Crossing the Threshold of Cyborgization

From P2P Foundation
Jump to navigation Jump to search

* Article: Grinin, Anton, and Leonid Grinin. “Crossing the Threshold of Cyborgization.” Journal of Big History 4(3): 54-65, 2020. doi


Contextual Quotes


"Today, technology serves almost every aspect of our lives, but in the near future, more serious transformations are possible when complex mechanisms and technologies can merge with the human body and mind. Cyborgization is the process of replacing parts of the human body with cybernetic implants. ... Progress in the field of artificial body parts has become so significant that almost every one of us today is a bit of a cyborg. Without a doubt, most people on the planet have either false nails or artificial teeth or glasses or contact lenses."


"Cyborgization is an important milestone in Big History. It is the inter-section of the human (or Upper Paleolithic) revolution and a new “post-human” revolution whose consequences are not yet clear in many respects, but which will obviously start the era of an intensive impact on the human body. We see the ori-gins of cyborgization in collective learning, which is the sixth threshold of Big History. “Collective learning” is a term adopted by David Christian (Christian 2012, 2018). It is a sufficiently powerful system of communication and sharing information in such volume and with such precision that new information accumulates at the level of the community and even the species (Christian 2015). The collective learning process has become the basis for the development of technology, which provided the next important thresholds: “Agriculture” and The Modern Revolu-tion” (David Christian et al. 2014; Spier 2015). The future ninth threshold in our view will be the threshold of cyborgization. Collective learning will develop into a global system of information exchange between the human brain and comput-er interfaces. Thus, a new system of collective learning will appear, which will give an impetus for the further development of Big History, or, perhaps, it will start a new kind of evolution."

- Anton and Leonid Grinin [1]


"Cyborgization is a hot topic these days. This is an intriguing process that is the subject of many futuristic novels and which at the same time takes place right before our eyes. In the present article we discuss the development of cyborgization, its place in Big History, its background and future directions, as well as the problems and risks of this interesting process. The authors are concerned about the question of whether the time will come when a person will mainly or completely consist not of biological, but of artificial material. The article also touches upon other problems and risks associated with future scientific and technological progress."


The Cybernetic Revolution

Anton and Leonid Grinin:

"In the 1950s and 1960s the world (first, the developed countries) became a witness to the largest technological revolution in history, which continues to this day. At the end of the twentieth century, the achievements of this revolution, especially in the field of information technologies, has spread all over the world. We call this revolution the “Cybernetic revolution, ”because cybernetics is the science about information and its transformations in various complex systems (L. Grinin and A. Grinin 2015). During its first phase (from the 1950s to the present day), the Cybernetic revolution has radically changed information processing and provided a breakthrough in the regulating of complex processes in a wide range of natural and artificial systems that became part of the production process. In the future it will provide the ultimate breakthrough by creating a fundamentally new environment, a world of self-regulating systems. The Cybernetic revolution became the third largest production revolution in the history of humankind after the Agrarian (Neolithic) and Industrial ones, but it has not yet ended. We consider the revolutionary changes, which the world will face in the coming six to seven decades, will happen during the second (the final) phase of the Cybernetic revolution."


Leading Technologies of Cyborgization

Anton and Leonid Grinin:

"There are a growing number of self-regulating technologies in different branches of medicine even today, for example, life support systems or artificial organs. Other systems only move in the direction of self-regulation, for example, flexible controlled instruments, which allow doctors to perform a surgery in the most inaccessible parts of human body with minimal incisions (often using endoscopes and video cameras). One can anticipate that in the nearest future many operations, robotic operations, will be conducted with-out human participation at all (Fortune Business Insights2019). We suppose that many self-regulating systems will play a crucial role in cyborgization, among them different biosensors or bio-chips. This is a new trend representing a combination of medicine and nanotechnologies. Biochips are able to register a wide range of physiological changes and respond to them or perform specific actions. In the long term biochips will permit continuous control of a person’s health. Because of the constant diminishing of a resistor’s size (Peercy 2000), some biochips are so small that they can be inserted into cells (so they are often called nanochips). These biochips can be used for different purposes, for example, for targeted drug delivery (Wang et al. 2015). Further miniaturization will allow the creation of a system, which will constantly monitor important parameters of the body, record activities, and track the location of a person. Such systems will be common in the second phase of the Cybernetic revolution. Another important self-regulating technology is the brain–computer interface (BCI). This is an interaction between the brain and computer systems that can be realized via electrode contact with the skin on the head or via electrodes im-planted into the brain. Today BCIs are widely used, especially in medicine, for example, in artificial visual systems, or in bionics. In the future they will significantly improve rehabilitation for people with strokes, head trauma, and other disorders. BCIs can become an essential way to make artificial parts of the body directly controlled by the brain. It will be especially important in orthopaedics or bionics.

According to the World Health Organization, more than one billion people are living with some form of physical disability, and about 190 million adults have a major functional difficulty (World Bank 2011). Another important issue will be the manufacture and use of artificial organs, which are com-plex self-regulated systems. At present, there are many different artificial organs: heart, ear, eye, limbs, liver, lungs, pancreas, bladder, ovaries, trachea, etc. (Murphy and Atala 2014; Stamatialis et al. 2008).

Artificial organs will also be able to change human reproductive capabilities. The artificial womb will be able to provide an opportunity to have children for all people irrespective of age and gender (Corea 1986; Rosen 2003). Of course, in reality, cyborgization will be based on a combination of these and other technologies. Also, the same result can be achieved by means of different technologies, for example, a bionic eye will most probably be an artificial eye (an artificial copy of the natural one). It can be a camera, integrated into eyeglasses, which captures images and transmits them to the optic nerve via BCIs. (Such technology already exists; see, for example, Ong and da Cruz 2012). Speaking of cyborgization, it is impossible not to mention the development of robots. Robots will develop as highly self-regulating systems and will spread to virtually every area of our lives. The robotics market is going to grow (Technavio 2020), especially healthcare robots, for instance surgical robots, as we mentioned before, or robots for rehabilitation therapy (Burgar et al. 1999)."