The Impact of Cyborgs on Society

The Impact of Cyborgs on Society

1. Introduction

Cyborgs not only have had an impact on society in the present, but the concept of them has had an impact on people many years prior to their development. The story of Frankenstein was created in the 19th century by Mary Shelley. The scientists in that era were starting to gain a better understanding of more sophisticated organs. This then led to more modern medical procedures. Victor Frankenstein, who was a dedicated scientist, wanted to create life and his success came when he made his monster. He had created life by using dead body parts and he had used his monster as a way to compare and contrast. His monster serves as an exemplum to society because Victor Frankenstein had shown that he could go beyond the boundaries of life to death and death to life. This is relevant to the cyborg in society today because it is a means of transferring from a fully organic being to machinery and back to being. This comparison and contrast can be interpreted by many as positive and negative.

The term ‘cyborg’ is a cybernetic organism that has both artificial and natural systems. Rene Descartes saw animals as machines and compared them to human beings in the aspect that they were fundamentally not different from man. The growing interest in machines and the increasing intelligence in them has led to a new technological revolution, such as the development of cyborgs. The role of the cyborg in society was thought about for centuries before the term cyborg came about. It was thought that in the future of technology, people would be given the chance to enhance themselves and given the opportunity to live longer. However, this has both positive and negative consequences.

2. Historical Background of Cyborgs

Joining the discourse and exploration of cyborgs and cyborg-related technologies to the previous essay, it is clear these technologies are to be part and parcel of an age which doubts the very essence of humanity.

Evidently, the recent development of biological and chemical weapons, and the expectation that research in these areas will be continued, have led to an insistence on the part of the military of deliberate use of these methods in a war, as they are more cost-effective and can be specifically targeted, posing a direct threat to human life and its survival.

This second phase also often goes unnoticed because of the commonly held belief that technology is a part of nature and that nature is in some way the given foundation of human existence. This is a position which in the long run serves only to sever the relationship between what we consider to be human and the rest of the world, and this must be questioned.

The recent acceleration of this relationship, due to the quickening of technological innovation and the availability of said technology, has led to the beginnings of the second phase we are now entering. Technologies such as the computer, the internet, various forms of information technology, and genetic engineering are obvious examples of this process. Often enough their effects were unpredictable.

In understanding the history of cyborgs, we must consider the advancements in technology which lead humans to consider or even require such integration. Beginning with the invention of simple tools and the effect they had on the shaping of human environments and bodies, there has always been a feedback relationship between humans and the things they create.

3. Ethical Considerations of Cyborg Integration

There are some who have set minds that no enhancement should ever take place. However, it is human nature that as long as there is a way to improve something, it will be tried, and bans on certain improvements will likely only lead to clandestine operations.

An example of this is when it is said that in the future, if gene therapy can be improved to the point where one can change their offspring’s eye color, it is likely everyone will have the same boring shade of brown eyes. This is because changing an attribute will seem abnormal, and it would be easy to change the attribute before the child develops emotional ties to it, and potential disappointment.

It is said that human beings are an inherently competitive species. We are always striving for ways to make our lives better, and should one person be allowed to enhance themselves in a way that is not harmful to others, it is likely that others will follow suit. If permission is given to enhance oneself, there are a wide variety of fields in which this enhancement can take place. These fields range from the medical to the mechanical, and it is likely that medical enhancements will prove to be most cost-effective, and therefore the most utilized.

Ethical considerations in the integration of cyborgs in society are in no short supply. Some ethical considerations include the idea of enhancing certain individuals beyond the common standard of “human”, redefining what it means to be human, and more. However, the best way to tackle this argument is to take an unbiased stance, weighing the pros and cons of this issue.

4. Applications and Benefits of Cyborg Technology

The potential of cyborg technology for our future healthcare is immense. Scientists have been experimenting with growing neurons on semiconductor surfaces, and it seems that the neurons can effectively exchange signals with the semiconductor, which may in the future lead to useful interfaces between the brain and electronic components. Likely applications of this phenomenon include artificial limbs controlled by the patient’s thoughts and the “neuro-stamp” mentioned previously. An early application may be the treatment of Parkinson’s disease and epilepsy with an implanted device that can control disordered neural signaling, and it is foreseeable that this will lead to many more types of therapy for a wide range of brain injuries and neurological disorders.

The way in which cyborgs can help people who are disabled is quite extraordinary. The rehabilitation of people who have suffered a stroke is a complex and difficult task. Often, the stroke is only on one side of the brain, which can paralyze the opposite side of the body. Scientists at the Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden are addressing this problem with the aid of a robotic exoskeleton that would help the stroke victim with their walking. This device will be controlled by signals from the brain and even has a learning capability in the control system so that it can continuously improve its movement in response to the individual patient. Another group of researchers in Japan is working on a power-assist suit that will aid the physical strength of its wearer and could be of great benefit to the elderly or disabled. Devices such as these have the potential to provide a significantly increased quality of life for people with physical handicaps and can be considered a form of cyborg due to the mechanical elements employed.

It is generally acknowledged that cyborgs will benefit humankind, at least in some ways. For example, researchers in the United States are developing a “neuro-stamp” that would be implanted into a soldier’s brain. This tiny device would monitor the brain activity of the soldier and his or her comrades to determine if any of them were experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, or depression. If any of these conditions were detected, the individual could then be treated earlier, thereby preventing more serious psychological illness from developing and even violent behavior.

5. Future Implications and Challenges of Cyborgs

From these implications, there are specific ethical dilemmas which would be brought back, some of which are similar to those faced in the era of designer babies and genetic engineering. The concept of a being which can artificially improve upon the natural human condition opens up the issue of ‘playing god’. What orders should be given to the initial creation of cyborgs? Where should the line be drawn on what improvements cyborgs can have over humans? How long would it be before there would be attempts to recreate the human mind in a more efficient manner? These are complex questions with no ‘right’ answers, and it is likely that they will require deliberation at length when and if such a situation arises. One could also see an issue arising on what stance various religious groups would take on the matter. It’s not inconceivable that at some point in the future, cyborgs could have their own beliefs and spiritualities. This would bring the issue of what it means to have a soul and life’s purpose and could lead to conflicts between differing groups of humans and cyborgs.

There are many potential future implications that the introduction of cyborgs could have on society. Although cyborgs may be able to provide convenience, easier ways of living, and even potentially work towards the reduction of limitations and disabilities, there will be a price. What will it mean to be a human if there are beings which are part human, part machine? What rights will cyborgs have? Will it be considered in the future that the ‘purely’ human race is superior, conceivably even to the point where discrimination may occur between the two groups? There is also the issue of how far the use of cybernetics will go. It is likely that in the beginning stages of research and development, only the rich will be able to afford such technologies. This may result in social divides and create a class of people who are physically superior to those who can’t afford cybernetics. Lastly, there is always the potential for some form of dystopia if technology is pursued too far. This is a motif which has been shown time and time again in science fiction, and it always seems to revolve around humanity delving too deeply into things that should be best left alone. With the continual blurring of lines that define humanity and machine, there is always the potential for unintended consequences.

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