Research + Essay | 2018
            The process of cyborgization
The process of cyborgization revolutionizes our thinking about the core of humanity. The technological expansion of the body seems to be the next logical step in development as human beings. Rapid technological change makes future developments hardly calculable. Technology is becoming smaller, cheaper and is getting closer to our bodies. Our environment is changing fast. On the other hand – human evolution is immensely slow progress. So how long will it take until we decide to merge technology with human bodies to enhance or expand it? Is that the only way to adapt to future challenges?
            Transhumanists pro-actively want to push humanity on its next evolutionary stage and see a lot of potentials. Others are afraid that we become more and more dehumanized, or see transhumanists as narcissistic egos. There is broad tension in the debate, however, the discourse leads to thinking about what it means to be 'human’ in the age of technology? Trying to answer the question first who or what is a cyborg might be the easier way to begin.

             Cyborg ≠ Cyborg
The term 'cyborg' is an acronym derived from the English 'cybernetic organism'. There are several definitions of cyborgs. From wearing glasses over wearables and exoskeletons to implants – there are different levels people call a cyborg. Nevertheless, there are important similarities. At this point, it is stated that a cyborg, in any case, is a human and not a humanized machine. Since cyborgs are technically altered biological life forms, they should not be confused with androids or robots.
            When asked about the purpose of the technical extension of the body, two types can be distinguished:

1. Restauration
The ‘restorative Cyborg’ describes the person who uses artificial components due to physical deficiencies to acquire his human biological abilities. Technology becomes a permanent non-human component and is considered as a form of therapy.

2. Enhancement
The 'enhanced Cyborg' uses technology that affects its cognitive, emotional, motor, sensory and social abilities from the outside or inside. In doing so, the scope for action of humans is redefined through technology.

If one leads the thought further, the question now arises, to what extent can man optimize himself? In the following two types of optimization are distinguished and will be illustrated by means of examples:

2. 1. Reinforcement
The human body can be enhanced by reinforcing limbs, senses or natural reflexes. Technology intensifies original human capabilities.
Examples: The reinforcement of limbs by exoskeletons or the technical extension of the eye, which allow night vision.

2. 2. Extension
The human body can be enhanced by adding technology to gain completely new capabilities. Example: An implant can create a new sense of electromagnetic fields.

Looking at the differentiation of different cyborgs, it becomes clear that humanity already lives in a cyborgized society.  Furthermore, it comes to the conclusion that the question is not whether we are cyborgs or not, but rather to what extent. To be part of the debate it is crucial to take a look at the origin. Compensating disabilities with prosthetics isn't new. But where did we start to enhance human bodies?

            Cyborgization
Looking at the differentiation of different cyborgs, it becomes clear that humanity already lives in a cyborgized society.  Furthermore, it comes to the conclusion that the question is not whether we are cyborgs or not, but rather to what extent. To be part of the debate it is crucial to take a look at the origin. Humanity always used technology in order to expand its capabilities and compensating disabilities with prosthetics isn't new. But where did we start to enhance human bodies? To be part of the debate it is crucial to take a look at the origin. The process of cyborgization can be seen as a continuum with different stages starting at the point where humans began to use personal computers.



The graphic shows the increase of technology with increasing human enhancement. According to experts, Biotech, Neurotech, Nanotech, and Artificial Intelligence will act as the biggest game-changers on the process. As Koert van Mensvoort says: "we live in a technology-driven life", humanity is intertwined with technology in a co-evolutionary process. (...)


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Research: Anna Foltinek, Josephine Rais, Lea Schwegler
Consulting:
Benedikt Groß, Prof. habil. Georg Kneer
Visualizations: 
Lea Schwegler
Text:
Lea Schwegler
Year: 2018





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