was that as long as Belle received real-time feed-back, she was still able to operate the arm. At this point, the question, Where exactly was Belle becomes problematic as her body schema now spanned rather a large geographic area. If we are, as Dennett suggests, the sum of all the parts that we control directly, then a part of Belle was in the U.S. capitol. In theory, she, or any animal equipped with comparable technology, could have an identity encompassing any span of spacethe distal limit referred to aboveacross which a return signal travelling at the speed of light would not produce any perceptible delays.

The next step was obvious, and in 2008 was successfully undertaken when the Braingate cranial implant was attached to the motor cortex of a human brain. After sufficient practicea process in all ways identical to that by which the brain learns to manipulate the bodys limbs during infancy or acquire precise motor skills during athletic or musical trainingthe subject, a quadriplegic, was able to move a cursor on a computer screen and control a robotic arm telekinetically. After 1,000 days, the device was still operational.

Another cyborg milestone was reached in 2011: the first successful transplant of an artificial organ grown using stem cells. If you think the image looks yucky, get over it: the trachea was transplanted into a man suffering from throat cancer, who, as a result of the operation, is no longer dying. The project was undertaken by Harvard Bioscience and involved cultivating pluripotent stem cells on a scaffolding formed by a polymer web. Since then, other artificial organs have been developed or are under development, including a retina grown in a petri dish (Harvard, 2012). Our capacity to fix ourselves is expanding on a more or less monthly basis. And, I need to emphasize, the most basic goals of medicine are the postponement of death and the maintenance of bodily health.

Remember the military exoskeleton mentioned above? It is probably worth mentioning that there are other applications for this technology. For instance, Ekso's lower body exoskeleton, shown here in its 2012 prototype, enables paraplegics to walk again. This in itself is pretty exciting. Even more exciting is the potential, with further refinements in technologies that already exist, of linking a full-body exoskeleton to a brain implant such as those developed last decade, at which point a quadriplegic will be able to regain something approaching full mobility. This application, incidentally, is not mere speculation. Rather, it was the intention from the outset with the DARPA team that worked with Belle the telekinetic monkey (Garreau 2006), and clearly has potential applications ranging from military through medical to industrial. An obvious application, both medical and military, is with an advanced model of the full-body exoskeleton mentioned above, but others come readily to mind, especially when we recall Stelarcs third arm or the Apache pilot and his close relationship with both vehicle and weaponry. The placticity of the brain is such that its capacity for control is not limited to the biological bodys conventional complement of limbs. The same processes by which it learns to control a hand with breathtaking dexterity can also be applied to other modules, either biological or technological, for instance a helicopter, fighter jet, or space vehicle; a suit of precision surgical tools operated at a distance; or any number of remotely operated vehicles used in locations hazardous to direct human engagement, for instance the deepest mines or ocean trenches, or the sites of chemical or nuclear accidents (given sufficient shielding in the latter case).

And remember that scary and ubiquitous image of the cyborg eye? Last year, companies in both Australia and Britain successfully fitted blind patients with bionic eyes consisting of photoreceptors mounted on goggles and connected to retinal implants that transmitted signals to the optic nerves, allowing the patients to see for the first time in years. And earlier this year in the U.S., according to MITs Technology Review (Feb 15), the FDA approved Second Sights Argus II bionic eye, shown above in the image on the left, for marketing. This version of the technology is designed specifically for patients suffering from late stage retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative eye disease that leads to complete blindness and for which there is currently no medical remedy. At present, only black-and-white vision is possible, but according to the article cited above, colour vision is in the works. And again, it does not take much imagination to envision other uses for this technology once it becomes sufficiently advanced. While the human eye is restricted to the visible spectrum (hence the name visible spectrum), this thin sliver of all available electromagnetic radiation is no limit for a photoreceptor. Even the now-obsolete technology of film photography could function in the infrared and ultraviolet and beyond, and images familiar from the field of astronomy, for instance, have offered us glimpses of the universe ranging from radio through to gamma wavelengths. To equip a set of goggles with photoreceptors that bracket the visible spectrum with infrared at one end and ultraviolet at the other would be a small matter. Many insects can see well into the ultraviolet wavelengths, and it is interesting to speculate that soon, perhaps we will as

well. A question that arises from this possibility, given that the colours we perceive are simply the brains interpretations of the data it receives rather than an integral property of the things seen, is whether, given new ranges of stimulation, the brain will produce new and as-yet unimagined shades. Quite frankly, I hope it does.

Ultimately, though, what we stand in greatest need of seeing is ourselvesnot as we want to be, not as our various ideologies tell us that we ought to be, but clearly and simply as we are. And what we arewhat we have been since at least two million years before the emergence of our speciesis hybrid beings. Since the emergence of such basic cognitive technologies as spoken language and math, to say nothing of such communications technologies as writing, the printing press, and the internet, the speed of our hybridization has been accelerating exponentially. So it was with a sense of amused frustration that, prior to giving a recent public presentation on this very subject, I spoke briefly with an audience member who confided that the prospect of cyborgs already being among us filled him with a profound anxiety. In a spirit of admittedly mischievous intellectual aggression, I then proceeded to direct the presentation not only to him, but at him, the more insistently over the ensuing hour as his disagreement with my position manifested itself in his stubborn bespectacled eyes.

The source of his anxiety was the usual one: the desire to protect an assumed human purity that has never existed. And it is with this notion of purity that I would like to conclude. A cyborg understanding of human nature, or rather an understanding of our own mixed nature, allows no room for any notion of purity, or any such related nonsense as an original or unfallen state, unless we are willing to concede that in such a state we are speechless and covered in fur, with considerably more robust molars and jaw bones than we currently possess. In fact, it is impossible to say in any absolute sense where the border between us and not-us might be found. Our identities extend well beyond the arbitrary boundaries of skin and skull. We affect each other intimately at a distance, and flow through identity after identity depending on the hardware with which we bond and the social mechanisms that produce and maintain it. At the same time, others identities reach deep into our own beings: their effects resonate in our bodies and psyches, with reciprocal bonds constituting both us and them through the shared medium of experience. We are permeable. Flexible. Fleeting. Tat tvam asi.

Sources for Images (in order of appearance) Cyborg Sistine Chapel: http://ignite.me/blog/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/dmitry4.jpg Terminator face: http://hmslade5.files.wordpress.com/2012/02/terminator_movies_cyborg_movie_deskto p_2000x2829_wallpaper-2281151.jpg Locutus: http://trekcore.com/staff/frontier/locutus.jpg Apache pilot: http://images.gizmag.com/inline/ah-64d-apache-combat-block-iiihelicopter-20.jpg Astronaut: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/88/Astronaut-EVA.jpg Brain: http://cdn.physorg.com/newman/gfx/news/2006/brain2211.jpg Leonardo sketch: http://intmstat.com/numbers/beautyMath/body_sm_ratios.jpg Cyborg runner: http://www.ecouterre.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/nike-ossurprosthetic-running-sole-1-537x402.jpg Prosthetic tool guy: http://technutnews.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/03/star-warsarm.jpg Stelarc: http://nextnature.net/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/stelarc_530.jpg Infinity cyborg: http://images.clipartof.com/small/20410-Cyborg-Robotic-Face-With-BoldEyes-And-Cables-Springing-From-The-Head-Poster-Art-Print.jpg Man drinking water: http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/wpcontent/gallery/pentagon039s-cyborg-army/67357.jpg Woman plugged in: http://digital-artgallery.com/oid/2/r169_457x256_1335_Nimhoa_3d_sci_fi_steampunk_girl_female_wo man_cyborg_illustration_picture_image_digital_art.jpg Cyborg Buddha: http://krisnotaro.com/ieet/b2.png Tat tvam asi: http://www.marufow-art.de/paintings.htm Robocop: http://www.ubergizmo.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/robocop.jpgne-all.jpg Toronto police state: http://inapcache.boston.com/universal/site_graphics/blogs/bigpicture/g20_06_28/g19_2 4092349.jpg

Batman: http://1.bp.blogspot.com/IWqYeEH1YBU/UEYUKwbeVeI/AAAAAAAAAQA/R5ccoSpU2u8/s1600/next-batman.jpg Ironman: http://i.annihil.us/u/prod/marvel//universe3zx/images/thumb/f/f5/IronMan_Head.jpg/406p x-IronMan_Head.jpg Deep sea diver: http://mikekasicsound.com/images/slides/38-MikeKasicSoundNewtSuitDive.jpg Old deep sea suit, 1882: http://boingboing.net/filesroot/200909221632.jpg Military exoskeleton: http://www.blogcdn.com/www.engadget.com/media/2010/09/9-2810-raytheon600.jpg Charging knight: http://www.horsemanmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/warhorse.jpg Armour and barding: http://www.talismancoins.com/catalog/Knight_and_Horse_Charger_Suits_of_Plate_Arm or.jpg Captain America: http://www.potgut.com/captainamerica/content/uploads/2008/10/captainamericawall.jpg Man on steroids: http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_Q2z1M3wzzQ/TMscLdYKvpI/AAAAAAAAApY/hnvMtNuEcpo/s1600/muscle_building_steroids4.jpg Lance Armstrong: http://i.telegraph.co.uk/multimedia/archive/02444/lancearrmstrong_2444392b.jpg Jimi Hendrix: http://classicrockreview.files.wordpress.com/2010/07/jimi-hendrixwoodstock-seale-431165.jpg Britney Spears: http://i1132.photobucket.com/albums/m579/Sublime004/brit.jpg Hybrid face: http://us.123rf.com/400wm/400/400/harveysart/harveysart0906/harveysart090600139/4 997593-a-male-cyborg-for-technology-concepts.jpg Cyborg woman: http://www.icanbecreative.com/res/freeweb/2010/12/robotphotomanipulation-girl.jpg Cyborg skull: http://i261.photobucket.com/albums/ii46/leifmasrud/wallpaper_marc_brunet_01.jpg

Machine arm: http://www.blog.speculist.com/archives/cyborg.jpg Open heart: http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3492/3974243278_757292dbbc_z.jpg Cyborg Darwin: http://www.sentientdevelopments.com/2008/11/mondolithics-cyborgdarwin-sketch.html Cyborg evolution: http://www.prothese-futur.sitew.com/fs/Root/5xnvvevolution_cyborg.jpg Telekinetic monkey: http://sevenhorizons.pbworks.com/w/page/21159743/BrainComputer%20Interface Microchip implant: http://interaxon.ca/blog/wpcontent/uploads/2011/05/BrainGate_Collaboration_424x318.jpg Artificial trachea: http://www.pcworld.com/article/235271/synthetic_organ_transplanted_for_the_first_time .html Ekso exoskeleton: http://singularityhub.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/Ekso.jpg Second Sight image and article: http://www.technologyreview.com/news/511356/bioniceye-implant-approved-for-us-patients/ Australian bionic eye: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2195683/Bioniceye-breakthrough-Australian-woman-receives-radical-world-implant.html Mirror: http://4.bp.blogspot.com/bugrB58UgaU/T3T20DH2OpI/AAAAAAAACWs/8HHvdOWc_bg/s1600/a+mirror.png

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