Tuesday, 22 April 2014

We are all cyborgs now

I have been searching for a word that is analogous to 'anthropomorphism' but accounts for the attempt to describe humans in terms of machines or technology.

Mechanomorphism and technomorphism seem to do the job. I also thought about the Cyborg.

I think it is a fascinating development in humanism: for centuries, the unit of measurement was the human — feet and inches for example. We were anthropocentric, animating our universe through our self-understanding.

At the end of the 18th century, with the rise of Romanticism, writers focused on the awe-inspiring spectacle of Nature, which put man in his proper place and proportion.

With the Industrial Revolution, we saw language that pitted man against machine, and decried the mechanisation of our lives.

With the technological revolution of the 21st century, we have become enamoured of our machines, as Narcissus was enamoured of his reflection — we see ourselves reflected back, not in mirrors but in screen-based devices, and we are starting to conceive of human functioning, particularly mental functioning, which we still understand so little, as, firstly, disconnected from the bodily, and secondly, explicable through the 'explanatory' power of metaphors drawn from technology.

It's a fascinating reciprocity to do with man's ambition to know everything, be everything — after all it is our understanding of quantum physics which has enabled these devices to become possible.

As a female, however, I find it deeply troubling to conceive of myself as analogous to a machine, since it's no better a metaphor than was the old zoomorphism, which would happily conceptualise women as 'breeding animals'. To be a breeding MACHINE seems hardly better. It's as though the human linguistic capacity for self-description and understanding is undergoing a fresh transvaluation into the atomic and the energetic, still leaving out 50% of lived experience.

Or more frightening still, leaving women who choose to have children behind to be, perhaps, mutely farmed. Not sure anything about pregnancy, childbirth or parenting can be described technomorphically....

1 comment:

Heron Sister said...

Uncomfortable -- just as your great writing intended!