External Cyborg

I’ve been away for two days doing important things like eating baked rice and drinking beer. Other things occurred, but they matter naught. This was why yesterday was postless.

(I make up the rules. You were never in control.)

Today is what matters. Today is the day we find out more about Deus Ex: Human Revolution. That makes today a good day to talk about what I’m going to talk about.

Like a knife made out of adrenaline, the trip has brought into sharp focus something that’s been gnawing away at the back of my mind, slowly nibbling its way to the front, where it can finally get some air time. It’s taken my consciousness hostage, and it’s going to have its record played! It all started with Jim posting a wordthinks sometime last year.

Here is that wordthinks.

In the article, Jim lays out the idea that, despite the general definition of a cyborg being a physically augmented human being, he could be considered a ‘virtual cyborg’, because he spends so much of his time in virtual worlds, using games as a prosthesis, something to enhance and satiate his imagination and lust for escapism. It’s a fascinating idea, and he enthuses about it far more eloquently than I could. It’s worth a read.

However, the reason this managed to lodge itself in the back of my head is that this is an idea that is far more universally applicable than just games. The idea of technological prosthesis is a brilliant one; your phone isn’t just a gadget, but an extension of yourself. My MP3 player is a fake limb that I plug into my ears, enhancing the world around me. A laptop isn’t just something to help me work while on the move; it’s an extension of my hands, a translator between my mind and the external world.

Prosthesis

1. a device, either external or implanted, that substitutes for or supplements a missing or defective part of the body.

The phrasing of that is interesting to me. ‘Missing or defective part of the body’. What constitutes ‘missing’? What is ‘defective’, in relation to ourselves? Obviously this is referring to the loss of a limb, or something equally damaging, but increasingly, I’m thinking of myself in terms of someone who has ready access to a desktop computer. I spend the majority of my time here, and that means that I’ve grown used to the abilities it grants me. The ability to listen to music near constantly. The ability to browse the internet, talk to me friends, send and receive emails. Having the wealth of human knowledge at my fingertips. These are things that are as familiar to me as breathing, or eating, or any of life’s other necessities.

So when I go travelling, does my MP3 player not substitute for my computer’s music library? Does my phone not supplement my need to be always connected, to be able to communicate no matter where I am? Is my laptop not a replacement for my computer’s ability to let me work, and write, and browse the internet with ease? These are things that I’ve come to require, however dangerous and potentially depressing that thought may be.

So these devices are augmentations, designed to enable me the same privileges and abilities that I enjoy and use from my home. They’re there to supplement and substitute for the things that I lose the instant I leave my room. I guess that makes them prosthetics, circuited limbs that I never knew I didn’t have. I’m a mild mannered Shiva, one limb clutching a smartphone, another a loose pair of headphones and a Zune.

Which is interesting, I guess.

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About Phill Cameron

I've graduated, had a look at the world, and spat. Now I'm devoting my time to moving from 3/4 of a games journalist to 9/10ths. I figure I can get away with 9/10ths.
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