The human body has been improved, enhanced and made more attractive for centuries. However, thanks to technological progress, this process is now accelerating. There is a gradual shift from an individual, natural body to a multitude of imaginary, virtual and technologically enhanced bodies. From belief in the body, to questioning its possibilities and limitations, to the attraction or fear of leaving it behind altogether.
We live in an age of unprecedented possibilities. Fueled by environmental concerns, the surveillance society, and mutually reinforcing technologies such as genetic manipulation, neural interfaces, artificial intelligence, and robotics, life on Earth has changed drastically. It has also fundamentally changed the traditional, humanistic image of man. The question is not so much whether human life can escape this change, but when and how it will take place.
Almost all of us are already a hybrid of human and machine, whether the supporting technology is in our bodies or in our pockets. Through our everyday close association with technological devices, we are all more or less already cyborgs. These devices enhance our senses and grant us access to knowledge and navigate us through the world. Walking sticks, contact lenses, hearing aids, braces, and cardiac pacemakers are tools to compensate for human deficits that have been lost or made less pronounced.
The birth of the first genetically modified babies in China in 2018 and the fact that there are already several thousand people among us who have taken the first steps toward becoming cyborgs force us to rethink our definition of human beings. Those who, with the help of biotechnology and other scientific achievements, intervene in human life and their own bodies are clear evidence of how much this technology has become part of our identity. Cyborg pioneer Neil Harbisson explains that he and people like him are calling for a new human right. The right to creating yourself.
The boundary between body and brain has already been overcome by the rise of information technology in recent decades. Won't it one day be possible to transfer the human brain to another material?