A cyborg is a cybernetic organism (i.e., an organism that has both artificial and natural systems). The term was coined in 1960 when Manfred Clynes and Nathan Kline used it in an article about the advantages of self-regulating human-machine systems in outer space. D. S. Halacy's Cyborg: Evolution of the Superman in 1965 featured an introduction by Manfred Clynes, who wrote of a "new frontier" that was "not merely space, but more profoundly the relationship between 'inner space' to 'outer space' -a bridge...between mind and matter. The cyborg is often seen today merely as an organism that has enhanced abilities due to technology, but this perhaps oversimplifies the category of feedback.
Fictional cyborgs are portrayed as a synthesis of organic and synthetic parts, and frequently pose the question of difference between human and machine as one concerned with morality, free will, and empathy. Fictional cyborgs may be represented as visibly mechanical (e.g. the Borg in the Star Trek franchise or Amber from the game Project Eden); or as almost indistinguishable from humans (e.g. the "Human" Cylons from the re-imagining of Battlestar Galactica). One of the most famous fictional cyborgs was the Six Million Dollar Man, an American television series about a fictional cyborg. These fictional portrayals often register our society's discomfort with its seemingly increasing reliance upon technology, particularly when used for war, and when used in ways that seem to threaten free will. They also often have abilities, physical or mental, far in advance of their human counterparts (military forms may have inbuilt weapons, amongst other things). Real cyborgs are more frequently people who use cybernetic technology to repair or overcome the physical and mental constraints of their bodies. While cyborgs are commonly thought of as mammals, they can be any kind of organism.
The prefix "cyber-" is also used to address human-technology mixtures in the abstract. This includes artifacts that may not popularly be considered technology. Pen and paper, for example, as well as speech, language. Augmented with these technologies, and connected in communication with people in other times and places, a person becomes capable of much more than they were before. This is like computers, which gain power by using Internet protocols to connect with other computers. Cybernetic technologies include highways, pipes, electrical wiring, buildings, electrical plants, libraries, and other infrastructure that we hardly notice, but which are critical parts of the cybernetics that we work within.
Bruce Sterling in his universe of Shaper/Mechanist suggested an idea of alternative cyborg called Lobster, which is made not by using internal implants, but by using an external shell (e.g. a Powered Exoskeleton). Unlike human cyborgs that appear human externally while being synthetic internally, a Lobster looks inhuman externally but contains a human internally. The computer game Deus Ex: Invisible War prominently featured three clans of Omar, where "Omar" is a Russian translation of the word "Lobster" (since the clans are of Russian origin in the game).
Their concept was the outcome of thinking about the need for an intimate relationship between human and machine as the new frontier of space exploration was beginning to take place. A designer of physiological instrumentation and electronic data-processing systems, Clynes was the chief research scientist in the Dynamic Simulation Laboratory at Rockland State Hospital in New York.
However this may not have been the earliest use. Five months earlier The New York Times had printed:
A book titled Cyborg: Digital Destiny and Human Possibility in the Age of the Wearable computer was published by Doubleday in 2001. Some of the ideas in the book were incorporated into the 35mm motion picture film Cyberman.
In current prosthetic applications, the C-Leg system developed by Otto Bock HealthCare is used to replace a human leg that has been amputated because of injury or illness. The use of sensors in the artificial C-Leg aids in walking significantly by attempting to replicate the user's natural gait, as it would be prior to amputation. Prostheses like the C-Leg and the more advanced iLimb are considered by some to be the first real steps towards the next generation of real-world cyborg applications. Additionally cochlear implants and magnetic implants which provide people with a sense that they would not otherwise have had can additionally be thought of as creating cyborgs.
In 2002,under the heading Project Cyborg, a British scientist, Kevin Warwick, had an array of 100 electrodes fired in to his nervous system in order to link his nervous system into the internet. With this in place he successfully carried out a series of experiments including extending his nervous system over the internet to control a robotic hand, a form of extended sensory input and the first direct electronic communication between the nervous systems of two humans.
Many people could be making the transition to cyborg sooner than they thought. Applied Digital Solutions leads in the development of the human implant RFID chip. This small, rice sized chip has been marketed to help track medical records and keep credit information safe and convenient . Although there is a large community that is critical of this technology, RFID technology has done well in the past as a tracking chip in the industrial world (RFID's reduction for out-of-stock study at Wal-Mart, RFID radio), and for tracking pets and endangered wildlife (USDA Bets the Farm on Animal ID Program). This in effect turns all chipped people or organisms into cyborgs, which is also a source of discomfort to some. The critics of this movement claim that chipping people is an invasion of privacy .
On the contrary, the enhanced cyborg “follows a principle, and it is the principle of optimal performance: maximising output (the information or modifications obtained) and minimising input (the energy expended in the process) ”. Thus, the enhanced cyborg intends to exceed normal processes or even gain new functions that were not originally present.
Although prostheses in general supplement lost or damaged body parts with the integration of a mechanical artifice, bionic implants in medicine allow model organs or body parts to mimic the original function more closely. Michael Chorost wrote a memoir of his experience with cochlear implants, or bionic ear, titled "Rebuilt: How Becoming Part Computer Made Me More Human." Jesse Sullivan became one of the first people to operate a fully robotic limb through a nerve-muscle graft, enabling him a complex range of motions beyond that of previous prosthetics. By 2004, a fully functioning artificial heart was developed. The continued technological development of bionic and nanotechnologies begins to raise the question of enhancement, and of the future possibilities for cyborgs which surpass the original functionality of the biological model. The ethics and desirability of "enhancement prosthetics" have been debated; their proponents include the transhumanist movement, with its belief that new technologies can assist the human race in developing beyond its present, normative limitations such as ageing and disease, as well as other, more general incapacities, such as limitations on speed, strength, endurance, and intelligence. Opponents of the concept describe what they believe to be biases which propel the development and acceptance of such technologies; namely, a bias towards functionality and efficiency that may compel assent to a view of human people which de-emphasises as defining characteristics actual manifestations of humanity and personhood, in favour of definition in terms of upgrades, versions, and utility.
One of the more common and accepted forms of temporary modification occurs as a result of prenatal diagnosis technologies. Modern parents willingly use testing methods such as ultrasounds and amniocentesis to determine the sex or health of the fetus. The discovery of birth defects or other congenital problems by these procedures may lead to neonatal treatment in the form of open fetal surgery or the less invasive fetal intervention.
A brain-computer interface, or BCI, provides a direct path of communication from the brain to an external device, effectively creating a cyborg. Research of Invasive BCIs, which utilize electrodes implanted directly into the grey matter of the brain, has focused on restoring damaged eye sight in the blind and providing functionality to paralysed people, most notably those with severe cases, such as Locked-In syndrome.
Retinal implants are another form of cyborgization in medicine. The theory behind retinal stimulation to restore vision to people suffering from retinitis pigmentosa and vision loss due to aging (conditions in which people have an abnormally low amount of ganglion cells) is that the retinal implant and electrical stimulation would act as a substitute for the missing ganglion cells (cells which connect the eye to the brain).
While work to perfect this technology is still being done, there have already been major advances in the use of electronic stimulation of the retina to allow the eye to sense patterns of light. A specialized camera is worn by the subject (possibly on the side of a their glasses frames) the camera converts the image into a pattern of electrical stimulation. A chip located in the users eye would then electrically stimulate the retina with this patten and the image appears to the user. Current prototypes have the camera being powered by a hand sized power supply that could be placed in a pocket or on the waist.
Currently the technology has only been tested on human subject for brief amounts of time and the amount of light picked up by the subject has been minimal. However, if technological advances proceed as planned this technology may be used by thousands of blind people and restore vision to most of them.
Military organizations' research has recently focused on the utilization of cyborg animals for inter-species relationships for the purposes of a supposed a tactical advantage. DARPA has announced its interest in developing "cyborg insects" to transmit data from sensors implanted into the insect during the pupal stage. The insect's motion would be controlled from a MEMS, or Micro-Electro-Mechanical System, and would conceivably surveil an environment and detect explosives or gas. Similarly, DARPA is developing a neural implant to remotely control the movement of sharks. The shark's unique senses would be exploited to provide data feedback in relation to enemy ship movement and underwater explosives.
Other proposals have integrated the mechanical into the intuitive abilities of the individual soldier. Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley have set out to "create an exoskeleton that combines a human control system with robotic muscle. The device is distinctly Cyborgian in that it is self-powered, and requires no conscious manipulation by the pilot soldier. The exoskeleton responds to the pilot, through constant computer calculations, to distribute and lessen weight exerted on the pilot, allowing hypothetically for soldiers to haul large amounts of medical supplies and carry injured soldiers to safety.
The cyborgization of sports has come to the forefront of the national consciousness in recent years. Through the media, America has been exposed to the subject both with the BALCO scandal and the accusations of blood doping at the Tour de France levied against Lance Armstrong and Floyd Landis. But, there is more to the subject; steroids, blood doping, prosthesis, body modification, and maybe in the future, genetic modification are all topics that should be included within cyborgs in sports.
As of now, prosthetic legs and feet are not advanced enough to give the athlete the edge, and people with these prosthetics are allowed to compete, possibly only because they are not actually competitive in the Ironman event among other such -athlons. Prosthesis in track and field, however, is a budding issue. Prosthetic legs and feet may soon be better than their human counterparts. Some prosthetic legs and feet allow for runners to adjust the length of their stride which could potentially improve run times and in time actually allow a runner with prosthetic legs to be the fastest in the world. One model used for replacing a leg lost at the knee has actually improved runners' marathon times by as much as 30 minutes. The leg is shaped out of a long, flat piece of metal that extends backwards then curves under itself forming a U shape. This functions as a spring, allowing for runners to be propelled forward with by just placing their weight on the limb. This is the only form that allows the wearer to sprint.
Art has become a successful way to make people aware of the concept of Cyborgology. Because the word itself has a connotation of science fiction, people tend to believe that cyborgs exist only in the imagination of writers and artists. Some artists, like Isa Gordon, focus their work on cyborg awareness and the concept of merging humans and machines.
There are many types of art that work towards creating awareness about cybernetic organisms (or cyborgs). These can range from paintings to installations. Some artists who create such works are Motohiko Odani, Nick Lampert, Patricia Peccinin, Jenifer Gonzalez (who has an article on the book The Cyborg Handbook by Chris Hables Gray), and Orlan and Stelarc (who appear on the book The Cyborg Experiments by Zylinska).
Artists using cyborgs as subjects: Nick Lampert: http://www.machineanimalcollages.com/ Patricia Peccinini: http://patriciapiccinini.net/ Simbiotica and Oron Catts: http://www.symbiotica.uwa.edu.au/ Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle: http://www.guggenheim.org/exhibitions/past_exhibitions/moving_pictures/highlights_15a.html
Man-machine hybridization is even beginning to manifest in the artistic process itself, with computerized drawing pads replacing pen and paper, and drum machines becoming nearly as popular as human drummers. This is perhaps most notable in generative art/music. Composers such as Brian Eno have developed and utilized software which can build entire musical scores from a few basic mathematical parameters.