Monday, May 15, 2006

Planet of the Cyborgs?

Recently I conversed with my favorite Arab philosopher Tololy about the idea that modern humans qualify as virtual cyborgs given that so much of their interaction with the world is mediated through machines.

This is not a new idea. I remember being exposed to it in graduate school in the late 90's. But the blogger phenomenom has given a new urgency to the idea. As a telecommuter, I communicate with my colleagues through e-mail and phone conversations. I don't live near any of my friends and even if I did, my schedule would rarely allow me time to set-up face to face meetings. Only with my wife and son do I have any meaningful encounters in the course of a regular day.

What does this signify for human relations? What is the upside? What is the downside? Let me think...


Tololy said...

I enjoy this topic immensely! I believe the upside is that you may be able to achieve more in little time. Having friends and people all around could distract you from work, it happens to me when I decide to talk to some people I work with. I end up wasting time.

Another pro for this is perhaps the "shield" it creates around you as a cyborg, you do not go through many face-a-face experiences that could hurt your feelings and what not. And if you do, it would be through a screen which makes the impact a lot less.

As for downsides, I think the major disadvantage of this phenomenon is the lack of "real", "physical", "concrete" interaction with other humans. Emotions, and the channels that convey them (such as gestures, voice, posture,etc) are crucial for a balanced life. Emoticons can try all they want but they cannot replace human feelings.

In addition to that, something that happens to me all the time, is the loss of touch with "reality" (whatever that may be). I sometimes wonder if I have actually lived some of my experiences that originated online, and I forget a handsome number of them, too! This is sanity-threatening, I am sure.

21stCenturyShea said...

Certainly the "shield" aspect of cyborg living is not without its advantages. However, I agree that an imbalance can occur without sufficient face-to-face contact.

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