Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Cyborg Issues

Provoking, as always, Clive Thompson wrote a short blog entry on cyborg gender politics. Sometimes, I feel like I'm living in a future that I imagined when I was a kid, playing cyberpunk RPGs. I remember playing Cyberpunk 2020 and first confronting the idea that replacing chunks of your body with machine parts could screw you up psychologically as you drifted farther and farther from humanity. Now, we have amputees shining and decorating their robotic prostheses. And emergent gender issues.

Clive notes a double standard under which many women still feel compelled to hide their prostheses. In the comment thread, however, someone brought up Aimee Mullins, an actress/model/athlete. Mullins had her legs amputated at the age of one and wears prosthetic legs. She certainly doesn't rate as any less human than anyone else.

I think that with the elasticity of the human brain and our ability in incorporate new things into our bodies, our concept of humanity will probably change and grow rather than exclude those with robotic replacements/augmentations. Just as we don't think of people with glasses as any less human, we'll continue to view people as people, even as more and more machines are incorporated into our bodies.

UPDATE: Speaking of cyborg gender issues, I recently discovered SilverAJ, who has volutarily modified her body in some interesting ways. I don't think any of them are functional beyond visual aesthetics though.