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Computer Science
Bethlehem PA

Mommy? What's a Cyborg?

Jeff Maher on Tuesday, 25 April 2006. Posted in Coursework

It all begin in 1960 when Manfred Clynes and Nathan Kline wrote "Cyborgs In Space" for the journal Astronautics. Discussing ways that medical technology can be integrated into the human body to make it feel "natural" to be in space, the paper was what coined the term cyborg. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that the word cyborg comes from pairing "cybernetic" and "organism". Yet, despite the clearness of the word's etymology, there is a lot of controversy over what actually encompasses the essense of cyborg. For example, is someone with an artificial leg, pace maker, or even a cell phone headset cyborg? To add fuel to the fire, there are a great deal of social, religious, and political issues that arise with the coming of the cyborg. If a machine ever becomes self-conscious (a la Bicentennial Man) at what point do we give it rights? Does such a being have a soul or can it think about topics such as God or spirituality? Such topics are the things that we discuss on a daily basis in Cyborg Theory.

Cyborg Theory is a class that I'm taking from the Science & Technology Studies (STS) department. Taught by Dr. Deborah Blizzard, Cyborg Theory is a discussion oriented course that encompasses a wide array of issues regarding society's interpretation of what a cyborg is and explores the dichotomy that exists between man and machine. It is easily one of the most fascinating classes that I've taken at RIT and I encourage you to take the class if you ever get a chance.

For our midterm a couple weeks ago, we had our choice of watching either Ghost in the Shell or Gattaca and writing a 1,000 word essay on how the movie related to cyborg theory. Having seen Gattaca already, I opted to watch Ghost in the Shell - which was a great choice. Ghost in the Shell takes place in a future where nearly everyone is a cyborg. You might initially think it's your typical brainless sci-fi flick with robots running around, but it is most definitely not. The film manages to explore a plethora of philosophical issues in a mere 80 minutes. While the film does have some strange anime cliches, the package as a whole is an enlightening experience. Here are some essays from the class (I'm hoping to add a few others as I get permission from friends/classmates):

Ghost in the Shell

(From Ghost in the Shell, the construction of Motoko Kusanagi's body)