My New Knees: On The Way To Being Cyborg

“My new knee is called a Genesis II, a whimsical name that connotes an entirely new species cooked up from metal and plastic. Its principle components are cobalt chromium molybdenum alloy, titanium, and polyethylene. Polyethylene is the scourge of our oceans and landfills; titanium, though, is less alien. Mined from deep in the earth, it’s found in most living things…”

“Has the installation of my new knee – my crossing over into the world of cyborgs – changed me in any way? It’s difficult to say…”

The two short excerpts above are from my latest piece in the American environmental magazine Orion. It’s behind a firewall so I can’t share the whole thing, but subscribers will find it on pp12-13 in the March/April 2016 issue. Since writing it, I’ve had a second operation and now have two replacement knees. I’ve been fascinated by cyborgs, and written about them, for over twenty years, so I’ve found the whole process very significant.  And I’m in complete agreement with the cyborg artist Neil Harbisson who says:

“I don’t feel that I’m using technology. I don’t feel that I’m wearing technology. I feel that I am technology.”

Harbisson was born colour-blind but he developed a device which is attached to his head and turns colour into audible frequencies. Most of the popular images of cyborgs are, like Harbisson, striking to look at because their prosthetics are visible on the outside. In recent years we’ve also become used to seeing people wearing prosthetic legs and arms.

But millions of individuals around the world are already quietly cyborg with not much to show for it. Knees, hips, and ankles are routinely replaced in operating theatres every day but there’s nothing to be seen apart from an occasional limp. And most of those new cyborgs aren’t young and cool but, like me, greying and somewhat mature.  Food for thought.

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