“A cyborg, short for ‘cybernetic organism,’ is a being with both biological and artificial (e.g. electronic, mechanical or robotic) enhancements.” – from the Wikipedia entry for cyborg.
My name is Micke Kazarnowicz, and I’m a cyborg.
I’ve always wanted to be one, since the first time Robert Heinlein made me aware of them. What I hadn’t realized is that I already am one, albeit a crude version of what I will be in the future.
Chances are, that right now you are thinking “Cyborg? How horrible. I don’t want that. He can’t want that either, he’s just attempting to make a point for dramaturgy.”
I’m not trying to be dramatic. Nor am I talking about becoming the “Terminator” or “Darth Vader” kind of cyborg. I don’t want to become less human. I want to become more capable.
The brain and body have limitations. My brain can store a huge amount of data, but things are bound to be forgotten; like the name of the awesome Japanese restaurant in New York I ate at in March, or what the weather really was like during that first week of April. I know exactly how much fuel my rental car used up when I drove from Stockholm down to my parents and then back up again three weeks ago, but I don’t know how much energy my body uses when I run 10K. Likewise, I could see exactly how many kilometers that car had traveled, but I have no idea how many steps I’ve taken so far this year, or how far I’ve travelled so far in my life.
This is changing. I now have ‘electronic enhancements’ — some of which actually are attached to me — that help me overcome these limitations.
I know that the Japanese restaurant was called Matsuri and that I was there on Saturday, March 17 at 10 pm. Fact is, I can tell you the names of almost every restaurant I’ve eaten at since November, 2009.
I know that my last run of 10K took me 48:11 or 4’48” per kilometer, and that the energy spent on that run was 946 kcal. I know it was hot, 32°C (90°F) and humid. I know that my heart beat 7081 times during that run.
I know that so far this year, I have walked more than the distance between New York and Dallas (some 1560 miles or 3,120,929 steps) and I have climbed almost twice the cruising altitude of a 747 (my total is 7,177 floors). I know that I’ve travelled at least the equivalent 27 laps around the world since August 2010, when I got the cyborg part that constantly records my position.
All this knowledge is made possible using cyborg parts that help me log, record and measure my life and my body. The parts are my Fitbit, which I always keep in my right pocket and which records and displays steps walked and stairs climbed. My Nike Fuelband, which I rarely take off my right arm (except for to charge it) and that shows me how far I walk each day and makes sure that I get enough daily exercise even on the days I don’t work out. My Polar FT80, a heart rate monitor that when calibrated measures my energy outtake and my heart rate during exercise with great accuracy. And above all, my iPhone with its camera and apps like Foursquare and Google Latitude that help me log my life so I can recall where I was and when.
All these cyborg parts have one thing in common: they require very little managing. They are turned on, and then work silently in the background, monitoring, recording, analyzing. Others, like Foursquare or the Polar FT80 require a taps or pressing of buttons. My electronical parts allow me to understand my biological parts better, and they provide a storage for all this data in my extended memory: the cloud.
Some of these parts might as well be integrated in my body, considering how rarely they leave my arm or pocket, and that they sync wirelessly. Others require some evolution before they’re there; like my iPhone that still requires me to take it out of my pocket to snap a photo or read output. There’s lots of room for more seamless integration, for example automatically snapping photos of my day or projecting the text from my boyfriend directly in my field of vision. And it’s coming, quickly.
I’m looking forward to when technology is integrated, not only in my clothes but in my body. I’ll gladly insert a chip or have a tattoo allowing me to interface more seamlessly with electronical units, or even other cyborgs. It might seem like a long way there, but let me remind you that most of the mainstream cyborg parts I’m talking about here did not exist 10 years ago.
It’s a brave new world, and it belongs to us cyborgs.
Micke Kazarnowicz is a digital pundit, a Digital McGyver and he writes about gadgets, social media and related stuff in his blog. He works for tablet publishing company Mag+ and is based in Stockholm and New York.