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The Dilemma of Being a Cyborg

This article by CARINA CHOCANO first appeared in the New York Times


Tom Gauld

This kind of thing happens all the time now, but three or four years ago it still seemed momentous and thrilling: a sudden argument at a dinner party (something about Tom Selleck and Burt Reynolds and iconic mustaches of the ’70s) was quickly put to rest when half the people present picked up their phones and started to Google. Observing this, a friend of mine made what struck me as a very clever remark about our “stegosaurus brains.” It didn’t occur to me that only a dinosaur would delight in a dinosaur analogy.

As you probably already know, but as I only recently discovered while visiting the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles with my increasingly futuristic 3-year-old (who is given to swiping a finger across things like TV sets and laptop screens and declaring them broken when they fail to respond to her touch), the theory that the stegosaurus had a “second brain” that controlled the back end of its body was debunked years ago, long after it was taught to me in grade school. So not only was my friend’s analogy contingent on a discredited theory, it also rested quaintly on an Industrial Age notion: that our phones and other data-storage and network devices are secondary to our actual brains, mere auxiliary boosters bringing up the slow-moving rear of our consciousness, rather than the indispensable space-age (post-space-age?) transmogrifiers we now understand these devices to be.

“We’re all cyborgs now,” the anthropologist Amber Case said in a TED talk in 2010. For thousands of years, she said, tool-use had been “a physical modification of self…[more]

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