I’m afraid we’re all going cyborg.
That might make you think of Luke Skywalker with his bionic arm, or Darth Vader. Maybe it’s The Six Million Dollar Man (well before my time) or some blend of The Terminator. A cyborg is just a mix of man and machine where the machine—the technology—extends the man.
Man and machine.
Do you see it? That screen you’re staring at, the one you’re holding in your hands, the one sending information directly to your brain through your eyes, the one doing your bidding through taps, scrolls, and swipes …
That’s your extended mind.
- When was the last time you went anywhere you’ve never been before without using an app to tell you how to get there?
- How do you get information?
- How do you order products?
- How do you broadcast your life, your thoughts?
And the more we rely on our phones to extend ourselves into the world, the more like cyborgs we become. Yes, the interface between our extended selves is clunky—synapses mediated through glass, WiFi, camera sensors, speakers and screens. Yet it’s your extended self all the same.
Reflect on that for a moment. How does that make you feel? And what what does it mean for you, for me, everyone?
Analog to digital
Real life is messy. You take in the world through your eyes, your feet, your smell, your skin. “Real life” is analog. It’s full bandwidth and continuous, all cylinders firing. You take in more information than you can process and your focus directs your mind. You send out more information through your body, your face, your actions and inactions. To the extent that you can “escape” from real life, it’s done by physically separating yourself from others. You can’t really shut it off. Though you try.
Digital is clean. You open an app. You scroll. You click. Your eyes take the information in through words and pictures. Digital is binary. 0s and 1s. So clean. You can only take in what’s there. Low dimensionality. Only what you want.
You want to engage with the world? Send out information, edited however you want. You want to escape? Close that app. (Or open another one.)
That space between
What about all that space between? What fills in the gaps between all the zeroes and ones?
That’s the question before us all. Because the more we engage through those extended pocketable and oh-so-pampered rechargable and inexhaustible brains, the more we reach out and touch a virtual world through the smooth touch of glass, the more we run from the real world, the more our minds must fill in the gaps.
And boy do they. Using whatever decompression algorithms we have, within the context of whatever mood holds us, under the pressure of news, anxiety, social feeds, personal philosophy, politics, whatever … we decompress all that’s presented to us. We bring that digital into our analog space. And though it’s as lossy, pixelated, and full of artefacts, because it’s the only information we have, we take it as truth.
This is life today. Zeros and ones served out and served up to us, held up as truth like so many filtered selfies, not real yet reality.
We’re going cyborg. And we need to face this and try to understand it. Because at some point the machine takes over.
Why does that happen? And what’s lost along the way …