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HONORING MY MOTHER | The rise of the cyborgs

By Icoy San Pedro

BACK in high school, one book genre that really fascinated me was science fiction. By befriending our tiny librarian Miss Abrina, I was able to request her to reserve some titles for me. From then on, I would weekly consume my quota of books to borrow and just pig out on the likes of Asimov and other writers. (unlike my other classmates, I wasn’t really particular on who the authors were just as long as they were SF. I only based my choices on how attractive the covers were done.) It was also at this time when the idea that maybe in the future, machine parts could eventually be implanted in man and vice versa. After all, the first heart implant had just been performed in South Africa in 67, and everyone was talking about it. I immediately thought, why not? There were even fantastic artist renditions of super hero-like figures in Popular Mechanics hailing the rise of man-machines, showing a muscular figure like The Vision..

We all know what happened next. A gigantic leap in technology. At that time, even as the world was celebrating the invention of the transistor radio, little did everyone realize that eventually, everything else that was being invented was getting smaller and smaller. Finally, before we knew it, science fiction was literally jumping out of books and into everyone’s lives. Who could imagine the devices used by Dick Tracy, an old comic strip cartoon detective (1931-80), would actually exist and be widely used today? One such was his wristwatch phone. That might have been science fiction then, but now, there’s even a particular model that monitors our health, heart and the number of steps we have taken daily. 

Then back on the topic of combining man with machines, it should be remembered that nobody took notice when pacemakers first entered the scene. The world merely took it as something that was bound to happen. I remember an article where Elon Musk, billionaire and SpaceX owner was interviewed. He was asked how close we were to the probability of having computer implants inside us, thereby creating that dream of science fiction, the cyborg. Aside from the pacemaker, he had mentioned some artificial limbs and fingers connectedly wired to the brain and receiving impulses from it, functioning like real parts of the body. In that sense and definition, we are already there.

Chillingly, in terms of conditioning we are not really far behind, he concluded. Just closely observe how we’ve become slaves to our own devices (as the Eagles like to sing). In the shopping malls, I’ve seen children, instead of running about, ride in strollers, with eyes glued to their phones. I imagine them using these as comforters at home to keep them busy…or timid. Just recently while I rode a bus to attend a reunion, I spotted a mom and child across the aisle. Throughout the whole ride, the tot sat glued to her game. When the mom tried to take the phone away, she let out a howl as though her milk bottle had been snatched from her lips. Musk might just as well be right, I thought. Taking baby steps at a time, the age of the cyborgs has indeed begun.

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