Cyborgs in Pop Culture and Reality: What have we already become?

In our society today, there are numerous examples of ever-changing technology and advancements that simultaneously happen alongside it. Technology is something that is becoming extremely prominent in the lives of individuals all over the world. We carry our cell phones, laptops, iPods, iPads, biometric technologies and other technological devices with us whenever and wherever we go. Try to find a young twenty-something without their cellular device on them these days – it would be a rare occasion.

We are glued to our personal technologies. So engrossed that often young folks could be the victim of what I like to call “crane neck” (bending their head down all the time like a crane’s neck in order to concentrate on their technological device on hand). So when does technology become an integrated part of human beings? Examples of this hybrid mix within popular culture and reality are apparent all around us. Two examples include, “Iron Man” in the Avengers movie, as well as a real life example of embedded technologies within individuals. This brings into question the technological condition of being human and the ideas behind morphing these individuals to have an integrated technological aspect of their being.

Iron Man is seen in several of the Marvel movies including Iron Man I and Iron Man II, Iron Man III, as well as The Avengers. Iron Man is not deemed a cyborg because he is not, “a fusion of living tissue and synthetic components. However, I understand how this isn’t deemed a “cyborg,” but Iron Man does have a chest piece that’s embedded in his body. The device is supposed to function in order to save his life, but is also capable of interacting with the armor he wears over his exterior. Within The Avengers movie, he is shown being stripped of all of his armor after he comes back from a trip, and the chest piece still remains in his body. This body-machine/computer-human combination allows him to have technological powers such as super strength, supersonic-flight capabilities and access to energy-based weapons including Stark’s repulsor-ray technology. Furthermore, Stark/ Iron Man is the one who cybernetically controls the The suit and operating system when he wears it. Below is a scene that proves his technologically embedded chest piece to be what helps him control his abilities and direct the Iron Man suit to assist him.

Watch Movie Sequence of Iron Man Suit Up

Iron Man

This creates fear in the citizens even within the movie at times because of the complex power Stark/Iron Man possesses within one being of an individual (even though that individual is a combination of human and technological processes). The idea is that this combination is unique to Iron Man because of the various super-human functions this human-machine combination provides. Within films and in reality, the unknown of this realm of technology instills a type of fear in individuals. Freud’s terminology of “Uncanny” fits this well: “a concept of an instance where something can be both familiar yet alien at the same time, resulting in a feeling of it being uncomfortably strange.” What is seen in movies as super-human and almost virtually impossible to many is actually brewing in many of the minds of scientist and tech individuals alike. This is ‘uncomfortably strange’ for many humans in today’s society.

The ways that “body-machine” and “computer-human” combinations are represented and imagined reach far into the future. An example of a technology coming to light is an embedded technology within the human body that enables the energy from a human to be transferred in order to power the technology. For example, The Energy Starved Electronics Program (partnership of the government and MIT) allows for this human energy to possibly translate into generating the power needed to make embedded technologies work.

Ideas for technologies include contact lenses that function as computer screens (University of Washington research team has already developed a prototype lens fitted with a small radio that can receive data and LED for displaying this data to the wearer). This lens within the eye has been prompted for comparison to the eyes of the cyborg in the Terminator films.

In theory, the device would convert electronic signals into information that would be displayed onto the contact lens and visible to the user or wearer. “If wirelessly connected to, say, a smartphone with voice-recognition software, a hearing-impaired person wearing such lenses might see a speaker’s words translated into captions.”


This is a comparison and the essence of hybrids of machine and organism. In a way we have already all began to become cyborgs. This technology gives us cultural pathways as well as our politics in life. It fuels our capitalism as well as the yearning to advance and simplify our actions. Many of the day to day realizations come from the innovations in technology and the consistent attachments we create to this technology. The cyborg is a condensed image of both imagination and material reality (Haraway).  This technology is progress. We are putting our thoughts and creations into machine that in turn, will twist the world as we know it in terms of cultural configuration: now and in technological advancements to come.

Steven Feiner, professor of computer science at Columbia University, says by 2050 embedded devices will allow us to immerse ourselves in a sea of computer-generated sounds and sensations (when I hear this I think of MIT’s Kismet). “‘However, I think that most people will instead have the system filter what they see,’ he says. ‘While on a walk in the woods, some folks might want to see overlaid species names.” Then again, he adds, “others will just want to turn it all off.'”


Works Cited

Belfiore, Michael. “History, Travel, Arts, Science, People, Places | Smithsonian.” History, Travel, Arts, Science, People, Places | Smithsonian. N.p., Aug. 2010. Web. 15 Apr. 2014. <>.

IMDb., 2008. Web. 15 Apr. 2014. <>.

“Uncanny.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 04 Aug. 2014. Web. 15 Apr. 2014. <>.