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Following this memo is a document which discusses the ethical impacts of cyborg technology. This technology is quickly becoming a reality and although many of us are excited to see how much cybernetics can improve our quality of life, there are many ethical issues that arise. In my essay I will discuss the different types of Cyborgs, while also shedding light on many of the common misconceptions that are brought up. I also plan on discusses which aspects of human life the integration of cyborg technology would improve the most, and which industries will be affected the most by it.
I feel that the integration of cyborg technology with the human race is an unstoppable force. As technology continues to improve, humans will always look for ways to use it benefit themselves. Whether it is through the use of bionic implants, artificial organs, or prosthetics, cyborg technology has the ability to completely change modern medicine.
Following the evolutionary cycle, humans are forever changing.
Although we are unable to view this change due to the massive timeline that it encompasses, we are constantly growing and adapting to the world around us. By using cyborg technology to our advantage, and in a way that is ethical, we can speed up the evolutionary process. By speeding this process up, we could create a more efficient human race. However, there are many people that disagree with the points that I have just made. Cyborg technology is an ethically sensitive topic, and in the document that follows this memo, I plan on clearing the air and giving way to an argument for further research in the realm of cybernetics.
A cybernetic organism, or cyborg, is a being with both organic and biomechatronic parts. This term was coined in 1960 by Nathan S. Kline and Manfred Clynes in their essay, “Cyborgs and Space” a paper on humans and space travel. Whereas cyborgs are generally depicted as ruthless killing machines in many fiction novels and in movies such as the Terminator, they are actually quite the contrary. To future explore what a cyborg truly is, we must break them up into two types of technologies; Restorative, and Enhanced.
A restorative cyborg uses medical technologies to allow the user to adapt to different situations and integrate information from the outside world to produce a biological stimulus within (Gray). The key purpose of these restorative technologies is to repair broken processes in order to make them function normally. There is no enhancement to the original processes that were lost. These restore lost organs, limbs, and body functions. This is done through the use of prosthetics, artificial organs, and implants.
Enhanced technologies, follow the principle of achieving the most optimal performance. By using some of the same technologies as Restorative does, Enhanced cyborgs can expend minimal energy, while maximizing their output. While repairing the human body and increasing its efficiency seems like an incredible feat, there are many ethical issues that arise from it.
Opponents of the cybernetic movement bring up three main points when debating its ethical implications. The first of these points is that cyborg technology would remove the core of what makes each person different from one another. To explore this point in greater detail, i’d like to bring up another idea; Transhumanism. This term is essentially an intellectual and cultural movement with a goal of transforming humans into a form free of sickness, disease, and most importantly, limitation. While Transhumanism will in fact cause humans to transcend into a more efficient and purer form, I do not agree that it will turn all humans into carbon copies of one another.
Even with cybernetic influence, humans will never lose their individuality. Our society has forever been one affluent in culture and creativity. If nothing else, the introduction of cyborgs to the musical and artistic communities will inspire a whole new wave of ideas. Just as romanticism swept through the nation in response to the industrial revolution of the mid 1800s, and did away with classical ideas, a whole new era of culture will form as a product of our improved bodies and minds. Through cybernetics, humans will without a doubt live longer. Through this, the most influential figures of the future will have more time on this earth to inspire others.
The second point that is brought up by those who oppose cyborg ideology is: How will those who are genetically modified, interact with those who are not? Out of all of the arguments against the integration of cyborg technology, I found this one to be the most compelling. The opposition states that, only the richest one percent will be able to afford the procedures that would turn them into a cybernetic organism. I disagree with this completely.
As our society evolves, and new discoveries in the realm of medicine are uncovered, the worldwide level of health care will improve drastically. Today’s seemingly normal procedures such as kidney dialysis and chemotherapy will be replaced by more intricate and effective ones. Rather than operating on the various valves of the human heart like we do now, in the years yet to come, we will entirely replace the heart with an artificial one. These artificial hearts would drastically improve the quality of life for the recipient, and I truly believe that a procedure such as this will become as cheap and as routine as going in for a checkup.
Aside from that argument that only the rich will be able to afford cybernetic enhancements, the underlying point still remains; How will those who are genetically modified interact with those who are not? To further explore this point, you must look at in from a few different aspects. The first of these aspects would be; the workplace. With the introduction of cyborgs to the workplace, the pastoral idea of the common blue collar worker will become a thing of the past. Genetically modified humans would be able to work exponentially harder, and be able to produce a product in a fraction of the time.
As cybernetic enhancements are first introduced to society and are not yet a mainstream idea, the influx of these “Super-workers” will cause a massive uproar. Employers will soon only hire those enhanced workers, and turn away those who are not. For the time being, the unemployment rate will grow at an alarming rate. However, I do believe that this will only be temporary. In a growing technological age, the only jobs that will be done by cyborgs are labor intensive “grunt work”. Those who do not wish to undergo those procedures will get involved in more STEM related careers. I believe that this will actually benefit society and become a driving factor for people to achieve success.
Another problem that arises under the same point is marriage between cyborgs and non modified humans. Although I do believe that people should be free to wed whomever they want, I do see an issue with this. Because there has not yet been a female cyborg that has given birth to a healthy child, we are not able to tell how their enhancements will affect the genes that are being passed down. Before any conclusions can be drawn, this must be extensively studied. If cyborg mothers can safely reproduce, and birth healthy, thriving children, I see no problem with allowing cybernetic humans to mate with normal ones.
The third and final key point that the opposition of the cybernetic movement makes is; Biomechatronically enhancing humans goes against evolution. I find this to be the furthest thing from the truth. As stated by Charles Darwin, author of “On the Origin of the Species”, the theory of evolution adopts a principle known as “survival of the fittest”. What this means is that as society progresses, and the world continues to change, those who are unable to adapt will be unsuccessful in their quest to survive. By adopting principles of cybernetics, the human race will be able to rise above the evolutionary curve.
In order regards to evolution, I believe that there is an inverse correlation between fertility rate and intelligence. People who are successful in economic status and education tend to have fewer children. This means that there is negative natural selection for intelligence. To solve this problem, humans need to take control of the evolution of humanity, and in order to do so, must adopt the principles of transhumanism.
Transhumanism is, when looking at the underlying meaning of it, just ordinary Humanism extended to cover a broader range of potential future ethical issues. Transhumanism, is an ethical stance designed to allow free access to, and freedom to use, emerging technologies in order to improve upon the human condition. It also is coined to cover equal and fair treatment of all individuals who choose to use cybernetic technologies. These technologies will without a doubt emerge in the nearby future and be used with or without any specific stance toward their use.
A modern example of this would be the use of Performance Enhancing Drugs in sports. Regardless of how the public feels about them, athletes will continue to use them in order to gain a competitive edge over their opponents. Their legality will never be an issue for the athletes that use them, and even with new technologies in the form of comprehensive drug testing, athletes will still find ways to use them. Just like athletes use PEDs to boost them up to the highest tier of their sport, future humans will use cybernetic enhancements to improve their quality of life. I believe that there is truly no way around this. Regardless of the countless ethical issues that arise, people will always be looking for ways to rise above their peers.
I used multiple methods of data collection in order to ensure that I found the most detailed scholarly articles available. My primary data collection methods were: keyword based searches using Google Scholar, and Appalachian’s article search feature within the Belk Library and Information Commons. All of the information that I collected was secondary data because I was not the researcher responsible for gathering and recording the data. To specifically find the articles that I felt most accurately represented my topic, I formatted my searches in a particular manner. For instance, when searching for articles that included evolutionary details about cybernetic organisms, I used the phrases “Cyborgs and evolution”. I often replaced evolution with ethics, medicine, and industrialization depending on which topic I wanted to find.
Throughout my research process, I found the external reliability of my searches to be quite low. External reliability refers to the degree to which the researcher influences the results that he or she is receiving. The race, sex. gender. and age of the researcher can all affect the data that is being collected. Being a caucasian student, at well-known university, who used his school’s archives as his primary means of finding data, the external reliability that was generated was at a very specific level. However, I do believe that this is a proper level because I have to ability to generalize that data that I have found, and feel confident in my ability to form a detailed conclusion from it.
After explaining all of the ethical issues that arise from the topic of Cybernetic enhancements in humans, I would like to form a call to action. This is not an ethical analysis, but a series of persuasive arguments that I feel will influence the reader to see cyborg technology he way that I do. In summary, while I do feel that there are many ethical issues that surround the idea of cybernetic humans, I believe that this is mainly do to the way that cyborgs are portrayed in fiction novels. Restoring and enhancing humans would completely change the way we live and breath. Disease would be eliminated, humans would live longer, healthier lives, and less human lives will be shed on the battlefield. The integration of man and machine the future of our society, and is an unstoppable first. Although many ethical issues may arise, I truly believe that the pro’s of cyborg technology vastly outweigh the con’s.
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