It hit me today that not only have humans become cyborgs with modern technology, but technology has itself been transformed into a cyborg by technological innovation. In A Cyborg Manifesto, Donna Haraway defines cyborgs as “a cybernetic organism, a hybrid of machine and organism, a creature of social reality as well as a creature of fiction.” But can we really restrict the definition of a cyborg to a being of machine and organism? After all, with the increasing ability of artificial intelligence to simulate the responses of humans, we will have to ask ourselves at what point do we stop considering something to be simulating humanity and consider it to actually be human. I am wholly unqualified to answer that question, and doing so would likely take longer than a blog post to do, but if we consider the possibility that one day we will have to consider machines to be equal to humans, we have to consider the possibility that they already, or will soon, be able to meet the qualifications of an organism. After all, these types of cyborgs have already reached prominence throughout works of science fiction, including Ghost in the Shell (the manga), Her, and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? This reclassification of machines as organisms makes sense as well if we consider the language in which we talk about technology. Consider for instance, the computer virus, which spreads from machine to machine through cybernetic contact, like organisms spread sickness through physical contact.
This thinking led me to wondering what effect considering machines as organisms has on the definition of cyborgs. If we do this, suddenly all connections between technology become instances of cyborgs. Connecting a USB drive to a computer, charging a phone with an external battery, and even connecting to the internet, become instances of technological cyborgs. Impressively, the world wide web is transformed from a connection of individuals around the world to a vast cyborg powered constantly by the activity of millions of people. I am uncertain of the explicit effects of this reclassification would be, but I found it interesting to consider. Haraway’s main point of considering people as cyborgs is to support the ideas that “totalizing theory is a major mistake that misses most of reality” and that “taking responsibility for the social relations of science and technology means refusing… a demonology of technology,” two conclusion that are unaffected by the inclusion of machines as organisms themselves, so it is possible that this idea is without implication for considering the ways in which we interact with our world, but I found it to be an interesting notion nonetheless. Certainly, however, is that this is an example of weirding nature.