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Published on Feb 12, 2016

Abstract

From the start, the cyborg was more than just another technical project; it was a kind of scientific and military daydream. The possibility of escaping its annoying bodily limitations led a generation that grew up on Superman and Captain America to throw the full weight of its grown-up R&D budget into achieving a real-life superpower.

Description of Cyborgs

The world's first cyborg was a white lab rat, part of an experimental program at New York 's Rockland State Hospital in the late 1950s. The rat had implanted in its body a tiny osmotic pump that injected precisely controlled doses of chemicals, altering several of its physiological parameters. It was part animal, part machine. The Rockland rat is one of the stars of a paper called " Cyborgs and Space ," written by Manfred Clynes and Nathan Kline in 1960. This engineer/psychiatrist double act invented the term cyborg (short for "cybernetic organism") to describe the vision of an "augmented man,"

From the start, the cyborg was more than just another technical project; it was a kind of scientific and military daydream. The possibility of escaping its annoying bodily limitations led a generation that grew up on Superman and Captain America to throw the full weight of its grown-up R&D budget into achieving a real-life superpower. By the mid-1960s, cyborgs were big business, with millions of US Air Force dollars finding their way into projects to build exoskeletons, master-slave robot arms, biofeedback devices, and expert systems.

It wasn't only the military that was captivated by the possibilities of the cyborg. Now there was the possibility of making better humans by augmenting them with artificial devices. Insulin drips had been used to regulate the metabolisms of diabetics since the 1920s. A heart-lung machine was used to control the blood circulation of an 18-year-old girl during an operation in 1953. A 43-year-old man received the first heart pacemaker implant in 1958. In fact robots, automata, and artificial people have been part of the Western imagination since at least as far back as the Enlightenment. Legendary automaton builder Wolfgang von Kempelen built a chess-playing tin Turk and became the toast of Napoleonic Europe. Mary Shelley's Frankenstein built a monster out of body parts and activated it with electricity. Even the Indian national epic, the Mahabharata, composed about 300 BC, features a lion automaton.

One thing makes today's cyborg fundamentally different from its mechanical ancestors - Information . Cyborgs, Donna Haraway explains, "are information machines. They're embedded with circular causal systems, autonomous control mechanisms, information processing - automatons with built-in autonomy.

 

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