We Are Already the Borg

Science fiction’s cyborg was a literal chimera of meat and machine. The world’s cyborg was an extended human nervous system: film, radio, broadcast television, and a shift in perspective so profound that I believe we’ve yet to understand it.  Watching television, we each became aspects of an electronic brain.  We became augmented.  In the Eighties, when Virtual Reality was the buzzword, we were presented with images of…television!  If the content is sufficiently engrossing, however, you don’t need wraparound deep-immersion goggles to shut out the world.  You grow your own. You are there.  Watching the content you most want to see, you see nothing else.

The physical union of human and machine, long dreaded and long anticipated, has been an accomplished fact for decades, though we tend not to see it.  We tend not to see it because we are it, and because we still employ Newtonian paradigms that tell us that “physical” has only to do with what we can see, or touch.  Which of course is not the case.  The electrons streaming into a child’s eye from the screen of the wooden television are as physical as anything else.  As physical as the neurons subsequently moving along that child’s optic nerves.  As physical as the structures and chemicals those neurons will encounter in the human brain.  We are implicit, here, all of us, in a vast physical construct of artificially linked nervous systems.  Invisible.  We cannot touch it.  We are it.  We are already the Borg, but we seem to need myth to bring us to that knowledge.

 ~ William Gibson, Distrust That Particular Flavor

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