My Life as a Cyborg

When we think of cyborgs as being with biologically integrated cybernetic systems, we do cyborgs a diservice. For thousands of years, people have enchanced their biological capabilities with technological devices from wooden teeth to eye glasses. Looking at myself in the reflection of my monitor, I find myself tethered to a collection of devices:

  • clothes
  • eye glasses for seeing
  • fitness tracking wrist band
  • wireless head phones
  • mobile phone
  • the laptop itself
  • Within the context of the system of self, these things are as much a part of me as my skin, hair or fingernails. I spend far more waking hours in contact with these things than I do without them, and many of them I even sleep with. In fact, it is the sleeping with a device that monitors my sleep, and wakes me at 7am, that makes me realize how much of a cyborg I have become. My left arm buzzes when someone messages me on Slack, or Amazon delivers a product, or I reach my daily fitness goals (which I typically do without intending to). In the course of three weeks, it has become so normal that I've already begun ignoring it, like another autonomic system you don't need to think about until you want to like breathing.

    While we might have dreams of awesome chrome and steel muscles with glowing red laser eyes, our reality is we have already become cyborgs. How many significant life events have you viewed through a digital camera? How many hours of music have you listened to, piped directly into your ears? How many days of video have you watched? How many games have you played?

    Most of my adult life has been spent online. Chatrooms have long ago replaced office space, and video conferencing replaced physical co-location. And why not? I carry on my person 2-3 high definition cameras at all times, and have constant connectivity to the Internet. If I have a question, I can often find an answer if one exists within a matter of minutes no matter where I am located in meatspace. The network has become an extension of my mind, allowing me to offload my prescious memory to less volatile storage.

    Friends of mine who have gone further down the path of cyborg, you know glassholes, have offloaded even more of their cognative burden. Having facial recognition and personalized social networking applications allow you to remember more people than the few hundred we can typically recall. This becomes a huge adavantage when you have to operate in a high contact social role like CEO. The technology fulfills a role similar to that of a personal assistant, a person hired to remind you who you're meeting with next, and manage your calendar.

    As special purpose AI makes itself felt more in our daily lives (and not just trading your 401ks against other AIs run by HFTs), the cybernetic movement will force many people to become more cyborgish. The haves will continue to thrive due to decreased friction and greater connectivity, and the have nots will have even less as access to the techonology will become a barrier to entry. It will also exacerbate the problem of the clueless middle management class who will increasingly emulate their superiors by latching onto the technology without understanding it's purpose. We will see AI producing huge amounts of makework and scheduling pointless meetings to aggrandize the meddling PHB class.

    In my life as a cyborg, I can see the huge benefits it has for those who are reaching their biological limits, allowing one to optimize where they place their efforts. But it also leads me to fear not armies of cybernetic soldiers from the future, but to fear the hordes of self-important clueless who will abuse the technology to posture and waste everyone else's time. Granted there's a lot of money to be made selling it to them.