Thursday, November 28, 2013

Try Burning A Cyborg at the Stake

Exactly how much of your body needs to be replaced or enhanced before you officially qualify as a cyborg?  Would anybody admit to being one?  Cyborgs have received pretty bad press thanks largely to innumerable crappy science fiction movies (Doctor Who and Star Trek haven't helped either).  When one thinks of cyborgs one's mind does tend to turn more towards The Terminator than a pacemaker.  It is time cyborgs got a public relations team, surely the benefits of artificial enhancement outweigh the risks posed by the occasional time travelling, semi robot assassin.

Am I a cyborg because I wear contact lenses?  I seem to fit the definition in so far as my natural eyesight (terrible) is significantly improved by the application of an artificial enhancement.  Several centuries ago possessing contact lenses might have led to me being burnt as a witch.

Actually several centuries ago I would just have been half blind.  Which doesn't, of course, mean that I wouldn't have been burnt as a witch.  Witch burning was quite the done thing once upon a time and lets face it I'm pretty sure that an odd, socially awkward character with a propensity for talking to himself would probably have been pretty high up the list of combustible citizens in any event.  That's even before you get to my trafficking with demons and worshipping Satan.  Well, I say "worshipping" actually we just meet for coffee from time to time.  As for trafficking with demons, don't bother; they'll try and cheat you out of your cut and will rat you out to the border authorities to evade a parking ticket.

Still I think it is pretty obvious that if I lived in the middle ages the phrase "auto de fe" would feature on my death certificate.  Which in my opinion is pretty firm evidence that I wasn't a witch.  I'm sure any genuine witch wouldn't be inclined to take crap from a bunch of ill armed peasants.  Certainly if I had the power (one day, Neil, one day) it wouldn't be me roasting in the morning.  Although my means of escape would pretty much confirm the verdict.

Purification by fire seems to have been quite a popular way of dealing with social undesirables for obvious reasons.  It's simple enough to arrange and its permanent.  Also hiding the bodies afterwards requires a dustpan and brush rather than a shovel.  It seems that no sooner did the human race discover fire than we started applying it to other people.  Although if somebody does have to be burnt at the stake then "other people" are the very best candidates.  I wonder how long it took us before we realised that fire could be used to cook our food.  I also can't help wondering if this was perhaps discovered by cannibals.

I started this blog entry intending to write something on cyborgs and possibly delving into the rationale and ethics of transhumanism along the way.  Instead I took a detour through the middle ages and witch burning with the almost obligatory nod to cannibalism.  All I can think of as a final word is to point out that if I were burnt as a witch my contact lenses would melt.  I hope they stick in somebody's throat.

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