A History of Cyborgs

Notes on the history of cyborgs and why the idea still holds historical weight in Western narratives

Nathan Kline and Manfred Clynes published a paper called '' where they proposed that rather than trying to construct earth-like environments for humans to live in, we should try altering the humans themselves.

They imagined a Cybernetic Organism, or Cyborg, that came with a built-in, self-regulating system that would take care of the bothersome issues of breathing, metabolism, sleep, circulation, and any other biological necessities, "leaving man free to explore, to create, to think, and to feel."

Creations often stray from their origins though.

The idea of the Cyborg has largely become a villainous character in science-fiction – used to explore the danger and discomfort we feel around our tools and systems. Let's just call this 'The Terminator Effect.'

Yet the idea has more philosophical promise and potential in it than Hollywood knows what to do with.

Anthropologist is a pioneer of using the term Cyborg as an imaginative toy in her 1991 essay . In Haraway’s writing, the Cyborg becomes a way to explore our cultural assumptions around the dividing lines between "nature" and "culture".

It offers us a chance to question the strict categories and historical boundaries Western Cosmology constructs for us. The firm divisions between humans / machines, natural / artificial, male / female, mind / body, fiction / reality, primitive / civilised, and science / society we are told most definitely exist. Despite the fact they are not in the least bit culturally universal.

Haraway’s insight is not only well ahead of her time, but also remarkably accurate as society now struggles to deal with technological relationships that contradict and question those historical divisions. They are all inherently tied to the issue of understanding where the line between organism and machine gets drawn. Or more accurately, the issue of there being a line at all.

Cognitive philosopher picked up on the idea of the Cyborg in his 2006 book .

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