Cyborg Theory: A Love Story

CNDLS Graduate Associate Kelsey Brannan shares this recap of Michael Chorost’s recent talk on “Cyborg Theory and Practice.”

Michael Chorost’s recent talk on “Cyborg Theory and Practice” opened up a new conversation about the cyborg “reality” we live in today—a conversation about how the integration of technology into human life is changing the pace and form of human relationships. His most recent book, World Wide Mind: The Coming Integration of Humanity, Machines and the Internet (2011), originally subtitled A Love Story, is a narrative about the way in which human beings are becoming emotionally dependent on technology. Referring to Marin Lindstrom’s New York Times article, “You Love Your iPhone. Literally,” he spoke about an MRI test that proved that human “subjects” respond to the sound of their phones as they would respond to the presence or proximity of a girlfriend, boyfriend or family member.” Chorost noted that the popular mediation of cyborgs, what he referred to “cyborg porn,” objectify and violate the cyborg body, rather than visualize them as individuals. This objectification, he argues, materializes the aesthetic desire for and the human obsession with technology.

Chorost diverges from Donna Haraway’s “theory” of the cyborg to give a voice to “real-life” human cyborgs (such as Chorost, himself a cochlear implant recipient). The rest of his talk consisted of an explanation of the process of hearing loss, the installation of cochlear implants into the human head, optogenetics, and the possibility of “tele-empathy,” the ability for humans to exchange desires by coded signals. Michael Chorost provided a unique and humanist approach to cyborg theory and noted that the future of cyborg research is not in doing “old” things better, but in doing entirely “new” things. Chorost emphasized that the information age is generating a new “cyborgian” state of consciousness, one predicated on the human desire and love for virtual communication (e.g. email, Twitter, Facebook). Where will this love story take us?

To find out more about Michael Chorost’s research, visit his website.