In Sara Hendren’s article here, she links a video to a documentary made by Rob Spence, a self proclaimed “cyborg”. Spence lost his right eye in a shotgun accident, and has since replaced it with a wireless video camera that fits inside where his eye used to be. It’s a bit offsetting, to say the least, and seems both impractical and looks rather painful. His “bionic eye” as he calls it doesn’t link to his brain, and there’s no way him to control it (save turning it on and off, I assume), effectively making it a glorified (low res) video camera. I guess it’s cool he made it fit into where his eyeball used to be, but I really can’t think of any practical use for it unless it could actually interact with the brain. But this doesn’t take away from the amazing work done on other prosthetic limbs showcased in his documentary.
Let me first preface this by saying that “Deus Ex: Human Revolution” is one of my favorite video games. Sure the graphics are pretty and the combat is fun, but what I really love about it is the imagination of the bionics, and the story of the conflict between those who believe in augmenting themselves for the purpose of “evolutionary enhancement” (a point made by somebody in the documentary) against those who believe in keeping the human body the way that it is (the “ethical concerns” mentioned in the documentary). It raises questions about what makes us human, and speaks to the fears of machines steadily controlling larger aspects of our lives, because there is no greater symbiosis that may occur besides the merging of two objects, namely man and machine. There’s beauty in the design of the prosthetic limbs in both life and fiction, as they are man’s attempt to recreate themselves, conjoined with the cool metal and carbon fiber so distinctive of modern high tech machinery. Though the prosthesis in real life are no where near those in “Deus Ex”, it’s still unfathomably amazing how far the technology already is. I can see why if we were able to create a perfect replication of ourselves and then add to that, how we would want to replace ourselves with something more practical, and therefore “better”. While I’m all for practicality, I can’t help but feel the prosthesis are a little… uncanny. Spence’s eye is pretty creepy outright, with a camera and mess of wires that I can almost feel crawling inside of my eyeball. But even the arms and legs are offsetting. They’re beautiful in their own right, but when I see them attached to a human there’s feeling in the back of my neck that says “that’s not natural”. Which is not necessarily a bad thing, but there is a definitive line that is drawn between prosthetic and purely biological limbs, and though they may coexist, they will never replace the other. Looking at the physical divide between the two, where flesh ends and metal begins, we know that’s not what humans are. It’s uncanny. If bionic limbs become popular enough, however, we may just see them as we look at cell phones and wearables now; they may become a normal part of life, where technology and humanity seamlessly merge. But for now, with the preprogrammed, mechanical movements of metal clashing with a living, flowing human, I can’t help but feel strange.