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Exploring Cyborgs And Humanity In Literature

2347 words - 9 pages

Throughout the development of science fiction literature and cinema different writers and directors have woven technology and humanity together in sometimes radical and provocative ways. One corner stone of the science fiction genre is the idea of a cyborg, a part-human part-machine being who, usually, is either the hero or villain in the work. Many authors have interpreted what constitutes a cyborg in drastically different ways, with some only having mechanical appendages and others almost wholly machine. This makes defining what exactly a cyborg is nearly impossible. The definition of a cyborg is dependent on what the definition of being a human means.
Woman on the Edge of Time is a science fiction novel about a woman named Connie, living in the 70s and considered crazy. Connie has the ability to travel to the future, 2137 to be exact through her mind to visit a future being Luciente. This future is very different from the New Yorker world Connie is apart of, in this future there is no discrimination among people, there is communal ownership of most property and this future uses “brooder[s]…where the embryos grow” or “bottle babies” not birthed naturally (Piercy 108). In this future women gave up the “original production: the power to give birth” for equality for everyone (112). Connie at first is disgusted by the idea of babies no longer being birthed but almost mechanically made as Connie visits the future more though she slowly becomes less disturbed by the idea. To Connie birth is an essential part of what it means to be human as Connie was a mother herself, so these “bottle babies” were foreign and unnatural to Connie (108). By Connie’s definition of what a human is the babies born in the future could be seen as a type of cyborg because of their unnatural birth.
“Exhalation” by Ted Chiang is a short story of an alternative future world were humans no longer breathe air but argon and have “filling stations” where people do to “remove [their] empty [lungs] from [their] chest[s] and replace them with full ones” (Chiang 743). The robotic lungs of these futuristic people gives rise to the question of how human these people actually are. Does having robotic appendages or organs make a person a cyborg? Also, what happens when the brain of a being is also mechanical in anatomy? In “Exhalation” the main character “dissect[s his] own brain” which is made up of a “dozen or more subassemblies” and mechanical parts (747). In dissecting his own brain the main character not only discovers how memories are held but why all the clocks in this futuristic world seem to be running slow. If one looks solely at the robotic features of the characters in “Exhalation” it seems as though these futuristic beings are more robot than person, but if one were to take out all of the robotic descriptions in the short story the main character seems very human with his emotions. Once the main character discovers the mystery of the slow running clocks, and that it...

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