Curiosity for the development of humanity occupies an important space in our preoccupations about the future. Nowadays, films and literature offer many possibilities to start discussions about shifting identities and how the new age of technology is changing the way we perceive ourselves and others around us. How is the ubiquity of technology transforming our bodies and minds?

Seduction, 1990 by Lynn Hershman Leeson.

Seduction, 1990 by Lynn Hershman Leeson.

It is commonplace today that children know how to use mobile phones even before they learn how to read and write. This informs both our notions of the self and the cognitive abilities we develop, affecting simultaneously the who and the how of our existence. Current notions of the body are defined by anxiety, and we seem to be losing skills and features that make up our humanity, thus becoming servers or extensions of larger systems, that evade our comprehension or power to control.

Concepts about relationships follow the precepts of a commodified human experience, whereby our reality is dictated by control apparatuses such as mass and connective media, exerting powerful influence and even repression. Our imagination has become militarised, and we seem ready to wage war against each other faster than before. In other words, we think differently because we live in a world where resources are limited and knowledge is power, and access is given to a selected few.

Yul Brynner as The Gunslinger in the film Westworld, 1973, directed by Michael Crichton.

Yul Brynner as The Gunslinger in the film Westworld, 1973, directed by Michael Crichton.

We interact with each other differently as well. Our increasingly connected world is transforming us into isolated human beings, and the notion of geography of our own humanity is starting to be more inclined to a mentality of islands, instead of archipelagos. We claim to be more developed, to live in civilised societies, yet our systems are relegating people belonging to a certain class, race, or gender to a realm of invisibility and disenfranchisement. We only see ourselves in any given equation, and this has profound implications on our awareness of the rest of the world, and of the fact that we depend on it.

One of the products of our intelligent-machine culture is the cyborg, as described by Donna Haraway in her Cyborg Manifesto. The cyborg, a hybrid child of our societies, lives in reality, but is also a creature of fiction. Communication technology and especially biotechnology are introducing new ideas to the debate. Can bodies be made? If so, what consequences will this have on the confidence we have in our capacity to be and do what we, as humans, have been programmed to? Maybe in the future we will be able to create better human beings, but what models will we use to create them?

Camerawoman from the series Phantom Limb, 1988 by Lynn Hershman Leeson.

Camerawoman from the series Phantom Limb, 1988 by Lynn Hershman Leeson.

Technology has made our lives easier, but it has also come with a price we have to pay. The age of the cyborg is the age of individuals with fractured identities, which offers the possibility of reworking concepts about our bodies and our meaning-making systems. Discourses about bodies and identities of the future will take shape as we continue to develop technology, and their ability to impact our reality will vary. Beyond discourse, however, the issue of materiality, access, and movement is essential, as expressed in the Cyborg Manifesto: are our machines becoming disturbingly lively, or are we becoming frighteningly inert?

Words: Astrid Scheuermann

Copy edited by Elena Stanciu