What is a cyborg, and are you one already?

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Over at The Atlantic, Tim Maly has summed up the dreams, anxieties and philosophical musings he collected last month though his 50cyborgs project that celebrated the coining of the term "cyborg" a half-century ago. He begins the article with a series of questions:

Because the word 'cyborg' is 50 years old, we wanted to have a party. We wanted to commemorate the longevity of a concept birthed in the heat of the space race, and schooled on the hard-knock playgrounds of science fiction and cultural theory. Cyborgs are a pretty big deal. They show up in our movies and books, our military R&D programs, our disability research, our dreams, and our arguments about who we are (and aren't). We wanted to invite all the cyborgs and have a big celebration.

Problems arose immediately. Who gets to come? The Six Million Dollar Man and Woman are cyborgs for sure. Probably Robocop and The Terminator too. Are Blade Runner's Replicants eligible? Does Iron Man get an invite? What about a person with a pacemaker? What about cochlear implants? What about hearing aids? What about glasses?

All that to say, what is a cyborg anyway?

Though the term was coined by engineers to describe how people would become technologically-augmented to survive in space, the many contributors to Maly's project (including yours truly) expanded and mutated the definition of cyborg to encompass everything from women taking birth control pills, to people transforming their healthy dinners into delicious deserts with head-mounted olfactometers that pump sugary scents right into the nose.

Maly explains, beautifully and entertainingly, where the term cyborg comes from and where it's going. If you've always wondered about the history of an idea that has transformed the direction of science fiction and science, this article is a must-read.


Check it out at The Atlantic.