Bionics: Cyborgs

Cyborgs! You’ve all seen them. Not only are they popular in Science Fiction, they are all around us. Some might even argue that Cyborgs are what make us human.

So what is a Cyborg? (From cyber and organism) A Cyborg is an organism that incorporates or is augmented by technology. Some Cyborgs use technology to replace missing limbs, or to see more clearly, or to detect bombs, or to play sports. Some Cyborgs have technology directly incorporated into their body, or worn consistently. Others are ‘metaphoric Cyborgs’, who use technology to do things, but don’t integrate it into themselves.

My Professor breaks Cyborgs down into a few groups:

Medical Cyborgs are perhaps the easiest to think about. Some examples are people who use wheelchairs, people with artificial limbs, people with pacemakers, people who have pins in their bones, people with glasses, or people who use an EEG-driven keyboard to communicate (like Stephan Hawking). These Cyborgs use technology to replace damaged parts of their body, or use them to fit in better with society.

Military Cyborgs go further. These Cyborgs use technology to augment themselves, surpassing the physical limitations of normal humans. This category can also contain things like bomb-sniffing locusts (Yes, those are real.), animals that the military augments to use in the performance of unusual tasks.

Sports Cyborgs use technology to play sports - and there’s usually some overlap with medical Cyborgs. This involves athletes who compete in wheelchair basketball, sled hockey, or mono-skiing. You might remember the controversy over the Olympic athlete who had blades instead of feet - people argued that it made him a better runner. Things like these are actually pretty popular, and, contrary to popular belief, not everyone who plays them are differently abled. Go check out some videos of wheelchair basketball - it’s amazing.

Finally, Social Cyborgs are people who use technology for social interactions. You might be one without realizing. One of my mothers, for example, participates in the HPKCHC on link:[Ravelry], a knitting competition. She has met many people online and formed real connections to them, despite never seeing many of them face-to-face. People do this all the time, so much so that you might not think of it as being a Cyborg at all. At it’s core online communities like Facebook or Ravelry act as a way to surpass our limited ability to socialize and find people with uncommon interests in common - expanding our abilities through technology.

Cyborgs are all around us! And that sentence probably sounds a lot less creepy than it would have at the start of this article. We use technology to do amazing things, sometimes without realizing that what we can do is amazing. That’s bionics, folks.