The definition of humanity, by
Websters dictionary is as follows: compassionate, sympathetic, or generous behavior or
disposition :the quality or state of being humane. This definition is somewhat broad
and only really focuses on the mental requirements for being of the human
classification. However, some beings push mechanical modification development
into human anatomy improvement, which can make humans seem more than just
humans and bring up the question if they are not even human anymore because of
these additional mechanical counterparts? The physical human definition is
being pushed and I am drawing the line where if humans require machine
replacement for their birth organs that are required for their survival, then
they are no longer human.
To elaborate on what organs I am
referring to, I mean internal organs that if, they were to fail or be removed,
the body as a whole would no longer be able to function. If such organ were to
be replaced by some kind of mechanical device, then the being would no longer
be human, and would instead be considered cyborg. Some example are the brain or
heart. Obviously these two organs are necessary for life and without it, the
human body would not be able to survive. If they were to be mechanically
replaced, then the body would no longer be human due to the body being run
mechanically. Take for instance, the kidney organ. Humans are typically born
with two kidneys but only require one. On the contrary, if a vital organs such
as the brain were to be replaced by some type of mechanical or robotic brain,
then they would be considered a cyborg.
We can refer to Mad Max: Fury Road to see how the film takes a different view on
the Cyborg vs. Humanity debate. To summarize: Mad Max: Fury Road takes place in an apocalyptic wasteland a few
years after most traces of civilization have ended. Max, the main protagonist,
is captured by the War Boys and is made a blood donor. Imperator Furiosa is
sent by the leader of the War Boys, Immortan Joe: the main antagonist, to
collect gas but instead intends to take Joe’s five wives in the War Rig to a
safe haven. One of the War Boys spots the War Rig driving off path to a
different destination, so Joe commands a convoy to stop her. Max is put at the
head of one of the convoy’s cars still being used as a blood donor prisoner.
Max and Furiosa both escape the convoy separately but they have an encounter to
fight for the War Rig with each other. They came to terms realizing they both
need each other to survive. The rest of the movie continues on with various
encounter with the War Boys and Immortan Joe and the attempts to take out
Furiosa and return the wives. The two main characters to focus on are Imperator
Furiosa and Immortan Joe who apply the greatest to the concept of cyborg versus
Furiosa has a mechanical arm due to
her losing her arm earlier in her life. In order to determine how it could be
perceived as cyborg technology, we have to analyze its full capabilities. I
researched what the arm is capable of in comparison to a human arm. According
to a detailed review of Imperator Furiosa in the film: “prosthetic arm features a middle
finger with a hook; the index finger contains rubber at its tip, while the
thumb has a rough metal surface similar to the surface of heavy pliers. Any
assumed motion appears to be set forth by various springs, none of which looks
even remotely strong. The index and middle finger feature perforated metal
which is not covered by any leather or fabric. The prosthetic gripper is
mounted on three rods that give a forearm-like appearance while a wrist unit
seems to be absent. The prosthetic device features a number of totally obscure
cables, none of which makes sense even in a remote way, and none of which seem
to add to even a fictional type of functionality. Furthermore, a wrench
obviously was strapped to one of the rods, acting as an ornament. To add to the
notion of ornament, the socket is so short that there is no way such a
prosthetic arm really stays on a stump for any considerable time, leave alone
enabling the wearer to actually lift anything at all”. Clearly based on this
quote, you can see that the arm is not fundamental to her survival, it merely
aids her for her everyday tasks.
However, Immortan Joe has a face mask due to his health
status that is steadily depleting. Also his back appears to be covered in large
boils throughout the film and is covered by plexiglass armor . Immediately
during his introduction in the movie, it is obvious he has severe respiratory
problems but because he the tyrant of the War Boys cult, he has access to to
clean air through his mask. The white powder that is blown on his back by one
of the War Boys is used to ease the pain from the large boils. We can compare
the arm and the mask and analyze their purpose to the user and ask the
questions, does this modification to their body still make them human?
Furiosa’s arm tool essentially replaces the functions her arm was capable of
and more. However, Immortan Joe’s face mask provides him with oxygen. Here is
where we can evaluate the questions of: Where can we draw the line between
human and inhuman? Furiosa, at different instances through the film, is seen
without her prosthetic arm modification. Although this mechanism is very
helpful to her because it performs the actions of the human arm and more, it is
not essential to her survival. However, Immortan Joe’s respiratory mask is
required for him to survive. If we are no longer able to survive with our birth
organs, let alone any other human’s birth organs, how can we be considered
human if a machine is the reason we are alive? This theory results in Imperator
Furiosa being classified as a human and Immortan Joe being classified as a
The questions also arises that if an elderly man or woman
were to have a oxygen mask to help them breath easier, if they would be
considered a cyborg because of the mechanical equipment aiding their survival.
The answer is no, because they are capable of still functioning if they were to
have the oxygen mask removed. The purpose of the mask is to simply help
patients who require breathing assistance. In another situation where the
oxygen mask is the sole mechanical organ giving the human life, then at that
point they should no longer be considered human, because without a machine
holding their life together, they would be dead.
Moving over into modern reality, we can use the paralympic
games and the strive of some of their competitors to relate back to how the
technology they wear or require gives them either an advantage or disadvantage
requiring them to compete in the paralympic games or not compete at all and
overall if they would be considered cyborg or humans. For this example, we can
refer to Cyborg Anxiety: Oscar Pistorius
and the boundaries of What It Means To Be Human. This article primarily
discusses the controversy of paralympic athlete Oscar Pistorius moving up from
the paralympics to compete at the olympic level. “Oscar Pistorius is a South
African sprinter who runs with prosthetic legs and who now wishes to have the
opportunity to compete not against disabled athletes, as he has been doing for
many years, but against his able-bodied peers” (188). As the debate continues,
many questions arise about the consequences of letting him compete, such as if
he were to fall in the middle of a race, would he be capable of injuring the
other athletes? Or do the legs, contrary to the idea of him having a
disability, provide him with a greater advantage than a non-disabled human?
These questions seem to refer to Pistorius as a tool rather than a human
because of his leg. Which leads into the argument of disabled people not being
classified as fully human.
The definition of a Cyborg can be referred to back here
where it means to be part machine and part human. Oscar is not a cyborg. The
fact is that his prosthetic leg is used for athletic purposes and is not
required for his survival, means that he is not a cyborg. Based on the tone of
the article, it appears that the cyborg argument is used as a term to justify
the unproven advantage he may have in future races.
The third topic of discussion is the concept of human
cloning and if the cloned human would be considered a human. Of course, this is
not a modern procedure and has not been proven to work, but it collaborates
with my argument. The cloning process is the duplication of an already existing
individual recreating the same DNA structure.
Some people would argue clones are human because of their identical
human parts. Rudolf Jaenisch, Massachusetts Medical Society, goes over the
basic scientific process behind reproductive cloning: ” The
nucleus is removed from an egg leaving the cytoplasm and mitochondria (cellular
components derived from the mother). A body (or somatic) cell is taken from an
adult individual who is to be cloned. The DNA is extracted from the nucleus and
inserted into the prepared egg. The new cell is then induced to divide using
either chemical or electrical stimulation, thereby commencing the development
of an embryo. After several days the dividing embryo is then placed into the
womb of the recipient and allowed to develop to term. The result is a clone –
an individual that is the genetic duplicate of the individual from whom the
original body cell was taken. To date this process has not been proven to occur
in a human being. If it did so, it is
important to note that the resulting child would neither be the individual’s
son or daughter, nor their twin brother or sister. The child would truly be a
new category of human being – a clone.” This explanation clearly states the
reasoning as to why a clone is named as such and not as a human or cyborg.
The counterargument arises where if a man were to have,
for example heart replacement surgery, would he still be considered human? Yes,
if a human replaces a vital organ with another humans vital organ, then they
are still human. Simply because of the fact that the organ is not mechanical
and the organ that is used for replacement is the other humans birth organ.
conclusion, there is clearly a proven line between what is human, and what is
not. Mad Max: Fury Road shows the line where Imperator Furiosa is clearly a
human because her prosthetic arm does not sustain her life, while Immortan Joe
is a cyborg because his survival depends on his respiratory mask. Oscar Pistorius
is clearly not a cyborg because his prosthetic leg is used for paralympic
athletism purposes and not required for his survival. And cloned individuals
are not even considered humans or cyborgs because they were not birthed as
humans would be, meaning that they would not have birth organs.
Schweitzer, Wolf. “Mad Max Fury Road – fictional arm amputee
“Imperator Furiosa” played by Charlize Theron Review.” Technical Right Below Elbow Amputee Issues,
19 July 2016.
“Oxygen therapy for pneumonia in adults.” Wiley, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, 14 Mar. 2012.
Hilvoorde, Ivo Van. Paralympic
performances and new technologies; issues of classifications and representation.
Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.
Jaenisch, Rudolf. “Human Cloning – The Science and Ethics of
Nuclear Transplantation.” Perspective,
Massachusetts Medical Society, 2004.
Swartz, Leslie, and Brian Watermeyer. Cyborg Anxiety: Oscar Pistorius and the Boundaries of What It Means To
Be Human. Disability & Society 23:2, 3 Mar. 2008.