Views from the Conning Tower: How Much Cybernetic Enhancement is Too Much to be Called Human?

The following was a digital story that went out on the Colonial News Network (CONN) a few days ago.

In an age where cybernetic enhancement is the norm, how much is too much? At what point do you become more machine than human? It’s a controversial topic and one tackled by Dr. Hideo Karnak from the Advanced Humanistics division of Cydyne recently. Dr. Karnak gave a talk at the Dominion University facility in the domes near Mars’ Gale Crater on this very topic during a lecture series titled “Humanity, the Next Hundred Years.” Though his talk was cut short by Dominion security forces, we were able to broadcast this much of his talk before he was escorted out of the building:

The Board of Trustees has asked Cydyne to come up with a way of determining a so-called ‘level of humanity’ among the growing cybernetically enhanced population among Dominion worlds. Our scientists, anthropologists, and philosophers have debated the question at length, and struggled to arrive at a suitable answer.

To begin, we must quantify the amounts of biology vs. technology in each subject. This becomes quite difficult as we consider the amount of genetic modification or surgical augmentation potentially endured by the subject. Does the manipulation of DNA qualify as ‘technology’ in this case? Or the use of nanotechnology to strengthen bone or muscle? Or even the use of lab-grown tissues and organs used to repair or replace similar biological components damaged in some way?

To simplify this point, we have drawn the line at truly cybernetic upgrades vs. biological ones, meaning the upgrades we largely consider ‘robotic’ in nature. In an age where we have largely mastered the art of genetic modification and lab-grown biological materials to avoid systemic rejection to overcome the flaws of the basic human body, we have, for now at least, deemed the addition of mechanical or digital parts to be the dividing line between ‘biological’ and ‘cybernetic.’

However, do you measure the amount of technology vs. biology by weight? By limb? Number of surgeries? Is an individual with a cybernetic arm and leg, replaced after an industrial accident out in the belt, 50% human? If an individual with a ‘natural’ mass of 75 kg suddenly has 50 kg of cybernetic enhancements, does that mean they are only 33% human?

There is a movement afoot in some parts of the Dominion to fight for the rights of ‘pure’ humans over those enhanced with robotic parts, but this is akin to the discussion of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. In truth, we have been genetically modifying foods since we started farming back in 10,000 BC or so.

And the beauty of natural selection and evolution has always leaned towards the stronger, smarter, and faster of any given species. We are not the same species we were when Homo Sapiens began walking the Earth, so what qualifies as ‘pure’? There was even a historical period where some people looked at skin color to determine their worth. We left those antiquated notions behind more than a century ago, so I ask you why we are doing the same thing with our cybernetically enhanced brothers and sisters?

Second, what actually constitutes our humanity? Is it the flesh and blood we consider our bodies? Or is the human spirit — the very mind we house within that body?

I would argue that it’s the human brain that is the true seat of all that makes us unique as individuals. The body is immaterial. There are rumors of experiments by other corporations that aim to explore that very question. If we remove the entire body and just save the brain, is that individual still considered human? As the cutting edge of science, there are many who think those experiments go too far. And yet they may answer the very question we have had put before us.

Our Dominion masters are looking to quantify humanity so they may quantify the rights of those individuals who don’t make the cut in terms of flesh and blood to cybernetics. We must rise up against this old school thinking and treat all thinking, feeling humans with the respect they so rightfully deserve!

Rise up Cybernauts! Step up and start the battle for Cybernetic rights before it’s too late!”

Cydyne has publicly denounced the speech by Dr. Karnak, but the broadcast made it all the way to the rim of the Dominion.

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