Posts Tagged ‘ philip k. dick ’

A Sudden Insight on Cyborgs

Cyborgs actually exist. About 10 percent of the current U.S. population are estimated to be cyborgs in the technical sense, including people with electronic pacemakers, artificial joints, drug-implant systems, implanted corneal lenses, and artificial skin. (N. Katherine Hayles, How We Became Posthuman, 115.)

It’s sometimes hard for me to distinguish the difference between this technical definition of the cyborg and the more elusive, metaphoric definition. Probably because, writing about narratives and cultural constructions, I trade mainly in metaphors. But the fact remains, and it should be made perfectly clear, cyborgs are a reality.

A much higher percentage participates in occupations that make them into metaphoric cyborgs, including the computer keyboarder joined in cybernetic circuit with the screen, the neurosurgeon guided by fiber-optic microscopy during an operation, and the adolescent game player in the local video-game arcade.

In this way– as Haraway’s chimera, as the ever-shifting figmental blur– we are all cyborgs. In the way that Pattie Belle Hastings’ cyborg survey defines it, we are cyborgs. Is it okay for us to think of ourselves in this way? Does it mean anything that I can quite easily define myself and most of the people around me as cybernetic (wo)man-machine organisms?

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I am a chimera (Part 2)

Every junkie, he thought, is a recording. (Philip K. Dick, A Scanner Darkly, 159)

And, according to Christopher Isherwood in Goodbye to Berlin, perhaps he is more specifically a camera.

I am a camera with its shutter open, quite passive, recording, not thinking. Recording the man shaving at the window opposite and the woman in the kimono washing her hair. Someday all this will have to be developed, carefully printed, fixed.

Like a machine. Isherwood gives us the view of a posthuman subject. In this way, Isherwood’s detached self-as-camera and the perspective of the posthuman as addict agree. As indicated in part 1, the posthuman subject is a culture junkie, addicted to feeling. Without input to record, without images to photograph, he is like a blank disk, an unused roll of film. We see, perhaps we see more, but we feel only on cue, we feel what the image tells us to feel. And that is one interpretation.

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Where can I get some of that?

When I started Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? one of my first thoughts was, “a mood organ? I wish I had one of those!”

The mood organ (or Penfield artificial brain stimulation) is an invention that allows you to “dial” a given mood or feeling. The possibilities for such a device are enormous; the possibilities of abuse are even greater. The urge for me to dial a 481– awareness of the manifold possibilities open to me in the future– would be overwhelming and, like the novel’s protagonist, Rick Deckard, no doubt it would become a regular indulgence. An addiction.

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