Sunday, 26 September 2010

Shiny cyborgs

I really like to daydream about cyborgs. I plot out stories about them, imagining what will happen if cybernetic modification is taken on by a whole community, as a preposterous but stylish solution to the challenges that face developed economies and postmodern societies. I love to try and to figure out what my imaginary cyborgs should look like.

Obviously, cyborgs would kick ass, and few imaginary future societies kick as much ass as the Borg. However, the Borg are problematic. Firstly, they are basically communists. Secondly, they are evil outsiders with whom the imagined viewer of Star Trek is not supposed to have any sympathy. My cyborgs are individualistic, libertarian capitalists with an entrepreneurial streak, and as the protagonists of the plot I'm imagining, are not evil so much as foolish but well-intentioned, and kind of afraid of dying. Not really Borg-like at all.

Also, the Borg look unfinished - many wires and circuits are left exposed. This is probably because they don't have to use product design to communicate with people, because all they do is assimilate and destroy. In a market-driven world, cyborgs have to look friendly. For example, let's say it's the future, and you want stronger legs, because you're now 80 years old and you're not as fit as you used to be, or because you're one of the few people left in the world who is under 60 and your job is to carry 90-year olds around a care home. Maybe you'd want your mechanical leg-enhancers to look like this:

This product already exists. As reported by the Economist, the designer, Yoshiyuki Sankai, is having trouble getting his government to accept its use in hospitals, because they are still unsure about its safety.

White is the colour of the future, the colour of wishes and possibilities, the colour of new frontiers. Which is all very nice, but new frontiers are risky. They might be full of aliens who want to kill you, or assimilate you into their murderous hive. New technologies such as stronger legs are safer in that they protect you from occupational hazards. But like a cutting-edge, unsinkable ship crashing into an iceberg, an unexpected obstacle could be disastrous when you're carrying pensioners.

So I haven't settled on an answer yet to the question, 'what do cyborgs look like?' How do you make modifications to the human body look safe? Apparently not by making them shiny and white.


  1. You forgot the suit:

  2. I take it you've seen Bladerunner right?