Updates: Jan/Feb/April/June //2017/April 24/2019
Are you a Cyborg? 1
Ivan William Kelly
Professor Emeritus, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Canada
In this talk, I’d like to focus not on external technologies like computers, smart boards,
virtual experience, nor the Orgasmatron in Woody Allen’s movie Sleeper (1973), but rather on
some of the possible social implications of bodily implanted devices on the future of human
nature and society. In other words, I’ll leave the science underlying cyborgs to the boffins in
engineering, computer science and artificial intelligence, and just focus on some
conceptualizations of the word ‘cyborg’, along with possible social implications and concerns
The Israeli historian Harari in his best-seller Homo Deus (2016) contends the main project
of the 21st century will be to upgrade humanity into a new species where our biological “neural
networks will be replaced by intelligent software.” Indeed, an international movement called
Trans-Humanism has already arisen to consider these possibilities. Wikipedia tells us,
In 2010, the Cyborg Foundation became the world's first international organization dedicated to help
humans become cyborgs. The foundation was created … as a response to the growing amount of
letters and emails received from people around the world interested in becoming a cyborg.
What is a cyborg?
With this in mind let’s mentally ‘pop some corn’ about cyborgs. In the first place, what,
specifically, is a cyborg? Wikipedia defines a cyborg as:
a theoretical or fictional being with both organic and bio-mechatronic parts. The term
[cyborg] was coined in 1960…In popular culture, some cyborgs may be represented as visibly
mechanical (e.g. the Cybermen in the Doctor Who franchise or The Borg from Star Trek or Darth
Vader from Star Wars); or as almost indistinguishable from humans (e.g. the Terminators from the
Terminator films, the "Human-looking" Cylons from the re-imagining of Battlestar Galactica etc.)
The 1970s television series The Six Million Dollar Man featured one of the most famous fictional
cyborgs, referred to as a bionic man; the series was based upon a novel by Martin Caidin titled
Note the wide Wiki definition does not include the use of drug or chemical
enhancements, or the straightforward physical replacements of bodily parts or functions. Hence,
someone who uses doping to enhance physical skills, or drugs to enhance cognitive abilities
would be ruled out as being cyborgs. For many of us, our intuitions would agree here.
Recipients of genetic engineering and modifications to their genome as enhancements or
augmentations would also be ruled out as being cyborgs (they might alternately be described as
1 With special thanks to my long-term colleague, philosopher Karl Pfeifer (Monash University, Australia) for his useful
comments and suggestions on several drafts of this paper. The initial draft was placed on Research Gate, January, 2017.
2 The background to the word ‘cyborg’ can be found in Madrigal (2010).
neo-humans or super-humans).3 Nor would body transplants, including head transplants, result in
cyborgs on this definition. This means the type of instigating mechanism, not the resulting
outcomes, would be what contributes to be being described as a cyborg or not. If either a
electronic computerized implant or genetic engineering could change one from being a dour,
‘who stole my slice of pizza’ character to a happy clappy one, only the former would count
towards one being called a cyborg.
Would augmentation by nanobots count, and how invasive would implants have to be to
count as cyborg parts? Would any alternations have to specifically involve invasively interfacing
with the brain or perceptual mechanisms (which may but need not have deleterious effects on
emotional cognition).4 Note also, the Wiki definition only includes bio-mechanical electronic
implanted parts. This means, happily, that Uncle Clem with his false teeth and metal hips isn’t
considered the family cyborg. We might also add to the definition that the electro-bio-
mechanical parts should have some kind of working, integrated, useful function. After all, most
of us would agree that walking around with nonworking computer parts, however artfully
arranged on or in our body, would not qualify one as being a cyborg.
Assuming the electro-technological parts have a purpose, how many artificial parts do
you need to be labelled a cyborg? Having one or a few artificial parts may not make you a
cyborg. If one has a pacemaker, are they a cyborg? I suspect most of us would intuitively say no.
But we can keep adding to this list and keep asking the same question. This suggests a
continuum approach. The extremes would be recognizable, from what cognitive scientist Andy
Clark calls unsullied “electronic virgins” at one end 5 and perhaps the Star Trek Borgs at the
other end with fifty shades of grey in between. Alternatively, we might view things differently.
Perhaps the continuum approach is not the best way of tackling the question.
Maybe having one or more special, particular bio-mechanical, electronic parts is more
likely to have you labelled a cyborg than having other particular electro-mechanical parts? But
which ones? What about an electro-mechanical arm? Would having a mechanical heart make you
a cyborg? What about having a mechanical brain with neurons replaced by silicon chips? Or
what about having particular technological, computer-related mechanical parts inserted into
your body that might have different functions from natural body parts, or which greatly enhance
the effectiveness of natural parts? 6 For example, the Guardian tells us some bio-hackers “are
installing USB drives in their fingertips, giving themselves night-vision eye-drops and growing
third ears on their arms (that can go online).” Presumably in the early stages of cyborgization
people will have more choice over what characteristics they want, such as having larger
mechanical hands or being able to permanently see in the dark. Interestingly, are we coming back
3 Of course, the two (genetic modifications and electronic implants) are not mutually exclusive. They could be combined in
various ways: the implants might incorporate some biological/organic components, including genetically engineered elements.
Some developers are already working on such chips. See https//newatlas.com/cyborg-biological-powered-chip/40815/. Thanks
again to Karl Pfeifer for this reference. One can imagine ways in which genetic engineering and implants might interact, for
example, implants might be used to turn on, or turn off, or modify particular biological processes for differing periods of time.
4 Thanks to Karl Pfeifer for this point.
5 Clark (2000) calls an electronic virgin someone with “no silicon chips, no retinal or cochlear implants, no pacemaker” and no
smartphone, computer, and perhaps no glasses!
6 Perhaps one very special implant might incline us to consider someone a cyborg in some cases? Consider the short-lived
American TV series ‘Intelligence’ (2014) where the protagonist has a special chip implanted in his brain which enables him,
among other things, to stroll through a global virtual internet reality to seek and analyze data and basically hack into all sorts of
computerized systems. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2693776/ Thanks again to Karl Pfeifer for this pointer.
here to the continuum hypothesis (the more such technological parts you have the more likely
you are on the way to becoming a cyborg), or as the Guardian article implies, does having even a
few special devices in your body makes you a cyborg?
Could you be a part-time cyborg? Before you accuse me of smoking too much Colorado
marmalade here, let me elaborate. Most of you probably missed something that happened in the
fall of 2016 – the First Cyborg Olympics (Cybathlon) in Switzerland! Participants came from
twenty-five different countries. Under the influence of movies such as X-Men, Transformers and
Bridget Jones’s Baby, one might expect such Olympic events to comprise mainly events such as
throwing cars, fights where arms, heads and legs are routinely ripped off, or candidates jumping
lines of trucks. Not so. A number of bio-technology companies were demonstrating their latest
technologies with disabled individuals in events such as bread-slicing, prosthetic leg races and
brain-computer interface races. Many of the participants were using exo-skeletons which could
be removed after events. While they were wearing such exo-skeletons they were considered
cyborgs by the organizers. Others would not consider such athletes cyborgs because the exo-
skeletons are not invasive and are removable.
So far, I’ve been largely talking within the wide Wiki definition of cyborg, which is
admittedly, the most common way of thinking about cyborgs. Several of the boundary issues
mentioned so far surrounding the word “cyborg” may be due to its recent origin (remember it
was only coined in 1960) along with the influence of science fiction on our notions of what
cyborgs supposedly look like.7 But the term “cyborg” has also been used in wider and
metaphorical senses by others. Elon Musk contends that our digital, online connections already
make us proto-cyborgs. This is a different, even wider way of using the word “cyborg” – does
our largely external interaction with mechanical gadgets like TV’s, computers, cell phones, on-
line profiles, etc., make many of us already cyborgs in a sense? This view would not be new to
the philosophical community. For some, those with an “externalist view” of the mind, our mind
should not be viewed simply as only what is going on inside the brain, but also should be seen as
including external tools we use, since they are now indispensable to our thinking. Much of our
memory is already external, stored in our cell phones and computers.8 More and more of our
thinking is conducted while we are tied in with external devices such as calculators and
7 The main guides to what we tend to think cyborgs might be like is largely influenced by their portrayal in the movies and
films. Leane (2014) ‘Movie cyborgs, sci-fi, and what’s really Going on’ Den of Geek,
http://www.denofgeek.com/movies/cyborgs/29674/movie-cyborgs-sci-fi-and-whats-really-going-on Leane points out that in the
movies cyborg characters tend to be at the extremes of good (RoboCop, Del Spooner in I Robot, Max in Elysium, Macus from
Terminator Salvation) or evil (Darth Vader from Star Wars, the Borg from Star Trek, the Cybermen from Doctor Who). Of course,
this shouldn’t be surprising, many characters in fiction tend to also be at the extremes along the morality spectrum. One might
consider the way apprentices of sorcerer’s have been portrayed in fantasy novels. See J. Zipes (2017) The Sorcerers Apprentice:
An Anthology of Magical Tales. Princeton University Press. Talk of "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" might conjure up images of
Mickey Mouse from the Disney film Fantasia (1940), or of Harry Potter (books 1997 onwards). As this anthology reveals,
however, "sorcerer's apprentice" tales—in which a young person rebels against, or complies with, an authority who holds the
keys to magical powers—have been told through the centuries, in many languages and cultures, from classical times to today. In
these stories, readers enter worlds where household objects are brought to life and shape-shifting occurs from human to animal
and back again. We meet two types of apprentice: "The Humiliated Apprentice," a foolish bumbler who wields magic
ineffectively and promotes obedience to authority; and "The Rebellious Apprentice" who, through ambition and transformative
skills, promotes empowerment and self-awareness.
8 The externalist approach to mind was first conceived by Andy Clark and David Chalmers, in their philosophical article (1999),
"The Extended Mind." Analysis, 10-23. A very readable interview by MacFarquhar (2018, see my references) with Andy Clark
provides a useful outline of the externalist theory of mind.
A related and early thought-provoking view was expressed by the feminist thinker Donna
Haraway. In her justly acclaimed 1985 “Cyborg Manifesto” Haraway claims that we can
consider talk of cyborgs as a metaphor for going beyond many of our traditional concepts of
gender, feminism and politics. Given that the possibility of cyborgs undermines the human-
machine distinction, it can also lead us to rethink other binary distinctions: black vs white; left vs
right; economic vs social; immigrant vs non-immigrant; human vs animal; Christian vs Muslim;
elite vs non-elite; man vs woman; heterosexual vs non-heterosexual, etc. 9
Social Implications of Cyborgization
Okay, enough of the beard-stroking about words and definitions 10, so let’s move on to talking
about some possible social and ethical implications of our cyborg technologies. Among many in
the technical field, the dominant view is that we are all on the road to becoming cyborgs. A
question arises regarding which traditional human characteristics should be modified or replaced
in the future with new technologies. It is unlikely that electronic bio-mechanical hairy lips are on
the agenda for most of us, but what about implants resulting in cognitive and emotional
modifications or enhancements? What if we could augment our emotions in an extreme way?
The expression “I really hate/love X” could take on a new meaning.11 On a more serious note,
could we make ourselves more empathic towards other people? 12 Could we enhance ourselves
morally? 13 How far would we go – what about making students that would take a howitzer round
9 A large number of philosophical issues arise when we think of cyborgs. For example, how would increasing cyborgization
affect our notions of free will? While questions of free will usually center on human beings, what if more and more of our bodily
parts are composed of mechanical parts? Similarly, if more and more of our mental structure is tied in with computer parts, how
would this affect our views of human nature and issues such as the mind-body problem?
10 I’ve just considered two ways of thinking about what a cyborg is----namely categorical and dimensional. There are a number
of other ways. For example, do the specific purposes or functions of the electronic implants may a role in the definition of
cyborg? Would implants emphasizing particular intellectual abilities be more important than those that enhance perceptual
abilities? One might best think of the term ‘cyborg’ as a family resemblance concept where a variety of overlapping uses of the
same word are connected rather than with any strict necessary or sufficient conditions. An accessible discussion and critique of
the family resemblance approach can be found in C. McGinn (2011) Truth by analysis: games, names, and philosophy. OUP.
Chapter 2 ‘Definition and family resemblance’.
11 Talk of augmenting our emotions brings up the notion of teledildonics (or cyberdildonics) where remote sexual textual sexual
sensations can be transmitted over remote links between people. Trout in the following article describes present day live cam sex
with ‘two-way sex-toy integration’ and future possibilities: C. Trout (2018) ‘Teledildonics gave me he gift of long-distance sex
with a stranger’ engadget, Feb 7. https://www.engadget.com/2018/07/02/flirt4free-teledildonics-long-distance-sex/
Serious legalities will arise when a teledidonic act is hacked. Depending on the state of the technology, issues around consent and
rape will come to the foreground.
12 Empathy involves being able to experience the emotions of others. While this seems to be an all-around positive human
ability, it is controversial. The neurologist Burton considers it a myth that we can experience the minds of other people [R.A.
Burton (2018) ‘The theory of mind myth’ Aeon magazine, July 23, https://aeon.co/essays/think-you-can-tell-what-others-are-
thinking-think-again]. Bloom, on the other hand, does not consider empathy a myth but denies that it necessarily has a strong
connection with moral reasoning and behavior. [P. Bloom (2016) Against empathy: the case for rational compassion. Ecco].
13 Making ourselves more moral opens up a minefield. Exactly what actions would we encourage and who would decide?
And how would we justify to others our chosen enhancements? How one answers this question may relate to one’s notion of
human nature and how morality is related to evolutionary theory. Much may depend on commitment to certain ‘facts’ which may
not be decidable. Some consider morality as a necessary overlay on our basic nature. Others do not. Al-Rodham contends
enhancement issues need to take into account human nature and especially our neurological predispositions. N. Al-Rodham
(2019) ‘Neurophilosophy and transhumanism’ Blog of the American Philosophical Association, Feb 19.
https://blog.apaonline.org/2019/02/19/neurophilosophy-and-transhumanism/ Also, the same authors blog “A Neuro-Philosophy of
for their professors? Things could go very differently. Could future cyborgs – perhaps more
machine than meat – be morally blind to some of the things we now consider immoral or cruel?
One philosopher has recently considered the possibility that psychopaths should not be described
as being cruel (any more than lions are cruel) no matter what they do to people.14 Her view is
that such people lack some basic human features and are no more immoral than lions and tigers.
Could this be extended to future cyborgs that might lack our present-day moral sensibilities?
Further, given that our notions of person-hood are at present tied to our human biological
functions and bodily expressions, would very different abilities and sense experiences grounded
in electronic implants result in new notions of ‘self’ and ‘person’? 15 The issue is likely to be
important since the concept of ‘person’ is tied to legal and moral categories.
The distinction between ‘person’ and ‘personality’ is also important here since a change
in one doesn’t imply a change in the other category (the two are often wrongly conflated). 16
While Indeed, it is likely, over time, new implants and interactions with other electronic implants
would produce new psychologies, interests and concerns and perhaps different personalities.
Would some bio-mechanical changes make people view someone as a very different person
(personality), only distantly related to the person before the major enhancements? (Think of
Anakin Skywalker and Darth Vader of Star Wars fame). Much of what a person is, or who a
person is, seems to be socially constructed, and therefore somewhat changeable. Whether
changes might cause one to be viewed as a new person might depend on the type or number of
changes in one’s cognitive, emotional or behavioral abilities. If I could, with new bio-mechanical
parts, run a three-minute mile, most would still consider me the same person, albeit an upgraded
version of myself in that one respect, but what if I could become a brighter light bulb with some
bio-mechanical brain implants – say, in some Flowers for Algernon-like fashion---my IQ was
increased ten-times to 500? 17 (I know what I have just said.) I mention this because some of our
attributes, for example, our intelligence, may have wide impacts on other interests and activities
Human Nature: Emotional Amoral Egoism and the Five Motivators of Humankind” American Philosophical Association Blog,
April 4, 2019. https://blog.apaonline.org/2019/04/04/a-neuro-philosophy-of-human-nature-emotional-amoral-egoism-and-the-
five-motivators-of-humankind/ Young considers debates over moral enhancement problematic because moral norms change over
time and who knows what future norms will be held? And present-day debates are conducted from very different premises (moral
realist or non-realist or pragmatist) making agreement on standards for moral enhancement more unlikely. G. Young (2018) ‘How
would we know if moral enhancement had occurred?’ The Journal of Speculative Philosophy, 32/4, 587-606.
14 See D. Nelkin (2015) “Psychopaths, incorrigible racists, and the faces of responsibility,” Ethics, vol 125/ issue 2, 357-390.
15 Not everyone would agree with our present human-centered notions of personhood. Mark Rowlands (2016) Are animals
persons? Animal Sentience, 10/1. http://animalstudiesrepository.org/animsent/vol1/iss10/1/ Rowland contends the kind of self-
awareness present in some animals qualifies them to be considered persons. This would be directly relevant to any personhood
considerations regarding cyborgs. Those in the Humanities will find Lake’s book of special interest. It is also noteworthy that
different cultures can have different notions of personhood than those in the West [see S. Jackson (2019) ‘A rock, a human, a tree:
all were persons to the Classic Maya’ Aeon magazine, April 22. https://aeon.co/ideas/a-rock-a-human-a-tree-all-were-persons-to-
the-classic-maya] C. B. Lake (2013) Prophets of the Posthuman: American fiction, Biotechnology and the Ethics of Personhood.
University of Notre Dame. Lake argues that stories play an unrecognized role in ethical reflection confronting enhancement of
cognitive abilities in animals (including human beings) and machines.
16 While most pet owners would attribute particular personalities to their pets, most would balk at considering them persons.
The latter is (so far) largely restricted to human beings.
17 At the same time, we might also want specific-purpose dumbed-down cyborgs such as field hands, some soldiers, or toilet
in our lives. Is it possible that a large change in one characteristic could make us a new person
because of its widespread implications? What if several important features of our individuality
could be modified, changed or greatly enhanced simultaneously?
What about the influence of fashion and fads on various notions such as attractiveness in
a cyborg world? 18 When it comes to ideas of attractiveness, would adding electronic bio-
mechanical parts lead to some new ideas about who is attractive, or would notions of physical
attractiveness disappear or become completely different from our present-day ideas? Would a
neo-bio-mechanical Justin Trudeau with echolocation abilities and covered in implanted USB
drives and plug-ins be on a future cover of People magazine? Before you chortle and burp at
this, aren’t we influenced by the media and changing dominant cultural mores all the time? There
is a fairly wide variation across history and cultures regarding what is considered attractive.
How many men these days wear powdered wigs and high heels as the 1% did in the 16th century?
While perhaps some particular features of people are found to be universally attractive, all bets
are likely to be off if many of us end up looking something like the skinless Terminator.19
And how much credit should be given to individual cyborg enhanced accomplishments?
Having qualities or attributes in common with many others does not distinguish one as an
individual. People don’t point us out in the street because we can read or do basic arithmetic. But
what about uncommon enhanced abilities? It seems to depend on the particular enhancement and
the context. Few would be interested if an implant allows me to pat my head and rub my belly
faster than anyone else. The situation also matters: For relatively straightforward actions like
running a 200- yard dash or swimming a particular distance, being under the influence of
physically enhancing drugs is already enough to disqualify you from receiving a medal at the
Olympics. But what about far more complex achievements such as those that are impossible with
organic brains/bodies alone? Does the use of external aids such as computers erode our notions
of individual achievements to some extent? 20 The typical response is that human imagination
and creativity are often still required to come up with ideas in the first place. But what if new
bio-mechanical implants (or genetic enhancements) allow us to be far more creative or
imaginative? While there will likely remain individual difference among people, what if these
18 It would seem notions of attractiveness are associated with biological beings. It is difficult to conceive of robots
having their own notions of attractiveness. Since cyborgs are at least part biological, they might have their own notions of
attractiveness, even if pure robots can’t. It is useful to point out that for non-cyborgs biological beings robots can be sexually
attractive (think of ‘sexbots’). Indeed, a British magazine featured a physically attractive ‘female’ robot on its cover in 2018. See
N. Byrd (2018) “Robot model on fashion magazine cover leaves some readers ‘freaked out’ “ Inquisitr, Jan 28.
19 Saxton contends that some part of what we find attractive (with specific other people) depends to some extent on the
“physical similarity between one’s parent and one’s partner”. T. Saxon (2017) ‘Keeping it in the family: why we pick the
partner’s we do’. Aeon Magazine, August. https://aeon.co/ideas/keeping-it-in-the-family-why-we-pick-the-partners-we-do . If
this idea has merit, it could be modified or made redundant in a world of genetic engineering or where technological implants
may change or modify or our desires and interests. At the same time, Saxton’s contention about physical characteristics strikes
me as small town xenophobic parochialism of a by-gone era. Many people have hooked up with partners physically (often
racially) unlike their parents. Further, there are all sorts of individuals who haunt comic book stores who find aliens and androids
attractive; there’re even categories of porn for that.
20 Our answer might depend on the role human beings have in the activity. The more active a role human beings have may
diminish the concern here. After all, there are those Korean gaming olympiads or tournaments; also programming competitions
are common nowadays where human imagination and cognition still have a sizeable role.
individual differences become largely due to some people possessing better enhancements (that
is, they far outstrip any natural biological individual differences)?
Do we also have moral responsibility to our fellow creatures – other non-human animals?
Why not animal cyborgs? 21 The onetime NASA scientist and science-fiction writer David Brin
In all my research I have concluded that cetaceans, primates, corvids (crows),
parrots, pinnipeds (sea lions), and many other species on Earth appear to be stuck
under a firm glass ceiling, roughly the same level of thinking, problem-solving,
linguistic ability, and evolution seems stingy about letting any of them crash
through (Brin cited in Dvorsky, 2012)
Brin contends that it may actually be selfish for us to deny high-functioning animals (e.g apes,
dolphins, whales, etc.) our enhancement technologies. He imagines a possible Earth civilization
enlightened by diverse voices: “Imagine [for example, he says] dolphin philosophers … raven
playwrights and poets.” He adds, “How lonely [for us], if we turn away without trying” (cited
from Dvorsky, 2012).22 However, whatever the assets of Bonobo sex-therapists and orangutan
comedians, we need to think of other possible outcomes. I don’t want to be what our Australian
brother and sister academics call a “whinger” here, but all might not go as well as we might like.
We might have to face animal lawyers arguing for equal rights or reparations for past wrongs.
Enhanced animal politicians and activists might have very different concerns and values than our
human minds. Notions like “high functioning” might themselves be viewed quite differently
from our human interpretations. Given our human track record on ecology and the treatment of
other non-human animals, it is unclear whether newly enhanced intelligent non-human species
would describe us in the glowing terms that many human beings use to describe themselves. The
diversity within the community of human beings is challenging enough. Would complicating
things further between species not contribute to more social and political problems? Not only
might we face diverse conflicting demands between non-human animals and human beings but
between different animal species as well (prey/predator relationships would be a sticking point.)
And would we try to continue to prioritize human interests over animal interests (as we do at
21 There are already proto-animal cyborgs, but these tend to be designed to promote human interests, and not those of the
organisms themselves. For example, consider cockroaches with electronic backpacks that can pick-up subtle human sounds under
rubble in disasters or have their flight patterns controlled so they can be directed to fly through narrow passages in human rescue
operations. https://www.popsci.com/tags/cyborgs. An interesting ethical question that arises concerns the possibility that insects
feel pain and are conscious. See B. Keim (2019) ‘I, cockroach’ Aeon magazine (online). https://aeon.co/essays/do-cyborg-
22 While bio-mechanical implantations could be involved in animal enhancement, genetic modifications are more likely to be
involved. We are still in the initial stages of such experimentation at present. Those genetic enhancements most visible in the
media seem largely limited to reports of glow-in-the dark rabbits, and cows that fart less than typical cows. Of course, genetic
modifications and bio-physical implants are not mutually exclusive; both could be utilized at the same time. A central issue is
how should we approach the topic of non-human animal enhancement? Chan contends that if we regard the enhancement of
human beings a moral obligation, so should we also regard non-human animal enhancement. S. Chan (2009) ‘Should we
enhance animals?’ Journal of Medical Ethics, 35/11, pp. 678-683. See also books discussing animal enhancement in the reference
present)? 23 24 A further issue concerns which animals would we enhance? While it would
initially understandably be those animals such as mammals that are related to us and easier to
upgrade, human interests would almost certainly play a large role (at least in the earliest stages of
cyborgization). The pets of those who could afford the upgrades might be the earliest recipients
25, but likely those species we find cute or useful would be next in line. It seems unlikely
rattlesnakes or gophers would be prime candidates. Further, enhanced “beasts of burden” would
be more likely than intellectually enhanced animals; maybe our future Mars colonists might have
a use for somesuch. Considering these possibilities are what our Canadian prime minister, in
Sherlock Holmes mode, would call three-reefer speculations.
Some concerns about cyborgization
Much of the popular writing on the topic of future modifications to human beings focuses
on specific scientific/technological issues and their feasibility along with people’s fears of being
taken over by amoral Star Trek Borgies. But other concerns need to also be considered, at least in
the short term. (Advanced cyborgs in the more distant future may become closer to being fully
robotic, replacing meat more and more as the technologies become available).26 The cloven hoof
in the contemporary picture may not be the robotic part but the human aspect of cyborgs.
After all, cyborgs will for some time be largely human with parts designed by humans. Will
the directions taken regarding what is technically developed be influenced by the social and
cultural biases of those who generate and use such implanted parts? 27 Further, as John N
Gray says in his book, The Silence of Animals (2014), “There are not two kinds of human being,
savage and civilised. There is only the human animal, forever at war with itself.” The recent
events following the 2016 US election and the European refugee crisis have shown that sexism
and racism are widespread and still strong.28 Given this, the concern is that human biases
23 Consider those who already have their dead pets memorialized via taxidermy. Some might consider revitalizing their
deceased pets by turning them into interactive cyber-zombies. A lot of different ethical issues would arise on this topic.
24 Science fiction readers may be remined of Olaf Stapledon’s novel Sirius (1944) about an intelligently enhanced dog which is
rejected by human society. It raises the question about how we human beings would react to enhanced creatures that are non-
human or implant modified. Another issue is, would enhanced animals be used for military purposes? Consider the genetically
enhanced ape-like killer (the ‘Outsider’) in Koontz sci-fi novel Watchers (1987). Enhanced animals seem a more plausible
approach to military use than inbreeding suggested by Stalin in World War Two. Stalin suggested making super-warriors by
inbreeding human beings and apes [E.M. Johnson (2011) ‘Scientific ethics and Stalin’s ape-man super-warriors’ Scientific
American Blog. https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/primate-diaries/stalins-ape-man-superwarriors/ ] It is of further interest to
note that talk of cross-breeding humans and animals to produce new species was considered in the speculations of some
enlightenment thinkers [A.S. Curren (2019) Diderot: And the art of thinking Freely, Other Press, NY, pp. 255-2580]
25 Pets occupy a unique place in our lives. Should they be given special consideration over other animals in enhancement?
Yeates and Savulescu point out pets both share our homes and are dependent on us and can be harmed or benefited by our
actions, emotionally as well as physically. Given this, the authors contend pets should have special ethical considerations beyond
those given to other animals. While the authors do not directly consider enhancement (genetic or technological), this would be an
outcome consistent with their position. J. Yeates & J. Savulescu (2017) ‘Companion animal ethics: a special area of moral theory
and practice?‘ Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, 20, 347-359.
26 The field of robotics is itself worth exploring. A continually updated site on robotic development can be found at IEEE
Spectrum, Robotics. https://spectrum.ieee.org/robotics
27 See Ferrando (2014) for concerns along this path.
28 See E. Knowles & L. Tropp (2016) “Donald Trump and the rise of white identity politics,” The Conversation, Oct 20.
Chaplin (2017) points out, “The progress [we have made in the West on LGBTQ rights] ... doesn’t exist in most of the world: 74
(implicit and explicit) and self-serving desires will likely remain, cyborg or not, for the near
future at least.
Another social issue concerns who will have control over who gets what electronic
implants, and who decides what technologies are developed? Relatedly, manufacturers or
companies may add to their products information gathering programs or programs that, unknown
to us, subtly influence our behaviours or thought patterns. 29 While Harari in his book Homo
Deus expresses concern that a very small group of business entrepreneurs and engineers will be
in charge of the directions technology takes 30, the philosopher John Gray (2016) casts a wider
net and contends,
If such new species (including cyborgs) appear, they will be created by governments
and powerful corporations, and used by any group that can get its hands on them –
criminal cartels, terrorist networks, religious cults, and so on.31
The implications for our lives, following this line of thinking, at least in the short term,
are likely to be far-reaching. Consider the increase in social inequality, large financial disparities
between the very rich and the rest of society; usually the better off and more powerful members
of society can afford to acquire the most recent publicly available technologies first. 32 To keep
countries still criminalise homosexuality, including Russia and much of Africa and the Near East. Even where it’s legal, to be
identified as LGBTQ often leads to stigmatisation, harassment, assault. And all of these might yet increase. Gender conventions
are stubborn. So is racism. The Black Lives Matter movement states a goal – to make US law enforcement recognise blacks as
the equals of whites – that should not in 2017 be utopian, but is. The ‘Black Lives Matter’ slogan is….a comparison of some
human lives against others. And because the incidents of police violence that elicited the movement occurred after the financial
crisis of 2007-8, Black Lives Matter is [important] in identifying the persecution that comes with constrained economic
circumstances. Attacks on historically racialised individuals elsewhere have shown that the problem is global.” J. E. Chaplin, “Is
greatness finite?” Aeon Magazine, (online). https://aeon.co/essays/how-more-and-malthus-light-the-way-towards-humanitys-
29 See E. Schwitzgebel (2017) ‘In 25 years, your employer will directly control your moods’ Oct 26. The Splintered Mind Oct
26, http://schwitzsplinters.blogspot.ca/2017/10/in-25-years-your-employer-will-directly.html S contends that employers will be
able to control the moods and emotions of their employees (by drugs or direct brain stimulation) within a few decades and will
likely find ways of using that ability: “McDonald's might ask its cashiers to tweak their dials toward perky friendliness. Data
entry centers might ask their temp workers to tweak their dials toward undistractable focus. Brothels might ask their strippers to
tweak their dials toward sexual arousal”. We might also consider how other groups might manipulate emotions or moods such as
political organizations, large companies, criminal cartels (See Gray, 2019). Or might we be able to also modify our own minds:
could particular implants allow us to modify our own values, desires, tendencies? A discussion on this can be found at H. Shevlin
(guest post) (2017) ‘What would (or should) you do with administrator access to your mind’. The Splintered Mind blog, Aug 16.
http://schwitzsplinters.blogspot.ca/ This also brings up a lot of interesting issues around personal identity. One might also
consider the possibility that some changes might be so large that personal identity might continually change or may no longer be
considered a topic of relevance. A related issue is the possibility of cybog implants being hacked---a not remote possibility. One
might keep in mind in this regard, that results from MRI and CT scanners can potentially be hacked, putting false positives or
false negatives in readings. See K. Zetter (2019) ‘Hospital viruses: fake cancerous nodes in CT scans created by malware, trick
radiologists’. The Washington Post, April 3, https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2019/04/03/hospital-viruses-fake-
cancerous-nodes-ct-scans-created-by-malware-trick-radiologists/?utm_term=.b37bd7bf8099 and N. Wetsman (2019) ‘Health
care’s huge cybersecurity problem.’ The Verge, April 4, https://www.theverge.com/2019/4/4/18293817/cybersecurity-hospitals-
30 A concern that Forer (2017) shares.
31 Gibb (2016) contends that military applications will be a large part of future research in human-computer interfaces.
32 A useful background on this ethical issue can be found in C. Wareham (2017) ‘How can life-extending treatments be
available for all?’ Aeon magazine online, August. https://aeon.co/ideas/how-can-life-extending-treatments-be-available-for-all.
up with even the average status quo most people will have to make severe cutbacks in budgets
regarding things they get enjoyment from such as food, hobbies, or Cialis. Some groups may,
assuming human biases are still prevalent and dominant, continue to face additional obstacles.
For one example, LGBTQ individuals desiring enhancing technologies could face not only bias
in the wider community but also obstacles from institutions such as insurance companies.
Political, financial, and social obstacles and biases would need to become part of the discussion
as technological advances allow us to modify more and more of our attributes. It should also be
mentioned that far from everyone is attached to the cyborg idea.
The futures suggested by Harari and Gray are indeed one possibility, but just that-- one
possibility. Swain (2014), on the other hand, contends the dystopian futures of competitive
hierarchies with some human-cyborgs at the top with non-augmented humans at the bottom
(Harari and Gray) to be unlikely, as people won’t be competing for augmentive implants but
rather, given the diverse interests and ways of life among human beings (given different personal
histories), people will choose to augment themselves in a great variety of different ways. But this
could result in other social problems. These different ways of life may also result in very
different implants and associated differing ways of thinking about the world. Just as different
species with different sensory organs may have different concepts and cognitive abilities than
human beings, cyborgization may contribute to different kinds of post-human species.33 While
adding artificial anatomical parts and implants that connect to the internet are one thing, larger,
more far reaching changes are likely. 34 For example, a change involving systems such as the
visual system might allow recipients to experience time on a different scale than unaltered
human beings.35 Along with such differing experiences of time that are tied in with implants
modifying cognitive abilities, and likely associated changes in psychologies might greatly
complicate our notion of differing species and notions of ‘the other’.
Hence, while in the early stages of cyborgization, social and financial inequalities might
develop among individuals and groups, more serious issues may arise in the longer term. Dyson
(2019) expresses the concern that our abilities to engage in genetic engineering (if poorly thought
through) may threaten the “nurture of a brotherhood of man”---our slowly being brought together
by the sharing of our arts and sciences across cultures with the ultimate goal of achieving “a
human society that is manageable if not always peaceful”. Buchanan and Powell express a
related view in their book The Evolution of Moral Progress (2018) 36. These authors contend that
an important aspect of what can be considered moral progress involves including more of ‘the
The topic under discussion considers the high likelihood that life-extending technologies would be initially available to
financially richer members of society with a further increase in inequality. We can substitute talk of ‘technological implants’ for
the article’s life-prolonging drugs. The concern is that the very rich will therefore always be one step ahead of the rest of us, as
only they will have access to the very newest technologies. Perhaps.
33 An excellent introduction to the differing ways terrestrial animals experience the world can be found in H. C. Hughes (1999)
Sensory Exotica. MIT Press. This book describes the senses that animals possess that we do not and the physiological and
structural biological organs that underlie such senses.
34 E.Reas (2014) ‘Small animals live in a slow-motion world’ Scientific American/Mind.
35 Changes to human psychological makeup may be initially subtle but far reaching. As far as I know human beings are the
only species that collects things that have little direct survival value such as antiques, coins, stamps, etc. Could changes in
cognitive structure inadvertently eliminate or modify such interests. Taken further, its difficult to imagine a cyborg hoarder.
36 A. Buchanan & R. Powell (2018) The Evolution of Moral Progress: A Biocultural Theory. Oxford University Press.
other’ under people worthy of moral consideration. Dyson considers other conditions where the
slow ongoing ‘brotherhood of man’ may reverse, namely, where cultural evolution conflicts with
our biological evolution. If our cultural evolution supports large bodily implant modifications as
suggested in the previous paragraph, central notions across areas such as the arts and sciences,
morality and political arrangements may widen with unknown consequences. Further, talk of
making a ‘more humane society’ will become increasing problematic in that human beings as we
now know them will no longer exist as a single species.
Before I unplug myself, I’d like to just acknowledge the obvious, that we don’t have any
solid ideas about any long-term future positives or negatives that may be associated with
increasing cyborgization, or even whether cyborgization will even increase, despite its popularity
and attention in the present-day media.37 History has also shown that predictions about the future
(usually utopian or dystopian), 38 are far from certain. It also goes without saying, so I’ll say it,
even if cyborgian technologies become available and prevalent, it is likely that not all will buy
into the technologies for political, philosophical, religious, or even personal reasons. A number
of people would not even consider the super-powered ‘Six-Million Dollar Man’ of 1970’s TV
fame a cyborg (even though he is considered one under the Wikipedia definition) since he
retained largely human cognitive, emotional and moral abilities and concerns. Very different
cognitive or emotional structures may be required for the label ‘cyborg’ for such individuals. The
largest changes to human nature may likely involve genetic engineering rather than technological
implants which may enhance our already-present human abilities rather than provide us with
extensive totally new abilities, which will be reserved for robots and other artificial intelligences.
On the physical level, in the foreseeable future, all sorts of medical and engineering
problems would likely arise with the addition of such foreign parts into our biological bodies (we
would need things like 10,000 hour warranties and maintenance/servicing contracts). Just as
unpredictable consequences occur today with drug interactions, we would want to avoid serious
internal electronic implant interactions.39 We don’t know how having an increasing number of or
37 Especially when we also have to consider interactions between cyborgization along with the rapid changes in the virtual
realities in which we are immersing our lives. An excellent book on how virtual reality increasing affects all aspects of our lives
can be found in J. Gackenbach & J. Bown (Ed.) (2017) Boundaries of self and reality online. Academic Press. In chapter 6 de
Gortari and Griffiths describe the effects of virtual video game worlds on frequent players. The authors point out that the in-game
experiences have carry-over effects into everyday life. As such worlds become more sophisticated and immersive and interact
with technological bodily implants that may enhance or produce totally new experiences, the effects on notions of self and
identity, interpersonal relationships and world-views will be likely unimaginable.
38 P. J. Bowler (2017) A History of the Future: Prophets of Progress from H G Wells to Isaac Asimov. OUP. Bowler provides an
enjoyable survey of popular science, science fiction, films, and news media pieces about what life might be like in the later 20th
and 21st centuries. The book is of interest because it reflects many 19th and 20th century public perceptions of science and
technology and how they were thought might unfold in the near future.
39 Unforeseen consequences often come with new scientific advances. Some consequences end up more serious than others. In
this regard, one might keep in mind the drug thalidomide which was prescribed treatment for morning sickness with its severe
malformation effects on developing embryos. The drug seems to have had few, if any, negative effects when given to non-
pregnant adults. [see N. Vargesson (2015) Thalidomide-induced teratogenesis: history and mechanisms. Birth Defects Research C
Embryo Today, 105, 140-156). Another example, might be the famous case of Dolly the Sheep, the first mammal to be
successfully cloned from an adult body cell. One unexpected effect associated with Dolly was that she aged faster than normal
sheep. [see K. Murray (2017) 20 years after Dolly the Sheep, potential of cloning remains unclear. CNN Health,
https://www.cnn.com/2017/02/24/health/dolly-the-sheep-cloning-anniversary/index.html ]. Even if effects are not negative, they
can be unanticipated and far ranging. Consider the Russian fox domestication study done in the early 1950’s where pups
exhibiting the most human-friendly behaviors were interbred. While one would expect docility to be a resulting trait (and it was),
types of implanted devices may interact with our biological body over time, or the implants with
each other. Could implants eventually even change the brain structure itself in unanticipated
ways in groups with particular implants? 40
We will just have to wait and see. It would seem however, that implants that enhance or
modify or provide human beings with new cognitive possibilities would likely require us to
modify our psychology textbooks, religious beliefs and philosophical insights.
Hopefully, the wide variety of articles, with their differing views, in the references below
and others may provide a start to such engagements.
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
Further reading (organized by year of
----M. Caidin (1972) Cyborg. Del Ray. In this science fiction novel a physically damaged person
is given new strengths by new mechanical body parts. The popular 1970’s TV series The Six
Million Dollar Man was based on this book. The human mind seems unaffected by the implants
in both the novel and TV series.
-----D. Haraway (1985) “A cyborg manifesto: science, technology, and socialist feminism in the
late twentieth century,” Socialist Review, 80, 65-108. Also, D. Haraway (1996) Simians,
Cyborgs and Women: the reinvention of nature. Routledge. Haraway is a leading Feminist
thinker on technology and suggests that the cyborg ideal will provide us with an escape from the
rigid distinctions of gender in a coming post-gender world. More recently, Haraway has gathered
many of her writings in one book. D. Haraway (2016) Manifestly Haraway. University of
-----A. Clark (2004) Natural Born Cyborgs. Oxford University Press. Philosopher Andy Clark
contends we are already early cyborgs since we utilize mind-extending technologies all the time
and, indeed, think and feel using these tools. Clark is a prominent advocate of the external mind
thesis. See also A. Clark (2000) “Natural Born Cyborgs” Edge.
-----K. Toffolett (2007) Cyborgs and Barbie dolls: Feminism, Popular culture and the Post-
human Body. L. B. Tauris & Co Ltd. An examination of a set of popular, cultural icons (Barbie
dolls, Goth Marilyn Manson, etc.) suggesting they are more ambiguous than our culture
traditionally presents them. On Toffolett’s view, these icons can be considered in a post-modern
spirit to undercut traditional, simplistic notions of gender, race and ethnicity. Not an easy read.
------K. Warwick. (2010) "Future Issues with Robots and Cyborgs," Studies in Ethics, Law, and
Technology. 4/ 3, DOI:10.2202/1941-6008.1127. A very worthwhile framework for those
interested in the potential uses of implants that can be used for therapeutic or enhancement
other unexpected features also resulted after a number of interbreedings such as a smaller face and snout and less seasonally
related periods of fertility. [ see J. G. Goldman (2010) ‘Man’s new best friend? A forgotten Russian experiment in fox
domestication’. Scientific American. Online at https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/mans-new-best-friend-a-forgotten-
40 For the legal and moral concerns here see Cabrera and Carter-Johnson (2018).
purposes. The author describes four different, but overlapping, investigative possibilities in the
field of implants. The use of implants for identity and security considerations; interfaces between
robotic components and human neurons; deep brain stimulation technologies, and general-
purpose brain implants that might provide human beings with some of the ‘advantages of
machine/artificial intelligence.’ The author is aware throughout the article of social and moral
issues that will likely arise with such advances in cybernetic technologies. A must-read for those
interested in the topics of cyborgs and post-humanism.
----A. C. Madrigal (2010) ‘The man who first said ‘cyborg’, fifty years later.’ The Atlantic
cyborg-50-years-later/63821/ The word ‘cyborg’ was coined by Manfred Clynes in 1960 and the
word firs appeared in the September issue of the journal Astronautics. Clynes considered the
cyborg a cybernetic organism at the ‘interface between the organism and technology’. He
considered cyborgs to be human and did not anticipate the flurry of competing new overlapping
definitions that would arise in the coming years. He also did concern himself with future
technological-human hybrids possibly resulting in new species or super-humans.
----G. Dvorsky (2012) “Should we upgrade the intelligence of animals.” i09 We come from the
A positive view of animal enhancement. Addresses several bio-ethical concerns and concludes
that, overall, animal enhancement should be seriously considered. The author prefers genetic and
psychopharmacological therapies over mechanical implants in animals. A well-written, short
introduction to the topic that could be read by middle and high school students.
----D. L. Smith (2012) Less than Human: Why we Demean, Enslave, and Exterminate others. St.
Martin’s Griffin. A main concern with enhancing human beings is our human nature and our
tendency to dehumanize others. Given that we seem to find ways of doing so whether based on
appearance, ethnicity or cultural interests, this is an issue that will especially need to be
addressed if we can make ourselves stronger, smarter, or more creative in abilities that can be
used for good or ill. The author is optimistic that our biological traits are modifiable. It may be
that bio-mechanical implants could make additional contributions here.
----J. Federer (2013) “Technology in the Classroom: Google, Cyborgs, and the Future of
Education.” Teach Hub.com. http://www.teachhub.com/google-cyborgs-and-future-education
A short piece on how future technologies might impact education in a few decades. An enjoyable
----E. Anthes (2013) “Should we make animals smarter?” Boston Globe, March 31.
A readable, short, partner article to Dvorsky (2012). While enhancing animals (also known as
“uplifting animals”) may help them survive better in natural environments, the article describes
possible problems such as increased animal abuse, the issue of who is to judge what is best for
other species, and increases in different forms of negative competition among enhanced species.
(A more recent discussion of this issue can be found in M. Schultz-Bergin (forthcoming) ‘The
dignity of diminished animals: species norms and engineering to improve welfare’ Ethical
Theory and Moral Practice).
----K. Miller & D. Larson (2013) “Measuring a distance: humans, cyborgs, robots.” American
Philosophical Association Newsletter, Fall, 20-24.
729368501E43/ComputersV13n1.pdf A philosophical examination of the concepts human,
cyborg, and robot. Defends a continuum approach to the human-cyborg distinction. Asks
important questions about how society might adapt to cyborgs. See also Ferrando (2013).
-----C. Lavigne (2013) Cyberpunk women, Feminism, and science fiction: a critical study.
McFarland, & Co, Inc. An academic feminist book that corrects the common misperception that
men dominate the best cyberpunk fiction. Many women have written excellent science-fiction
addressing issues in connection with virtual reality and cyborgs, and have not neglected the use
of queer characters in their writings.
----R. Braidotti (2013) The Posthuman. Polity Press. A feminist analysis of post-human ideas.
Explores future issues on multiple identity, post-colonialism, gender and the environment. Not an
-----F. Ferrando (2013) ‘Posthumanism, transhumanism, antihumanism, metahumanism, and new
materialisms’. Existenz, 8/2 (fall), 26-32. https://existenz.us/volumes/Vol.8-2Ferrando.pdf
Ferrando points out that the expression ‘post-human’ is ambiguous, encompassing disparate
notions such as post-humanism, variants of transhumanism in all its own sub-variants, new
materialisms, and post-humanities. The author describes the roots of these various conflicting
and overlapping expressions and the similarities and differences among the evolving movements
associated with these expressions.
----M. Carroll (2014) “Part human, part machine, cyborgs are becoming a reality.” Newsweek,
This article describes several people who already consider themselves cyborgs with particular
implants in their bodies such as a bionic implant that allows one to detect colors along with
infrared and ultraviolet light. Another person claims to wear an earthquake detector and a third
an implant that monitors biological functions. See also, Warwick (2010) Wainwright (2015) and
-----A. Walker, K. Walker, & S. Carruthers (2014) Super You: How Technology Is
Revolutionizing What It Means to Be Human. Que Publishing.
An optimistic, readable overview of how we are taking control of our own evolution and are
already cyborgs. The authors advocate a non-continuum view of cyborg-hood. They believe that
Cyborgian technologies will allow us to live longer, to acquire superhuman physical and
cognitive abilities, and to reverse aging and eliminate death.
-----B. Wittes & J. Chong (2014) “Our cyborg future: law and policy implications.” Center for
Technology Innovation, Sept. https://www.brookings.edu/research/our-cyborg-future-law-and-
policy-implications/ Our present-day laws do not recognize machine or cyborg rights. This
intriguing article contends that as we become more cyborg, difficult choices will occur regarding
our interpretation of legal policies respecting how closely connected to us we wish to view our
machine parts. A very engaging article. See also Cabrera and Carter-Johnson (2018).
-----F. Ferrando (2014) ‘Is the post-human a post-woman? Cyborgs, robots, artificial intelligence
and the future of gender: a case study. European Journal of Futures Research, Dec.
A very thoughtful article pointing out that technological developments have their seeds in the
past and are not separable ‘from the social and cultural contexts in which they are generated and
employed.’ The concern is that as we increasingly develop into cyborgs, sexist, racist, and ethnic
notions may channel the appearance and abilities of these super-humans. Further, cultural beliefs
will likely influence their initial reception by society. The article supports these concerns with the
results of a questionnaire inquiring about the cultural perceptions of students in the field of
cybernetics. See also, F. Ferrando (2012) ‘Humans, cyborgs, posthumans’. TED Talk
----F. Swain (2014) “Cyborgs: the truth about human augmentation” BBC Future, Sept 24,
A down-to-earth view of technologies that might enhance human beings, including cyborgian
ones. The author points out that for the foreseeable future there will be a ‘big gulf between the
fantasy vision of cyborgs and the current reality of being dependent on implants” Rather than the
dystopian future predicted by many techies, he contends that it is more likely people will allow
people to augment themselves in a large variety of different personal ways.
----J. Wells (2014) “Keep calm and remain human: how we have always been cyborgs and
theories on the technological present of anthropology”. Reviews in Anthropology, 43, 5-14. DOI:
10.1080/00938157.2014.872460. A very nice introduction to the emerging field of cyborg
anthropology----the study of the two-way intersection between human beings and their
technologies. For more information on this field check out
----Y. Harari (2015) “Dawn of the cyborgs: how humans will turn themselves into gods.”
Guardian (UK) online. www.theguardian.com/science/shortcuts/2015/may/26/cyborgs-how-
humans-will-become-gods-yuval-harari The Israeli historian Harari contends that only the very
rich will be able to afford the emerging cyborg technologies and will consequently enjoy far
better health and happiness than the rest of us. See also Harari (2016).
----O. Wainwright (2015) “Body-hackers: the people who turn themselves into cyborgs.”
Guardian online, August 14. http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/architecture-design-
blog/2015/aug/14/body-hackers-the-people-who-turn-themselves-into-cyborgs. An overview of
many of the devices people are now implanting into their bodies. See also B. Booton (2016),
Carroll (2014), Klotz (2016), Hudson (2017).
-----M. Gray (2015) The Brain Electric: The Dramatic High-Tech Race to Merge Man and
Machine . Farrar, Straus and Giroux. A readable overview of the technologies that are producing
prosthetic limbs and are allowing us to manipulate computers using our minds. The author also
describes applications of these technologies in other areas such as the military.
----P. Nowak (2015) Humans 3.0: The Upgrading of the Species. Lyons Press. Nowak presents a
nuanced future of our increasing cyborgization and enhancement technologies. While he is aware
of potential negative consequences of forthcoming technological and biological innovations, he
emphasizes the positive improvements possible by the same technologies.
----S.Bateman; S. Allouche; J. Gayon; M.Marzano; & J. Goffette (eds) (2015) Inquiring into
Animal Enhancement. Palgrave Macmillan. Chapters raise a number of conceptual and ethical
issues in the field of animal enhancement. The goals, techniques, and strategies of those working
in the field are covered. A thoughtful overview of the area of animal enhancement.
----R. Grusin (Ed.) (2015) The Nonhuman Turn. University of Minnesota Press. A most
interesting book. Perhaps our focus on and privileging of human beings needs to be superseded.
A wide variety of essays on emerging disciplines that focus on the non-human (animals,
technologies of all kinds, geophysical systems, etc.) and their implications for fields such as the
arts, social sciences, and humanities. This book will especially be of interest to transhumanists
and those who view the future in a far wider way that most of us presently do.
----Transhumanism: Rise of the Human Gods & Humanoids (2015). You tube:
----Transhumanism: Man Merging with Machine: Progress in 2016. You Tube.
For those of you who like visual presentations, the above are video
introductions to the ideas of those in the trans-human movement. These would be
useful to students at high school or university level.
----W. Barfield (2015) Cyber-Humans: Our Future with Machines. Copernicus books. A very
good overview of many present-day implants that extend the skills and abilities of human beings
in various fields. The book covers a large variety of topics including future questions of law and
policy. Topics covered include artificially intelligent brains, issues centering around freedom
regarding brain reading and accurate lie detection, hacking the body, sensors, and future mergers
with AI machines.
-----S. Gibbs (2016) ‘US military aims to create cyborgs by connecting humans to computers’.
The Guardian, Jan. https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/jan/20/us-military-cyborg-
connecting-humans-computers. Gibb describes a US program aimed at allowing soldiers to
(ideally) connect individual neuros to computers. This would allow more specific control over
movements and heighten hearing and vision. Those involved in the projects emphasize that we
are still in the early stages of such applications.
----Y. Harari (2016) Home Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow. Harvill Secker. The author, an
Israeli historian, contends that we are, for the first time in history, on the edge of transforming
human nature itself through our biological and artificial intelligence technologies. His concern is
that we are not aware of the consequences, and that a small group of entrepreneurs (from Google,
Facebook, and Silicon Valley) are making the decisions for us regarding the direction in which
the technology is taking us. Well written and thought-provoking. Highly recommended.
-----J. Gray (2016) “Humanity Mk 11: Why the future of humanity will be just as purposeless as
the past.” New Statesman, Oct 13.
will-be-just-purposeless-past A pensive review of Harari’s (2016) view of the changes on the
horizon that technology will remake human nature. Gray is even less optimistic about our future
than Harari. Gray is bracing as always.
----M. Roach (2016) Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War. W. W. Norton.
A review of the new technologies that are being used to keep soldiers alive and combat ready on
the battlefield. Roach actually tries out many of these technologies herself. If you are interested
in where military thinking is going this book will be of great interest. Covers topics such as
clothing, reconstructive surgery and relevant issues such as dealing with sleep deprivation.
----S. Gibbs (2016) “US military aims to create cyborgs by connecting humans to computers.”
Guardian, Jan 20. https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/jan/20/us-military-cyborg-
connecting-humans-computers This article claims the US military is hoping to turn near-future
soldiers into cyborgs by implanting devices into their brains that allow them to directly connect
with computers. While such devices could contribute to helping those with brain disorders, the
main impetus for such research may be military applications.
----Elon Musk (2016) “We’re already cyborgs.” The Verge, June.
Musk (always worth listening to) claims we are already all cyborgs on account of our digital
connections using smartphones and personal computers. He warns that if we don’t soon directly
connect our brains with digital intelligence we could end up as pets of future AI (artificial
intelligence/robots). Those refusing to cyborg-up will become the techno-rubes of the near
-----A. Garrison (2016) Mind, Machine, and the Empathic Revolution: Manifesto for a New
World. Create Space Independent Publishing. The author claims that a lack of empathy for others
is a major problem in the world today. He contends that technologies can be used to augment our
emotional intelligence and reduce the amount of suffering in the world.
----H. Wiseman (2016) The Myth of the Moral Brain: The Limits of Moral Enhancement. MIT
Press. Moral enhancement is a hot topic for some cyborg and transhumanism advocates. On
their view, implants might be able to alter the brain and increase the likelihood of moral
behaviour. This book says, “not so fast.” The author points out the sheer complexity of morality
with its myriad cultural, religious, group and individual influences. The author favours
biomedical contributions along with attention to religious community approaches.
----A. Maynard (2016) “Considering ethics now before radically new brain technologies get
away from us.” The Conversation, Sept 14. https://theconversation.com/considering-ethics-now-
before-radically-new-brain-technologies-get-away-from-us While the author acknowledges the
potential benefits of wireless implants in our brains for treating various neurological conditions,
he is concerned about their possible misuse – such as altering our thoughts, feelings and
perceptions without our consent. A useful update on emerging technologies is well presented in
the second part of the article. See also Warwick (2010).
-----S. Vallor (2016) Technology and the Virtues: A Philosophical Guide to a Future Worth
Wanting. Oxford University Press. A virtue ethics (character ethics) approach to many problems
in technology, including human enhancement (see Chapter 8).
---- S. Clarke, J. Savulescu, C. A. J. Coady, A. Giubilini, & S. Sanyal (eds.) (2016) The Ethics of
Human Enhancement: Understanding the Debate. Oxford University Press. Talk about cyborgs is
tied into the large area of human enhancement, and this book gives an overview for academics of
the debates between those who support human enhancement and those who are more cautious
and skeptical of what it promises to deliver and what we might lose. The purpose of the book is
to inform readers of the arguments on both sides and try and move the debate forward.
-----M. Hall (2016) The bioethics of enhancement: transhumanism, disability, and biopolitics.
Lexington Books. A very thoughtful Feminist-inspired overview of the political aspects of
transhumanist views on human enhancement and their tie-in to what is considered ‘best’ for
human beings, and who is left out. Provides a good summary of the blueprints of enhancement
strategies in the 20th century and their tie-ins with recent 21st transhumanist utopian ideals. The
book will be of special interest to those in special education with concerns regarding our Western
views of disabilities. Hall contends there are no moral obligations to enhance ourselves through
genetics or technologies, as some proponents contend. See also, the chapter by Linda Barclay on
enhancement and disability in Clarke, et al (2016).
-----S.K Nagel & P.B. Reiner (2016) “Embedded beings: how we blend our minds with our
devices.” Aeon Magazine, Oct. https://aeon.co/ideas/embedded-beings-how-we-blended-our-
minds-with-our-devices The authors believe that the extensive blending of modern technologies
with our minds threatens our autonomy and privacy.
-----A. Paliwal (2016) “Beyond sexual orientation.” Nautilus, Oct.
This interesting article does not directly address cyborg issues but provides important
background for thinking about the topic and gender. Argues for the fluidity of gender identity for
many people. A number of people experience changes in attraction and variability in sexual
identity over time. I’ve added this article to counteract the over-simplistic representation of sex
and gender predominant in discussions of sexuality, gender and cyborgs (especially in movies
and other media).
----A. Adams (2016) “Can a monkey type Shakespeare?” Stanford Engineering,
https://engineering.stanford.edu/news/can-monkey-type-shakespeare A report on a brain implant
that allows monkeys to move a computer mouse. The researchers (at Stanford University) are
working on several methods of interfacing with the brain. These brain interfaces will likely be
components in near future cyborgs.
---- H. Ellis-Peterse. (2016) “Racial identity is biological nonsense, says Reith lecturer.” The
Guardian, Oct 18. A good reminder that our notions of nationalism, religion, race, and sexual
orientation are cultural inventions of local identity. One hopes, consistent with the views of many
feminists, that in the near future, the development of cyborgian-related technologies will
undercut many of our simplistic binary distinctions. At the same time, we can’t rule out the
possibility that our human cyborg component will find new ways to dehumanize others.
---- M. Brownstein & J. Saul (Ed) (2016) Implicit Bias and Philosophy (vol.1 & 2). Oxford
University Press. Given the biological component of cyborgs and potential problems arising from
this, further thought must be given to the naturally arising biases associated with our nature.
These two volumes are aimed at academics and describe recent empirical literature on implicit
biases and their role in underlying structural and institutional inequalities in society. Several
ways of removing or limiting implicit biases are explored.
----Q. Moore & Richards-Kortum (2016) “Digital health devices are great, but their prices are
widening the health gap.” The Conversation, Oct 17. http://theconversation.com/digital-health-
devices-are-great-but-their-prices-are-widening-the-health-gap-63380. Many poor people cannot
afford devices that would improve their health, creating a gap in health care. Would this gap
widen in a cyborg age? (Also, Harari, 2015 & 2016).
----F. Van Scoy (2016) “Moving toward light at the speed of thought.” The Conversation, Oct.
An article that those in education will find relevant. The author says that human beings will soon
be able to communicate directly with computers, creating the possibility of new virtual
experiences in history classes, video games and other subjects. See also, Adams (2016).
---- “Artificial intelligence and life in 2030.” (2016). Can be downloaded (for free) at
A report generated by a group of leading academic and industrial thinkers. A useful read for
teachers and academics on what life may look like in a typical North American city 25 years
from now. Sections cover transportation, robots, health care, education, entertainment, security,
and the job market. An excellent non-technical overview of the field of artificial intelligence and
its possibilities. A good source of topics for discussion in the classroom. The report does not
discuss many of the issues brought up in this paper, and assumes human beings won’t be cyborgs
any time soon. It provides great background information for any such discussions.
----J. Booton (2016) “How I became a cyborg and joined an underground medical movement.”
MarketWatch, Dec 26. http://www.marketwatch.com/story/i-joined-an-underground-medical-
movement-but-had-to-become-a-cyborg-to-do-it-2016-11-15 An up-to-date description of an
underground (so far) American “bio-hacker” trans-human movement where people obtain
implants. This “cyborg culture” (the author’s expression) is largely (so far) focused on implanted
devices that monitor health.
----F. Klotz (2016) “What it takes to be a cyborg.” Motherboard, Mar 8.
Cyborg subcultures are arising in China, Malaysia, Germany, Sweden, the US and the UK. A
description of the popular devices people around the world are implanting in their bodies.
----E. Schwitzgebel (2016) “My daughter’s rented eyes.” The Splintered Mind (Blog), Oct 11.
Schwitzgebel is one of the most creative philosophers around and is always worth reading. In
this short science-fiction piece about how companies might encode software into their Cyborgian
products: a daughter is provided with rented-eyes that make the wearer turn toward particular
products in grocery stores. A cautionary tale. What Schwitgebel is suggesting is not out of line
with what we might expect from advertisers. Read T. Garvey (2016) The persuaders: the hidden
industry that wants to change your mind. Icon Books, led.
----M. O’Connell (2017) To Be a Machine: Adventures Among Cyborgs, Utopians, Hackers, and
the Futurists Solving the Modest Problem of Death, Granta, A fascinating set of interviews with
various types of transhumanists. All exhibit a strong faith in what technology can deliver in the
near future. A diverse set of interests are involved for the individuals interviewed. The topics
cover extending lifespans, curing disease, ending death, uploading minds to computers, being
frozen after death, etc. One individual is saving himself for sex-robots because they are less
likely to cheat on him and give him STD’s. If sex-bots develop high AI, could one cheat on a
sex-bot? This might be tied into the issue of obligations/rights for robots. [see E. Schwitzgebel
(2016) ‘We have greater moral obligations to robots than to humans’ Aeon magazine,
-----K. Warwick (2017) “A cyborg’s take on utopia.” IAI News, Feb 2.
Ken Warwick was likely the first person to incorporate cyborg technology into his body. A very
short essay tying in cyborgization with the human enhancement movement. Focuses on potential
enhancements that will provide us with extended abilities. His concern is that a gap or split may
occur between those who desire these enhancements and those who reject the technologies, for
whatever reasons. He asks,
“For those with the implanted technology, with the ability to communicate by thought, will
they really still want to communicate with ordinary humans who do not have the same
abilities? Or will they merely ignore them and get on with their technologically enhanced
lives? For you as an individual, would you want extra mental abilities or would you prefer to
be left behind in some form of sub-culture?”
See also https://iai.tv/video/cyborg-future and Warwick (2010).
----T. O’Reilly (2017) ‘What will our lives be like as cyborgs’. The Atlantic (online).
intelligence/543882/ An optimistic, wide-ranging overview of the influence of technologies on
our lives and future possibilities. Our technologies have always augmented us both physically
and mentally by providing an increase in knowledge and control over ourselves and nature. The
author does not share the doom and gloom scenarios of a number of observers of the AI field. He
contends that advances in AI and related technologies have great potential to simplify, make
more interesting, or make more available many of the activities we presently engage in along
with newer tools that enhance the quality of our lives.
----D. Robitzski (2017) ‘Researchers anticipate problems as cyborgs become a reality’ Inverse,
May 31st, https://www.inverse.com/article/32271-cyborg-research-issues-looking-forward
We tend to envy those who are richer and stronger than we are. Would we feel the same way
about cyborg individuals, as they enter society, who are stronger, or have more sensive sense
----W. Barfield & A. Williams (2017) “Cyborgs and enhancement technology.” Philosophies, 2/1.
http://www.mdpi.com/2409-9287/2/1/4/htm After reading Warwick (2010, 2017), a useful and
thoughtful follow-up would be this excellent article. A very in-depth overview of body
implantation technologies. The authors adopt a non-continuum view of cyborgs (“A person with
a heart pacer is a cyborg as is a person with an artiﬁcial arm controlled by thought” (p.2)). The
authors describe the wide range of medical and non-medical technologies that are or will soon be
available. They further introduce the likely effects cyborg technologies will have on our self-
identity and notions of human nature. A worthwhile article to discuss in classes in high school
-----A. Porter (2017) “Bioethics and Transhumanism.” Journal of Medicine and Philosophy, 42:
237–260. Porter introduces an entire issue of JMP devoted to transhumanism – a social, political,
and intellectual movement that encourages the use of technologies to improve human beings
with the ultimate goal of becoming “post-human.” Porter says concerns of “personhood” and
“moral status” will be central features of debates with the emergence of post-humans and robots
along with possible contact with extraterrestrial aliens.
-----M. Hudson (2017) ‘Beyond the five senses’ The Atlantic, July/August.
This article focuses on how our perceptions (literally) of the world might change if we “had new
and different senses.’ For example, what if we could hear pictures, acquire echolocation, see
ultraviolet, detect earthquakes anywhere on earth, and directly sense other people’s moods?
-----A. Martin (2017) ‘Transhumanism: the final chapter in humanity’s perpetual quest to be
kitted out in comforting accessories’ Independent (UK), Aug 24.
contact-lenses-a7909791.html . A short piece pointing out that we human ‘bags of water’ have
never been ‘naked apes’ but have always used accessories to cover ourselves and do things, and
becoming more cyborgy is just a continuation of this. Those who don’t ‘cyborg-up’ will end up
being the equivalent of the village idiot. Some fascinating tidbits along the way, did you know
Jules Verne ‘predicted newspapers made out of chocolate that you could eat after reading them,
or that Jules was not a big fan of bicycles? Neither did I.
-----A. Sagan & P. Singer (2017) ‘Do you want to be a cyborg?’ Project Syndicate, May 16.
agata-sagan-2017-05 The authors are sympathetic to Elon Musk’s view that we must either
become neurologically tied-in with computer in the near future or become eliminated by super-
smart AI in the future. This will, according to the authors, require experimenting on healthy
human beings and other animals and will also require relaxing the strict present-day regulations
on human participants in research. Reading this in conjunction with Ferrando (2014) and
Maynard (2016) will contribute to lively class debates for undergraduate students in philosophy,
the social sciences and technology.
---- M. Coeckelbergh (2017) New Romantic Cyborgs: Romanticism, Information Technology,
and the End of the Machine , MIT Press. A different take on our fascination with cyborgs and
other aspects of modern communication technologies. Much of our fascination with cyborgs and
robots is partly due to roots in re-enchanting the world that has been taken away by much of
modern science and technology. On the author’s view, Romantic philosophies of the last few
centuries and technology are more complexly tied together than we have typically thought.
----R. Blackford (2017) Science Fiction and the Moral Imagination: Visions, Minds, Ethics.
Springer. A useful overview of the recent history of science fiction by a philosopher concerning
how sci-fi has addressed a number of moral concerns over the last century. Chapter 7 is a most
interesting chapter for those interested in how science fiction has dealt with moral issues
concerning cyborgs, post-humans, human enhancement, and those who are ‘just different’. What
surprised me was that a good number of the concerns about enhancement technologies and our
interactions with ‘the other’ expressed today have been a central feature of science fiction writers
for a long time.
----B. Davies (2017) “Enhancement and the Conservative Bias.” Philosophy and Technology, 3,
339-356 A reflective consideration of the effects radical enhancement modifications we might
undergo could have on significant others in our lives who do not have, or do not wish to have,
---- F. Foer (2017) The World Without Mind: The Existential Threat of Big Tech. Penguin press
A strong critique of Silicon Valley and the increasing control tech companies are considered as
having on our lives: from collecting detailed on-line data about our private lives to subtly
influencing our beliefs and available choices by the selection of what information is presented to
us on-line. Foer contends that Tech companies are undermining democracy and individual
choice. In regards to cyborgs, what enhancements would be available and what secret
information gathering programs would be embedded in those technologies would be a concern
for Foer. Interesting book and a good source for the technophobe.
----S. A. Midson (2017) Cyborg Theology: Humans, Technology and God. Bloomsbury.
This book is different from the majority of other books and articles on the topic of cyborgs and
provides a theological interpretation of Haraway’s writings on cyborgs. Midson advocates a
‘theological cyborgology’ tied to relationships rather than focusing on cyborg components and
separateness from others and nature. See also, Gocke, 2018.
-----S. Perkowitz & E. von Mueller (2018) Frankenstein: How a Monster Became an Icon: The
Science and Enduring Legacy of Mary Shelley’s Creation. Pegasus Books. This book is
worthwhile reading alongside Coeckelbergh (2017). This book provides an overview of the
worldwide influence Shelley’s early nineteenth century novel Frankenstein had on both popular
culture and the ethical concerns it raised about the direction modern technologies are taking us.
The views of a variety of scientists, academics and artists are surveyed. Our notions of the
cyborg may be a contemporary Frankenstein figure.
----- Harari (2018) ‘Will the Future Be Human?’ WEF Annual Meeting Presentation.
Harari says No. Harari contends the most important influence on our future will be data
(especially bio-metric data). In the near future, Harari believes, humanity will split into different
species. While hacking today involves computers, in the near future it will involve hacking
-----D. Berlinski (2018) ‘Godzooks’ Inference: International Review of Science. 3, 4.
A sustained critique of the assumptions underlying Harari’s two books Sapiens (2014) and Homo
Deus (2016). Berlinski contends Harari’s views are guilty of Scientism along with the advocation
of very problematic guesses under the guise of serious speculation. He disagrees with Harari’s
notions that organisms and their consciousness and emotions are just biological algorithms, that
contemporary human beings are less violent than in the past, that free will is an illusion, that the
human mind is reducible to the brain alone, that in the near future we will lose our social
usefulness to artificial intelligence, that Dataism will be the unifying theory of the future, and
alleges that talk of Deep Learning isn’t very deep at all. Worth reading and pondering.
----L. Cabrera & J. Carter-Johnson (2018) ‘It’s not my fault, my brain implant made me do it.’
The Conversation, April 3. https://theconversation.com/its-not-my-fault-my-brain-implant-made-
me-do-it This short article brings up the important point that brain implants can “influence an
individual’s perception of the world and behavior in undesirable ways.” Where do legal and
moral responsibilities lie in such cases?
---- G. Bhattacharjee (2018) The Age of Man-Machine Hybrids. Dream 2047, November, 21/2.
A very understandable overview of the revolutionary changes technological changes are making
across the entire landscape. Contends future advances will make ‘pure’ human intelligence
redundant since we will all meld with AI, making talk of ‘us’ versus ‘them’ moot. A very good
overview of present day cyborg technology and future possibilities. A useful introduction for
discussion with high school or undergraduate college students.
----L. MacFarquhar (2018) The Mind-Expanding Ideas of Andy Clark. The New Yorker, April 2.
A wide-ranging interview that covers many of the influences on Clark’s views on a variety of
topics. Clark is an advocate of the ‘extended mind thesis’ that we cannot separate our mind and
self from the tools we use. This view has implications across a variety of disciplines. For
example, with the advent of widespread cyborgian technology our notions of privacy and
independence may change extensively, and perhaps for the better!
----B. P. Gocke (2018) Christian cyborgs: a plea for a moderate transhumanism.
Faith and Philosophy, 34/3, 347-364. The majority of articles discussing cyborgs come from a
secular perspective. While this reflective paper incorporates secular concerns about cyborgs, the
author contends that there is nothing in the transhumanist agenda that is necessarily at variance
with Christian beliefs. (see also, Midson, 2017).
----Popular Science (2018) Your New Brain: When Humans and Computers Merge. Popular
Science: Special Issue. pp. 70-81. The issue is devoted to ways we are upgrading the human
brain. The first section of the issue describes common myths we have about the brain, the lack of
interchangeability between the terms IQ and intelligence, problems with the accuracy of our
‘first’ memories, the teenage brain, ways to improve your memory, and ethics and
epistemological issue concerning lab grown brains. The second section on medicine oncerns
recent brain mapping, new migraine drugs, using electro-shock therapy for PTSD, the state of
our knowledge about Alzheimer’s, the present state of using wireless implants, and some
problems with the idea of head implants. The third section entitled ‘Enhancement’ includes
influences of recreational drugs on brain chemistry, medical drugs and brain function, artificial
neurons, implanting new (false) memories into our brains using CRISPR or nano-particles,
injectable mesh, longevity, intelligence and hormones. The final section, ‘Tech’ describes some
of the uses of brain implants for disabilities, communicating with patients with locked-in
syndrome, ad open-source brain-computer interfaces. An interesting short piece describes the
possible uses of brain implants to modify the brains of criminals, the possibility of mind-transfer
and mind-uploading and brain simulation. A nice introduction to the present state of human-
computer interactions for the curious.
----‘Cyborgs’ (2018) Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. www.sf.encyclopedia.com/entry/cyborgs
Science fiction fans will enjoy this overview. The entry distinguishes among different types of
cyborgs and includes reference to both Sci-fi novels and short stories involving cyborgs.
----J. Gray (2019) The new tech totalitarianism: when companies know more about us than we
do. New Statesman, February 6. https://www.newstatesman.com/culture/books/2019/02/new-
tech-totalitarianism . Gray describes concerns about the increasing capitalist surveillance that is
gathering more and more data on each of us. He contends that while more effective democratic
government might rein in big data companies to some extent, criminal and totalitarian regimes
will remain threats for the foreseeable future. Reading this article in conjunction with Clark’s
New Yorker interview (MacFarquar, 2018) may be enlightening here. If we all become part of a
human-AI connected world, the future might be very different from what can be imagined and
present-day concerns about individual data collection no longer an issue since we might all have
access to all of it.
----B. Anderson (2019) Researchers create ‘rat cyborgs’ that people can control with their minds.
Discover (online). http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/d-brief/2019/02/14/researchers-control-
rat-cyborgs-with-their-minds/#.XG2TLrh7nIU This article describes the recent use of brain-
brain interface where human beings can directly control the behavior of rats with their minds.
The article states that these technologies are still in their early stages and direct brain-to-brain
communication between human beings is still futuristic.
----F. Dyson (2019) ‘Biological and cultural evolution’ Edge, Feb 19.
Dyson expresses a concern that our new genetic engineering technologies, if “careless or
commercially driven …could make the concept of species meaningless, mixing up populations
and mating systems so that much of the individuality of species is lost”. In particular, a concern
is that the progress over the last few centuries toward a brotherhood of man could be disrupted.
While Dyson’s concerns focus on genetic engineering, the same concerns arise with the
technologies encouraging AI-brain interfaces and cyborg implant technologies that could
conceivably result in isolated communities of posthumans.
----M. Milford & P. Stratton (2019) A robot that can touch, eat and sleep? The reality of cyborgs
like Alita: Battle Angel. The Conversation, Feb 13, https://theconversation.com/a-robot-that-can-
touch-eat-and-sleep-the-reality-of-cyborgs-like-alita-battle-angel-110430 This article reflects on
the 2019 film ‘Alita: Battle Angel’ and its central star, a futuristic evil-trashing female cyborg.
The article enjoyably describes several of Alita’s abilities and characteristics (such as a location
-sensitive sense of touch and an antimatter heart) and their feasibility along with answers to
questions you have always wanted to ask such as ‘Will cyborgs need to eat/sleep?’ and could
they have a very long lifespan? (keep in mind cyborgs are part human).
----D.W. Pasuka (2019) There are no aliens….at least officially. OUP blog, Feb 25.
This article describes the commonly-held view among many technopeneurs that we are already
cyborg-like and will become more so in the near future. This strongly suggests that an intelligent
extraterrestrial aliens will be full-blown cyborgs. Suggests that a reason we haven’t found them
so far may be that we are either looking in the wrong places or haven’t developed the right tools
to detect them. This is fascinating stuff and a more wide-ranging and detailed account of these
views can be found in her (2019) book American Cosmic: UFO’s, Religion, Technology. OUP.
-----A.M. Habib, A.L. Okorokov, M.N. Hill, J.T. Bras, M. Lee, S. Li, S. Gossage, M. DRimelen,
M. Morena, H. Houlden, J. D. Ramirez, D.L. H Bennett, D. Srivastava, & J.L. Cox (2019)
‘Microdeletion in a FAAM pseudogene identified in a patient with high anandamide
concentrations and pain insensitivity’ British Journal of Anaesthesia, (available online March 28)
A5712AF63F17C3B87FEFEEFA205BD119E This article is interesting because of its
identification of gene mutations responsible for several qualities that would likely be desirable in
future soldiers. The woman described in this article has an insensitivity to pain and little anxiety
and never panics. A disadvantage, of course, is not being aware of problems in one’s body that
pain is a symptom of. Either CRISPR or implants could modify or control such gene expressions
for those desiring such changes. What I found of interest is how other, perhaps unanticipated
behaviors were also associated with the gene mutations, e.g a sunny disposition.
----T.K. Browne & S. Clarke (2019) Bioconservatism, bioenhancement and backfiring. Journal
of Moral Education, (online April 1). A critical examination of the global ‘backfiring’ objection
to future human enhancements---the view that such possibilities are likely to lead to problematic
outcomes. The authors contend a better approach to the consideration of particular human
enhancements should utilize a pragmatic cost-benefit analyses.
----S. Bullimore (2019) Cyborg technology draws FDA attention. Manufacturing Chemist, Mar.
ention/152388 With cyborgs becoming a reality, the American FDA is publishing a preliminary
regulatory set of guidelines on the technology: “The new guidelines consider not just non-
clinical testing and clinical studies, but also technical advice for the devices themselves, study
designs, and compatibility with blood and other bodily functions.”
----A. L. Reskies (2019) Neuroethics Fifteen years On. The Philosophers Magazine,
(Available online) https://www.philosophersmag.com/essays/196-neuroethics-fifteen-years-on
This article will be of interest to teachers in both high school and university. The issues raised
around brain stimulation and implants and their likely affects on our conceptions of privacy,
personal and self-identity, possible side-effects of such technologies and notions of moral
responsibility are those an educated citizenry need be both be informed about and have the tools
for intelligently entering debates on the topics. A great discussion piece for classrooms.
----J. Brockman (2019) (Ed.) Possible minds: 25 ways of looking at AI. Penguin Press.
The central focus of 25 leading scholars is on artificial intelligence (AI), and the topic is
approached from a variety of perspectives (the authors are from various disciplines including
psychology, philosophy, engineering, computer science, physics, etc). Given these differing
backgrounds, and that AI is in its relatively early stages, it is not surprising that the views
expressed are often at variance. While AI systems are presently superior to human beings at
specific tasks, the concerns focus on when AI will be developed with all around superior abilities
to human beings and whether this will end up a good thing or be not. It will be interesting to find
out what experts say in the year 2050 about the same issues. The topic is relevant to those
thinking about cyborgs because cyborgs will be interacting with AI systems and many of the
components of cyborgs may be designed by or incorporated into cyborg bodies.
----A. P. Vaccari (2019) ‘Why should we become posthuman? The beneficence argument
questioned’ The Journal of Medicine and Philosophy, 44/2, 192-219.
Vaccari criticizes the belief of transhumanists that we should become posthuman (a wide
meaning term that encompasses cyborgs) because it will lead to a better overall state for
humanity. The problem, the author says, is that transhumanist reasons lack specifics. “We need to
be convinced that [a posthuman future] will be either good or bad; and transhumanists have yet
to persuade ‘us’ of either conclusion”.