Note — Sep 30, 2018

Common Cyborg

The author, an actual cyborg (i.e. someone who was amputated and uses a prosthetic leg), explains how a lot of the talk around the word cyborg does a disservice to, and badly represents, her and others because of its appropriation by those she calls “tryborgs”: people who use the word to fantasize about some voluntary implementation of tech on their bodies, as opposed to real cyborgs who need the tech to live. Also, a rare person arguing about Donna Haraway’s ideas about cyborgs while also being another person calling (in a way) the singularity a religion.

They like us best with bionic arms and legs. They like us deaf with hearing aids, though they prefer cochlear implants. It would be an affront to ask the hearing to learn sign language. Instead they wish for us to lose our language, abandon our culture and consider ourselves cured. They like exoskeletons, which none of us use. They would never consider cyborg those of us with pacemakers or on dialysis, those of us kept alive by machines or made ambulatory by wheelchairs, those of us on biologics or anti-depressants. They want us shiny and metallic and in their image. […]

They [tryborgs] have tried to be cyborgs, but they are stuck on the attempt, like a record skipping, forever trying to borg, and forever consigned to their regular un-tech bodies. They are fake cyborgs. They can be recognized because, while they preach cyborg nature, they do not actually depend on machines to breathe, stay alive, talk, walk, hear or hold a magazine. They are terribly clumsy in their understanding of cyborgs because they lack experiential knowledge. […]

Related: Have a look back at No.45 for some more thinking on cyborgs.