Where do you draw the line between human and cyborg? Do we need one?

By | June 4, 2012
Implants into humans are becoming more commonplace in order to enable people to do things that they would otherwise not be able to do – in particular, allowing disabled people to function again. Let's call those people cyborgs, because in essence, that's what they are: humans enhanced with implanted technology. This goes for mentally as well as physically disabled people. But it also raises some interesting ethical questions: 

1. Do we need to recognize the difference between cyborgs and humans?

2. What enhancements should cyborgs be allowed to have? Should enhancements be prohibited in 'normal' human beings? Who should be allowed to become a cyborg?

3. Should cyborgs (or humans) enjoy special priviledges under the law? Or should they be treated equally?

I personally think the general answer should be no differentiation – although it may be arguable that certain criminals, once caught, may need to have augmented capabilities removed in order to become less of a threat to society.

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9 thoughts on “Where do you draw the line between human and cyborg? Do we need one?

  1. Víktor Bautista i Roca

    From wikipedia: «Harbisson states that he became a cyborg when the union between his organism and cybernetics created new neuronal tissue in his brain that allowed him to perceive colour through a new sense: "It's not the union between the eyeborg and my head what converts me into a cyborg but the union between the software and my brain".»

  2. Frédéric Bazin

    +Sophie Wrobel brain will face the same choices as  computers in terms of storage. it s a matter of few years until remote storage is always faster than local storage. so we will probably rarely go for pluging device to the brain like Johny's Mnemonic.
    Most of the computation will also happen in the cloud.  Local artificial intelligence assitant will not compete with crowsourced intelligence you get from the cloud services.
    I could say that using a smartphone you are already cyborg with external computing. Embedding this computing capabilities in your body would not bring much more value. But changing the Ux with new approaches will help. Some are coming soon like Google class or http://leapmotion.com/ and lot are to come.

    There will certainly be a bright future for pluging sensors IO device in your body rather than computing itself. mechanical extensions as well to enhance performance or replace damaged body parts will be the area when connecting to the body is worth the trouble.

  3. A. Halfdan Reschat

    1. Anyone with any kind of implanted technology is a cyborg. Does this make them less human? Not even in the slightest. Cyborgs are to non-cyborg humans as people wearing glasses are to people not wearing glasses, as people with rainbow colored hair are to people without rainbow colored hair. The distinction is made – but it has really no effect on the "human level" of the individuals.

    2. I think everyone should be allowed to become a cyborg if they want to or need to. As long as their enhancements aren't putting other people in danger, I don't see any reason not to allow the enhancements.

    3. No difference under the law. If one is in a place where concealed weapons aren't allowed, it doesn't matter whether this concealed weapon is in one's pocket or inside one's arm.

  4. Sophie Wrobel

    What is more interesting, though, is brain interfaces. What if you could just plug in a USB external hard disk and suddenly have the entire Wikipedia 'in memory'? That would be extremely useful in terms of identifying risks, patterns in history and things you should avoid, etc.  Would constitute be an unfair advantage?

    … or to go down the horror route, if you had steel claw implants like the X-Men? Or the Wall Street planners got a hold of it and can now mastermind better ways to rule the economic world?


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