Thursday, March 8, 2007

"a Cyborg Manifesto"

Although I can relate to the idea of Haraway's "Cyborg Manifesto," I find it difficult to imagine a truly classless/ genderless/ non-racist society. In order to achieve equality, I think that the society would have to be composed of only one kind of organism/being that are exactly identical. Otherwise, indifferences will create competition. The theory simply does not make sense to me, and what would essentially be the point? Who would like to have the same existence as the person next to them, and they would all have to "die" and be "born" simultaneously as to not be able to be unequal to the next. It seems ridiculous, or maybe I'm just not getting it.

I think it is irrelevant what the discrimination pertains to, because at some point any difference can become a discriminatory trait. Think about the Nazis' many ways to distinguish a person as being inferior to the "superior" Aryan race. Moreover, different levels of knowledge, position in society/career, and the way one walks can all make someone "inferior" to the next. Also, in order to eliminate racism, I think that identifying labels would have to be expelled. When we identify a person/people with their race, I think that it in itself is a form of racism. Do we identify everyone by their race? It simply categorizes people into different segments. So, back on the cyborg theory, won't there be newer/different/better cyborgs? Maybe they could be genderless (although we have seen the complete opposite of that), but they could fit into different classes/races. Also, I know we are discussing humanity, but what about everything else that is living-the entire ecosystem of the Earth? Are they not included? Do they not count?

On the issue of what defines a cyborg...I really have no idea. Today, we learned four different definitions. Personally, I have wires holding my breastbone together and some synthetic something that repaired my heart. Does that make me a cyborg? Maybe, I guess. Am I less human? Sure, I think so. I would not be here had I not had these manufactured parts put in me, and
whenever I have stitches (which is too frequently since I'm a "clutz"), I feel like Frankenstein or something. Because I have these inorganic parts, I think quantifies me as less human than to someone that came out "perfect" and is all "intact."

In considering the comment about having to take a drug or you will die, I would say that would make someone less human and a bit of a cyborg.
You are putting something "inorganic" (in a way) into your body, so you can exist and keep the organs functioning. However, taking a manufactured substance to prevent someone from being psychotic/depressed/schizophrenic is different to me. I think that it too makes you less human, but I do not think it is physically necessary for one to live.


Kirk Plankey said...

Terra, I made a similar point about Haraway's utopian ideal of and entopic homeostatic social system. I do not think that she is arguing for a "genderless" society per se, but that if we erase the definitions or boundaries that differentiate us and make us individuals we might just have to be left with the society as you portray it.

If we do not end up in the society you describe, I find it hard to believe that because of differentiation between individuals and groups of individuals will not turn into some sort of discrimination. Any kind of difference can be used to create (as you point out with the Jewish culture) discrimination. And as I pointed out in class it seems to literally always boil down to surival and the goal of control and power in order to ensure survival.

But I want to raise a question about how you make a differentiation betweeen cyborg and human in your comments. Both in regards to using yourself as an example and as well as when you referred to someone who uses synthetic drugs or chemicals as well as drugs for mental disease, you said that they and you were "less than human." This, at least as far as I can tell, is meant in a demeaning and derogatory sense. Why can't these others and yourself be "other than human" rather than less?

Perhaps the classification of "post-human" would also work better. Your wording is how most of us and our society would react to these cyborgs, these less than human, i.e. inhuman beings. To say that someone is less than human is already to start the discrination that it seems Haraway wants to steer us away from. Whether that differentiation is female, black, Jew, cyborg or other. Anything "less than human" opens the door to exploitation and domination. The exploitation and domination that the desire for power, control and survival will use for its own ends.

terra said...

Kirk...It was not my intention to be demeaning, derogatory, offensive. It was simply my reaction/opinion of how to relate the cyborg theme to our current culture. I'm not sure what you meant by "less than human". I was implying that those that cannot physically survive without man-made substances/parts could personally feel/be considered "less human" (perhaps just simply different) than the next who has not been altered by science...not "less than human" or another being entirely. So, I guess maybe all I meant was that I'm a human that has been altered by science which whether or not that is like a cyborg...I do not know. It seems that the definition of "cyborg" is fairly vague and up for interpretation. Also, I do not understand how I could consider myself other than human. Wouldn't I need to be more non-human (as in a percentage) than human to quantify me as not human or another being? (similar to a "liger"...1/2 tiger/1/2 lion)

Mike Anzia said...

I would like to comment on the differences in society.

By these definitions and comments, it would seem that the world would be a better place if everyone were the same, or held equal status, etc (i.e. Socialist/Communist). However, should that ever be the case, wouldn't we all be cyborgs then? Everyone would be exactly the same, no one would be superior or inferior to anyone else, but what would be the point of living then? If we were all the same, what would we strive for? What would we be willing to risk for? Would there be anything to risk?

The Aryan race part was an example of making a non distinguished society. Genetically, blonde hair and blue eyes are recessive, so if everyone had those traits, then no one would be different, and there would (theoretically) be no way of the "pure" race being "tarnished". And again, what would be the point? No one is different, so everyone would have been engineered to be like everyone else.

Finally, using various drugs could make a person less human, as they are used to treat the "imperfections" of people, although I would only include those that affect the mind (not just anti-depressants, but others such as alcohol), since these are developed to control the mind, so to speak. I'm not saying that others have the control over the other person, but it makes them how society wants them to be. Sometimes its good, sometimes its bad, but the person has to really want it, and not have it forced upon them. It isn't necessary, as Terra mentioned, but I don't feel that it makes anyone less human to take a pill.

As part of my research for the wiki, I've found the idea of making a cyborg butterfly. A chip would be implanted into the nervous system of a larva, and would allow people to control its actions ( this would be used, according to the article, as a counter-terrorism weapon, though I'm not sure on the specifics of it.). This would be a better example of a cyborg or android.

To me, being a cyborg would require someone to have full control of one's actions, physical makeup, etc, or for the person to have mental control over a machine.