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So, in a desperate attempt to avoid revision, I have been pondering a little on cyborgs lately, and I was wondering what views some of you might have. Some of this may not be exclusively about AI, but it's at least closely related, so I hope it's considered on-topic.

To me, a cyborg can be viewed as a transitory entity - somewhere between a biological organism and a technological one, but not exclusively either. Now, in the very broadest sense of the definition, a human wearing spectacles can be considered a cyborg, as they are technologically enhancing their vision. Likewise, pacemakers, artificial limbs, et cetera. There is, however, a tighter definition whereby the modification or enhancement must be at least robotic (capable of performing actions itself) or contain some element of AI, under which a pegleg would not qualify someone as a cyborg, but a pacemaker would.

Now, most of the time, that makes it fairly easy to classify a cyborg. But as always, there are sometimes those niggling little cases that defy easy classification.

Therefore, my question to you is this: when does someone stop being a cyborg?

In The Bicentennial Man, Andrew is constructed originally as a purely inorganic android, with very little autonomy. However, his owners indulge him, and and his personality begins to grow in a very unexpected (and rather human) way. As the years go by, he begins to modify his body, eventually beginning to replace certain components with their human biological equivalents.

Now, in most definitions of cyber-organisms, we consider it from the perspective of a biological being modified by the addition of technology. Personally, I consider it valid to view from the other direction too, whereby a technological entity modified with the addition of biology may also be considered a cyborg.

Assuming there are no disagreements with this conjecture, I think it's fairly safe to classify Andrew as a cyborg from this point on. However, as the story progresses, he remains unsatisfied, until eventually in a bid to be legally considered human, he finally manages to have his entire body converted to biological components.

Now, here's the crunch - Andrew is in a completely human body. Yet, he was a constructed entity, with an artificially created personality. He was designed. The personality has grown and exceeded all it's original limitations; but it is still, at it's base level, a construct, an artifical intelligence that just happens to now live in a human brain rather than a positronic net.

Does this still qualify him as a cyborg? Or would you consider Andrew to have completed a full transition from technological, through cyborg, to biological? (And, just to stir the midden a little further: assuming you decide him to be a full biological, would this qualify him as human?)


Second case: Lisa, from Torchwood episode 4, Cyberwoman. I'm sure most of you are familiar with the Cybermen from Doctor Who?

A Cyberman is essentially an android body with a human brain as the processing unit. As I understand it, the original brain is altered and supplemented with AI, to inhibit emotions and facilitate efficiency, hive thinking, and similar functions.

Now, Lisa is a bit of an oddity. She was half-way through the transition to becoming a Cyberman, when the process was interrupted, leaving her with a fair amount of her body intact and, importantly, some vestiges of her original personality in place. However, she did gain some of the AI supplementation/alterations, as is rather evident by her actions in the episode.

Now, here's the further twist: After being attacked and rejected by the Torchwood team, Lisa comes to the conclusion that they (quite sensibly, in this case) will never accept her as a cyborg. Therefore, she arranges to have her brain - the supposedly least modified component of her - transplanted out of her cyborg body, into the body of another young woman.

End result? She's back to a human body, with a human brain, albeit not the original one. But once again, those pesky Cyberman traits are apparent. Now, it's never exactly clear whether those remaining Cyberman tendancies are a result of technology embedded in the brain, an artificial intelligence overlaid over her original personality, or simply personality aberrations in Lisa herself (not exactly unfeasible, given the stress she has undergone).

So, assuming it's not the first case - Is Lisa now cyborg, or human?

One further question: it is, as mentioned above, that time of year again - exam time. I'm going to be writing up some crib sheets for my AI class anyway; and so I was wondering if anyone here would be interested in me putting together a Beginner's Guide to certain current AI techniques for the community? (I think it's all fascinating; but I realise that I'm often in the minority there, LOL, and since this is primarily a fiction-based comm...)


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Jan. 13th, 2007 11:49 pm (UTC)
I am going to go out on a limb with a purely emotional, gut response here.

To my way of thinking, so long as there is AI present in the construction, the being is a cyborg. Going even further into my emotional response, I personally have a difficult time considering someone with prosthetics or a pacemaker a cyborg, because they still have a fully organic brain. From that perspective, I would then have to consider that once Andrew becomes fully biological, he no longer qualifies as a cyborg but as a fully human being.

Lisa on the other hand would be a cyborg because her brain was overlaid with the AI component.

I would be very interested in a guide to current AI techniques. I think it's primarily a fiction-based comm by necessity rather than design. :)

Also, do you mind if I friend you with this journal? It's an RP journal, but I'm taking this character into a cyborg phase as we speak and I'd really like to keep as much... realism as possible, given the context of RP. Having an objective reader might help with that goal. You don't have to friend him back. :)
Jan. 14th, 2007 12:15 am (UTC)
Lisa on the other hand would be a cyborg because her brain was overlaid with the AI component.

But from that definition - wouldn't Andrew's be, too? He never originally had a brain, he just modified his body until his personality could be transferred to a human one - the intelligence is still artificial. Or do you think that his 'growth' as an individual negates that?

From an emotional perspective though, it's easy to see why Andrew would be more readily accepted as human than Lisa - he's aspiring to humanity, wanting to be as good a human he can. Lisa... well, I guess in a way, she's a corruption of what cybernetics means - the flaws personified.

LOL, I'm wondering what I've set myself up for here - I hope people won't be disappointed. We're discussing all these fabulous AIs like Andrew and Data... and really, so much RL AI is things like "How does your washing machine know how much water to use?" I'll try and weed out the boring parts though!

And sure, go ahead! I don't really talk that much AI stuff on my own journal, but I'm always up for discussion and I love to see other people's takes on these things!
Jan. 14th, 2007 01:05 am (UTC)
His growth negates it, I think. He was able to transfer a self-aware consciousness that had a personality more akin to that of a human than an AI. He aspired to be human, and he learned what it was to be fully human. The fact that his personality started out in a positronic network rather than an organic brain is irrelevant as it was able to function in a human brain as he desired - at what level would anyone be able to determine that the personality there was anything other than human?

Of course then you turn it around and consider Juliana Soong, who didn't realize she was an android - is she an AI, or is she human? YARGH!

Well. I thought I knew what I was talking about. Shoot. Lisa... see, you could also argue though that humans with severe psychological disorders could be a corruption of what humanity means, because of the flaws.

It's like walking on ice - at what point are we willing to say, yes, 'A' is human but 'B' is not? It's the new car question - if, as the years go by, you replace every component of your car as things break down or rust or wear out, at what point can you say that you no longer have the original car anymore? My brain doesn't like me very much right now. Murr.

I don't mind reading about how my washing machine knows how to do that!

:) Done. It's really mostly just, 'does this sound plausible' cos in RP just about anything goes, but I'm sure the questions will arise as he explores what it means to be human - at least on the outside.
Jan. 14th, 2007 01:33 am (UTC)

To me, basically a cyborg is a human (or whatever species it would happen to be) with mechanical parts (possibly even brain components) that have been replaced but who was born with at least partly, though not necessarily all (see – Borg, early star trek TNG), human components. They began life as human or whatever species, they lied as human or whatever species and it’s this which motivates them at the root, not programming or machines, even though machines or artificial signals may be what pushes those motivations and thoughts into action.

Take fully artificial life forms who often have artificially generated consciousnesses. They were never in any way human, after all. They say humanity is in the heart. Sure, if you want to get romantic it is, but if we look at it scientifically (and most cyborg sci-fi does) humanity is all in the brain. Replace the entire brain and that person isn’t human anymore. Whether it’s a CYBORG, or not, is another matter entirely.
Jan. 14th, 2007 02:27 am (UTC)
But what about an artificial intelligence who then adds biological components, perhaps even some brain matter? Is that a cyborg also? Just trying to clarify for my own ulterior motives.

Tis vespurrs, in case you were wondering.
Jan. 14th, 2007 02:31 am (UTC)

So did Data become a cyborg when the borg queen started grafting stuff onto him? Hm.

Things get a little tricky in my head there… they’re undoubtedly, in my head anyway. not human, but there’s no saying that cyborgness can’t be moved away from (i.e. biological components added) as well as moved towards to (by adding mechanical or technological components).

But then they’d be motive still by technological means, wouldn’t they…?

Not sure there. Maybe need to re-examine that definition. But at the moment I'd say no, they're probably not a cyborg even if they looked like our standard definition. They'd be a kind of... reverse cyborg. A humamech or something.
Jan. 14th, 2007 02:42 am (UTC)
See, this is where I'm hitting sticky points too. I thought I knew the answer, at least well enough in my own head, but then you get into these grey areas where all of a sudden I'm not sure anymore.

This is a question I'm struggling to resolve because in this RP I'm in, if I take Kitt's consciousness from the car and transfer it into what is effectively a cybernetic organism, with flesh and blood infused with diodes and circuits and fiber optics, and a human brain meshed with a modified CPU... what type of being am I looking at, exactly?
Jan. 14th, 2007 02:48 am (UTC)
I don’t think it’s ever a simple black and white issue, though. Nothing like this ever is. I just have to work out the line at which intriguing grey areas become Unnecessary Complications in Scarab’s Natural Thought Processes.

The simple answer would be to ask what there was more of – machine or flesh. But then it could be 50/50, and even if I were more one way or the other, it still might not be entirely resolvable.

Traditionally in fiction I think cyborgs are usually assicoated with mechanics and beings that have human brains but not necessarily bodies. Looking at it that was, the Major in GiTS is still a cyborg, even if only her “ghost” (her spirit, as it were) and none of her body whatsoever is human.

But then that’s a FICTIONAL assumption. Since cyborgs as of yet exist in only very limited form in the real world, I don’t think anyone’s ever bothered to come up with a more scientifically exact definition. You’re dealing with fiction, so you can afford to be a little off the wall in your assumptions. But if this were a real being we were talking about it would be important for us to know for sure. I still believe that thought itself is what makes someone what they are, “I think like a human, so in spirit at least I can identity with them, maybe even be considered a human and acceptable for representation via the human rights laws” but since thoughts are so malleable and changeable… it’s odd.
Jan. 14th, 2007 03:02 am (UTC)
LOL, I think I'm right there with you. I could, possibly, be thinking about this too much.

In terms of the body itself, more like 50/50. However, the mind/personality would definitely be housed in the CPU, whereas the brain controls more of the body's organic functions. So he'd still think like an AI. But then if you watch the show Kitt had some very human responses anyway so the line is already somewhat blurred.

Hmmm. I see what you mean, but then we get into the idea of sentience as well - does a sentient, self-aware being have rights, even if it's/he's not a human, but an artificial intelligence?

I've been leaning towards the idea of 'cyborg' just because... well, there would be many biological components. I think this is making my head spin trying to sort out definitions.
Jan. 14th, 2007 02:52 am (UTC)
btw, what's up with the new lj?
Jan. 14th, 2007 02:54 am (UTC)
Not a new LJ. This is just my character RP journal. :) Can't be bothered to log into the personal one at the moment.
Apr. 9th, 2007 07:02 am (UTC)
I consider a cyborg by the classical science fiction definition.

Someone with robotic limbs is still a person. A sentient creature completely robotic I would be tempted to call a robot still, but if I wanted to be politically correct, or it offended them I would call them perhaps a "sentience". If further categorization was necessarry I might call a human with a significant augmentation - perhaps a computer brain and biological body or vice versa - I would call perhaps an "augmented human" or a "transhuman". In the end it doesn't matter, because words are only wind. I could call them "Susans" if I wanted and nothing would change.
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