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We Are All Cyborgs Now: Technology Is Evolving Humans
What is a Cyborg? Amber Case, cyborg anthropologist, defines cyborg as “an organism to which exogenous components have been added for the purpose of adapting to new environments”. This definition came from a 1960 paper on space travel and described astronauts.
New Form of Homo Sapiens Traditional anthropology would observe and report on countries – the people, tools, and culture. Amber Case says anthropologists have suddenly found a new species – a new form of homo sapiens with “fascinating cultures” and “curious rituals” around technology. “They’re clicking on things and staring at screens”.
Extension of the Mental Self Case notes that “Tool use in the beginning, for thousands and thousands of years, everything has been a physical modification of self. It has helped us to extend our physical selves, go faster, hit things harder, and there’s been a limit on that. But now what we are looking at is not an extension of the physical self, but an extension of the mental self. And because of that we are able to travel faster, communicate differently.” If you lose your information, from your technology (e.g. computer, cell phone) you “suddenly have this loss in your mind”, “you feel like something is missing.”
Second Self People now have an online life, a digital life, as well as a physical life, an analog life. People can interact with your second self when you are not there (online) on sites such as Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, etc. Now people have to maintain their second self. Case says, “You have to present yourself in digital life in a similar way you would in your analog life.” People now have a “digital self.”
Time and Space Compression Technology has enabled people to compress time and space. Case says “everyone is carrying around wormholes in their pockets” – cell phones that instantly allow mental transportation to another part of the world. Physical transport is no longer necessary. “You can stand on one side of the world, whisper something, and be heard on the other.”
Simultaneous Time & Ambient Intimacy Instantaneous and continuing information is flowing towards and into a person nowadays – simultaneous time. Everything – communication, news, events – is simultaneous and ongoing. Ambient intimacy – “At anytime, we can connect to anyone we want”. There are psychological effects to this, both simultaneous time and ambient intimacy: “People aren’t taking time for mental reflection anymore, and they aren’t slowing down and stopping, being around all those people in the ‘room’ all the time”. ‘Room’ meaning everyone a person can instantly contact via cell phone especially but also online. These people are “trying to compete for their attention on the simultaneous time interfaces.”
Creation of Self Case is concerned, “When you have no external input, that is a time when there is a creation of self, when you can do long-term planning, when you can try and figure out who you really are. And when you do that you can figure out how to present your second self in a legitimate way, instead of just dealing with everything as it comes in. Kids today have an instantaneous button-clicking culture.”
Humans and Technology Co-Creating Each Other When visualize all the connections, such as a map of the Internet (see image below video), Case notes, “It doesn’t look technological, it actually looks very organic. This is the first time in the entire history of humanity that we’ve connected this way. And it’s not that machines are taking over, it’s that they are helping us to be more human, helping us to connect with each other. The most successful technology gets out of the way and helps us live our lives. And really, it ends up being more human than technology because we are co-creating each other all the time. We’re just increasing our humanness and our ability to connect with each other, regardless of geography.”
TED Talks ”We Are All Cyborgs Now Technology is evolving us, says Amber Case, as we become a screen-staring, button-clicking new version of homo sapiens. We now rely on “external brains” (cell phones and computers) to communicate, remember, even live out secondary lives. But will these machines ultimately connect or conquer us? Case offers surprising insight into our cyborg selves.
The Opte Project Map of the Internet
About Amber Case, Cyborg Anthropologist
(TED Talks) Amber Case studies the symbiotic interactions between humans and machines — and considers how our values and culture are being shaped by living lives increasingly mediated by high technology. Amber Case is a cyborg anthropologist, examining the way humans and technology interact and evolve together. Like all anthropologists, Case watches people, but her fieldwork involves observing how they participate in digital networks, analyzing the various ways we project our personalities, communicate, work, play, share ideas and even form values. Case founded Geoloqi.com, a private location-sharing application, out of a frustration with existing social protocols around text messaging and wayfinding.Case, who predicts that intensification of the human-technology interface will quickly reduce the distance between individual and community, believes that the convergence of technologies will bring about unprecedented rapid learning and communication. Dubbed a digital philosopher, Case applies her findings to such fields as information architecture, usability and online productivity. She’s currently working on a book about using anthropological techniques to understand industry ecosystems.
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