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Cyborgs and the posthuman future

Expansion of human capabilities through technology

Source: Google Images

Cyborg = Cybernetic Organism

Organism (natural) Complex, inflexible feedback loop Too much change organism will die Cybernetic (artificial) Flexible feedback loop Responsive to stimuli, able to adapt to survive

What does it mean to be human?

Metropolis (1927)
Maschinenmensch (German for machine-human) Given human appearance to deceive others


The Terminator (1984)

Fear of artificial intelligence gaining agency and posing a threat to the human race Part machine (internal artificial, enhanced endoskeleton) Part human (organic external casing) (outer

Blade Runner (1982)

Replicants are cyborgs with advanced intellect, emotions and human appearance Protagonist questions differences between androids and humans


Battlestar Galactica (2004)

Cylons part machine (internal robotic structure), part human (humanoid appearance) Raises philosophical and moral questions

Li Wei

Wires, acrobatics and other tricks to make people appear to defy gravity

Subjects reach beyond the limitations of science and the body

Stelarc augmenting the bodys architecture

Seeks to free body from gravity Augmentation of body ear on arm project, extending body beyond boundaries of skin and physical space
What becomes important now is not merely the body's identity, but its connectivity not its mobility or location, but its interface.

A. Murphie & J. Potts Cyborgs: the body, information and technology

Awareness of patterns of control that constrain us can lead to change Cyborg culturally significant metaphor for crossing boundaries of human and non-human powerful site of resistance to binary systems that structure our worldview Subversively blurs boundaries between oppositional concepts in which one is marked as superior



Donna Haraway The Cyborg Manifesto

Cyborg as the disassembled, reassembled postmodern collective and personal self that empowers us through the negotiation of culture and identity Extends the idea of bodies beyond Western origin myths especially in terms of gender Existence on the boundaries of human and machine introduces fluidity and playfulness in enactment of identity

Hierarchal Systems of Domination

Informatics of Domination

Organism Perfection Reproduction Nature / Culture Mind

Biotic component Optimisation Replication Fields of difference Artificial Intelligence

Informatics of Domination
Natural processes and systems are codified and standardised within a system in which all resistance to instrumental control has disappeared and all heterogeneity can be submitted to disassembly, reassembly, investment and exchange (Haraway 1991, 164). Cyborg politics resist attempts to unify and control human experience with a common, operational language.
Eg. coding of the human genome reduces the complex make-up of humans down to their DNA.

The posthuman future

Displacement of human beings from position of superiority in Western thought We are attached to miniature, ubiquitous computing devices that augment our abilities every day. No longer simple to contrast human with non-human

Manuel de Landa Rejection of linear narratives of history Humans do not overdetermine trajectory of events: critical moments emerge from self-organisation of matter and energy Sadie Plant Rejection of meta-narratives Cross-referencing historical footnotes to understand contribution from lesser-known voices particularly women in computer science

N. Katherine Hayles
Bodies defined by presence/absence undermined by patterns/randomness in information flows in networks Bodies collective networks of information, no longer sites of social stability Cyborgs help us understand dispersal of bodies within networks subject to change and manipulation through cybernetics

Is it important to connect with the natural world without the influence of technology? Or is this an idealistic view of a world long gone? Can you think of some examples to support Haraways argument that the cyborg is a potential site of resistance to Western systems of organisation and control? Do you agree with the posthuman idea that the cyborg will displace the superiority of the human in the trajectory of history? We are all cyborgs. Agree or disagree ?