Cybernetics in the Real World

I spent this weekend at COSine, a science fiction writer’s conference here in Colorado Springs. I participated in several panels about the state of the world, especially for cybernetics.

The conversations were quite lively but ended up being debates about “how cool the technology could be” interspersed with discussion on whether we should “require” people to accept the augmentations. I suggested it wasn’t terribly different from the Borg (in Star Trek: The Next Generation) meeting new species and immediately implanting them with the technology that makes the Borg hive-mind work. The panelists likened the practice to forcing all deaf children to receive the Cochlear implant. A very spirited discussion ensued.

Afterwards, I apologized to the moderator for hi-jacking the discussion like that and she said while that was an interesting discussion, she was more intrigued by my “throw away” question about how the the augmented would be considered in our society:
Right now, there’s some stigma to people with artificial limbs, pacemakers, insulin pumps and the like. People who augment themselves with drugs for performance are stricken from the record books because they aren’t “fair,” or more accurately, not purely human.

And this leads back to the robot question. How do we determine what is “beneficial” and what is “useful”? How do we differentiate between things that help but pollute for instance? These are tricky questions and I am somewhat concerned about the outcome.