DISCUSSION - What is a cyborg? 🤖

How would you define the word ‘CYBORG’?
I made a Venn-diagram about augmentation.

You can decide where you draw the line between:

  • Biohacking

  • Grinding

  • Transhumanism

  • Cyborg

I read about the interpretation of ‘cyborg’ by Donna Haraway that I found too broad yet specifically feminist (cyborg-feminism).
However the definition: “Human-machine system which becomes increasingly automated.”(Stelarc)
suits more my idea about the theme.


I’ve come to agree with Haraway 100% - apart the pointless feminism bit. Humans are not humans without the tools they invented for themselves. No human lives totally naked without tools. By definition, all humans are cyborgs.

As for using the word itself, that’s easy: I never do :slight_smile: Since we’re all cyborgs, implantees aren’t anymore special than everybody else. Therefore I think people who insist on calling themselves cyborg are slightly delusional, and quite frankly sound a bit childish.

I plain banned the word from my own vocabulary, and I refuse to give it any definition other than Haraway’s if I must use it. That way, there’s no controversy.

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Every now and then I come to the same conclusion, then I get to think about what I summarited in one of my earlier comment: I treat it like a part of the personal identity.

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That’s silly. Me considering myself to be Superman makes me an idiot, not Superman. Just because I will it doesn’t make it so in everybody else’s eyes.

It’s kind of the same situation with the cyborg thing - only you look a lot less childish than if you declare yourself to be a superhero. Still, you don’t sound completely mature when you say that to a total stranger with a straight face.

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I accept your point, I should re-phrase the statement!


What I should have wrote is:
You should think about the broader aspect of being a cyborg, especially considering the Haraway-definition, and decide if you accept the terminology or rather restrict it to augmented people.

Marshall McLuhan makes a great point about it:

In the electric age, when our central nervous system is technologically extended to whole of mankind and to incorporate the whole of mankind in us, we necessarily participate, in depth, in the consequences of our every action.
The title of the book is: Understanding Media, where he breaks down how telecommunication led to a ‘global village’ and how the ‘medium is the message’.

Ultimately, this is a pointless exercise in semantics. It doesn’t matter what you think a word should mean. What matters is that, when you use it in the wider world, it has a particular meaning for the rest of society. If you use it to mean something else, people won’t understand, and possibly think you’re not quite all there.

Most people identify a cyborg with the Terminator, or Jean-Luc Picard after his assimilation into the Borg collective. Perhaps they extend their vision of a cyborg to a non-fictional person wearing very mechanical- or electromechanical-looking protheses. But most people don’t view any human - including themselves - as cyborgs, Haraway-style, or people wearing rice-grain sized RFID transponders or magnets under their skin.

That’s why I refuse to use the word: my definition of it doesn’t match society’s. Those who want to be taken seriously shouldn’t neither in most social settings.

You’re free to try and shift the meaning of the word cyborg if you want, but it’s not going to happen overnight :slight_smile:

Definitely not! :+1: And I have evidence of that!
I am not here to re-define concepts, neither to give answers.
I am observing the schism laying across grinders and the mark-of-the-beast people. It is a broad spectrum. Indeed.
I create work based on this topic (How shall I call it if cyborg sounds childish?): sometimes I write, sometimes I make photos, but I have to admit, I have more questions than answers.
The theme “cyborg” is not going extinct because it’s a childish definition. It fascinates people, some are typing in forums, some is doing research for articles. They need a word to categorise the topic, and there wasn’t yet a better terminology nominated. (At least not that I know of.)

Edit: Yet another topic offed!

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That much we agree on :slight_smile:

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That is a very interesting point.

My personal view would be:

  1. Transhumanism should belong somewhere outside of that line since:

    • Transhumanism is a philosophy, not an action/state of being like the other concepts
    • All the other concepts are things which might fall into the category of Transhumanist practices.
  2. Cyborg is an adjective. It is a descriptor for a state of being. I do like to pose your point here… as in “what makes someone into a cyborg”… and then it comes down to “you decide where you draw the line”

  3. Biohacking and Grinding…
    Technically Grinding is a subsect of the Whole biohacking thing.

But I do get your point.

As for what I personally feel about Cyborg as an Identity, I’ll agree with @Rosco here:

Although I disagree with his definition that we are all cyborgs. =P

On another note, actually, I feel like even if I replace an arm, an eye, add in some new senses… I will still not feel like a cyborg as my identity.
partly because in my own personal view… a cyborg is sort of a symbiotic existence between human and machine something which blurs both lines.

But I feel that even if I cease being “human” through augmentation (big IF here, but bear with me for the sake of argumentation), I will still be the owner of my augmentations. They will still serve me as tools. Therefore even if I cease identifying as human, I would not see myself as a cyborg.

but partly… because I so agree with this as well:


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That’s the point of Stelarc, and also he incorporates involuntary movements (electric muscle stimulation by a computer program) in his work to give up some of the own will.

I think grinder is the subset of biohacker. Biohacker is all but :red_circle:
Grinder is all but :red_circle: and :large_blue_circle: on the wet side (unless you grind your teeth). I just couldn’t draw a 3D Venn where all the parts are clearly visible.

P.S.:Soon comes the split @Pilgrimsmaster


I also like this other point you raised:

I agree that cyborg is not a childish term.
It does sound childish to me, but that is mostly the influence of Star Trek and DC Comics, nothing with the word in itself.

The problem that I see here is that despite the fact that we do need a couple of new words, and depending on how you angle it “Cyborg” might fit some of those… The communities are not coming together as fast as marketeers are.

And again we start to have Marketeers abusing the word Cyborg, which makes it sound truly ridiculous. But that happens to basically anything that slimy Marketeers touch… :nauseated_face:

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And here it is !

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Cheers for that! :partying_face:
A brand new topic =)
I actually got a 2500word assignment to write about this topic in the concept of contemporary art. Due in a few weeks.

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Nice, a few more posts and you can just cut and paste



For a brief moment I read as if you intended to rewrite this whole Thread as a piece of contemporary art.
Then I realised I should have been asleep quite a while ago! :woozy_face:

and thanks for the split @Pilgrimsmaster!

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No way, but I refine my argument based on the comments.
I agree with Rosco on most of the points, despite he feels otherwise.

I -from a space-age perspective- view humanity as a site specific installation, where the genes (DNA) define the theme, but the environment (the site) affects the memes that people copy. Also the memes have feedback on the theme itself, thus influencing it.

Marshall McMulan points out the differentiation of our species when humanity started clothing and built shelter, leading towards a society eventually.


If clothing is an extension of our private skins to store and channel
our own heat and energy, housing is a collective means of achieving
the same end for the family or the group. Housing as shelter is an
extension of our bodily heat-control mechanisms --a collective skin
or garment. Cities are an even further extension of bodily organs to
accommodate the needs of large groups.

(Isn’t it parallel with Rousseau’s Back to Nature?)

Donna Haraway in an interview (1996, but the idea roots back to mid 70s) dates the appearance of cyborg to a more recent point:

"Cyborg is not about ‘we have always already been cyborgs’, it’s about specifically mid and late twentieth century historical production."

The two idea overlaps, perhaps there is a causal-effect relation in meme culture and technical advancement.
Electricity and lately the semi-conductor technology just accelerated the advancement. Almost like super additives in chemical reaction, therefore I would argue distinguishing between homo sapiens and homo sapiens sapiens was necessary.

On a contemporary aspect some of us are pioneering advancement, some of us are technological inborn yet enjoying the benefits of augmentation. Some come to the conclusion of depending on technology when it’s no longer granted.

Maybe feminists have similar arguments, saying:
-One can only be feminist if marching on protests.
-Or only if supports Emma Watson.
-And also Katlyn Jenner…

Then one says: Maybe if I believe to be feminist that makes me feminist.
Then the other replies: Bollocks! You were born with a vagina, you are woman, no point mis-sub-categorizing it!

…you know, at the end of the day all has a valid point.

I tend to take a more technical definition of it. I’ll link to another thread where we discussed it, but once upon a time, me and another guy figured out a cyborg scale.

It does tend to cut through some of the nebulous philosiphy, but at the same time a mechanistic outlook on the subject kind of misses the point of being a human cyborg. (note, humans are invariably messy to define)

I think the best answer will combine both philosiphy and factual definition. That being said, a complete answer is probably impossible to define.

Sure thing! I gave up trying to find THE answer. I am just generally amazed by the many interpretations. I find them interesting =)

Also, may I please visualise your category break-out similar to this?

Venn diagram

If you’re asking me, sure. But I don’t know how you’d do that?