Cyborgs in New Media

In class, we discussed the possibilities that soon the human world will be able to create robots, or more specifically, cyborgs. Humans who are melded together with machine. Typically, when one thinks of a robot or a cyborg, one tends to view these things as evil. Why? Because in every film we have ever seen that has robots or cyborgs in it, the robots are usually the ones who are trying to take over the world. The Matrix, Terminator, iRobot, Blade Runner, and even Wall-e are (to name just a few)  typical examples of robots in new media who are shown as evil. Over and over again, we are given cautionary tales from these moves about artificial intelligence, and the threat it could pose on our world if we are not careful. While the movies listed above are good examples of robots in film, one particular show that I would like to mention is Battlestar Galactica. For those of you not familiar, Battlestar Galactica is a T.V series about a small fleet of survivors from devastated planets searching for a new home away from the Cyclons (a mixture of machine and human, otherwise known as Cyborgs). These “cylons” were originally created by the human race, but they developed their own intelligence and evolved beyond the control of the humans, eventually destroying their creators home world and seeking to eliminate the human race entirely. This is an excellent example of a cautionary tale about A.I.

However, despite all of this negative outlook on robots and cyborgs from new media, we can’t deny that fusing organic material with electronics could have to potential to improve the lives of everyone. Yet we are reluctant to improve our technology further because we are afraid of what could happen if we are not careful. In short, I believe that they negative outlook films and television shows have given towards A.I has affected the way we see technology advancements in a negative manner.

If you are interested in learning more about Battlestar Galactica, here are a few links;

General Information:

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  1. Until this post I have only ever heard of Battlestar Galactica in name, so thank you for providing the link! Though I agree with everything listed in the post, I feel we could still take this one step deeper. Why are we, as a society and as an individual, so obsessed with the idea of technology taking over? We see this countless times in movies, games, and novels. When “War of the Worlds” was first broadcasted, some people tuned in half way through the program, and thought that it was occurring in real time, and that machines had truly taken over. These people then took cover frightened out of their minds, and it was not until the end of the program that they realized this was a story and not a true occurance. So easily we believe in our fears! Things such as this reinforce our fears, and show our vulnerability towards authoritarianism that humans often feel is a right rather than a privilege. Why would we create something that we are afraid could surpass us? Is it just laziness, a craving for recognition, attempting to be or one-up God? These questions are left to be answered, but are extremely important when looking at this topic, as without it we are basically performing a matrix operation while ignoring some of the variables – basically, we are destined to always come up with a skewed answer.

    (Note: Source of information of War of the Worlds was through a lecture in Winter 2011 by Simon Wood, Conrad Grebel University College).

  2. I really like the notes about how it can also be a good thing to integrate with technology. While, as you said, cyborgs have been shown in new media as the evil, I do feel as though this is a case of fearing the unknown. Before technology had developed to the point it is now, people would have thought some of the things we use/do with technology now would be ridiculous, and would generally fear it. When technology is developing so quickly, there are going to be the people who fully support the ideas, and others who fear it and look at it critically. I also feel it’s good that there are these two different sides viewing the topics, as it shows both the pros and cons to the new and controversial technologies. Again, I agree that the new technologies can indeed be beneficial, but we need to make sure to be careful we don’t develop too fast and become too reliant on the technology.

  3. I agree with mkmattes’s comments in the sense that digital media codes us to fear cyborgs, robots and any other technological advancements that mirror human image. Dare2dream14’s comment about mankind’s vulnerability towards authoritarianism and the questions they posed asking “Why would we create something that we are afraid could surpass us?” reminded me of
    of Isaac Asimov’s “Three Laws of Robotics” ( These laws were first introduced around 1940 in one of Asimov’s science fiction short stories. (Interestingly enough, I believe the closest thing they got to a robot in this era was one of fiction.) However, I think the fact that these laws were created in a time where technology was nowhere near close to creating something as sophisticated as an A.I or cyborg is really interesting. Not only does it speak largely to mankind’s need for control, it also speaks to our fears about our place on earth. Yes, perhaps we fear the unknown. However, I think mankind fears that which might usurp our power and dominance in the world. Hence the reason why laws such as these (though fictional) were created in hopes that our anxieties would be quelled. Who knows, maybe one day these laws will be programmed into popular robots or cyborgs like in the movie mentioned above: iRobot.

  4. Some good sci-fi references here, team! kairos88–one of the ironies that Asimov drew out in his robot series is that the very rules put in place to limit robots actually made them superior to humans, because they could be counted on to be more compassionate, and less motivated by self-interest. I believe it was the theorist Sherry Turkle who posited that when it came to new technology, especially new AI technology, there were basically three phases: a point where we fear the machine for its unknown potential, the moment where we redefine what human is, in order to keep this new AI separate from human, and the moment we forget about our fears and move on. At the same time, the cyborg seems to be a very persistent fear–we certainly haven’t moved on yet.

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