Friday, September 12, 2014

Are we already cyborgs?

The Terminator Cyborg
Google Images

Benjamin Wittes and Jane Chong think we're already cyborgs, and so does the US Supreme Court:
In June 2014, the Supreme Court handed down its decision in Riley v. California, in which the justices unanimously ruled that police officers may not, without a warrant, search the data on a cell phone seized during an arrest. Writing for eight justices, Chief Justice John Roberts declared that "modern cell phones . . . are now such a pervasive and insistent part of daily life that the proverbial visitor from Mars might conclude they were an important feature of human anatomy."(1)

This may be the first time the Supreme Court has explicitly contemplated the cyborg in case law—admittedly as a kind of metaphor. But the idea that the law will have to accommodate the integration of technology into the human being has actually been kicking around for a while.
Wittes and Chong offer this example in their very readable article "Our Cyborg Future: Law and Policy Implications (pdf)" (Center for Technology Innovation at Brookings, September 2014). They go on to discuss the larger implications for privacy and our probable reinterpretation of what should be considered "private."

I've long considered a cyborg to require physical integration of a person and a machine, but a significant number of thinkers disagree with me and consider possession of a smartphone by an individual to mean that that person is already a cyborg. Maybe so, but there's something about physical integration of person and machine that crosses a threshold not crossed by some individual holding a smartphone.

(1) "573 U.S. Supreme Court [Riley v. California] ([June] 2014). Justice Alito wrote a separate opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment."



At 8:44 PM, Blogger Kevin Kim said...

I agree. A cyborg is a fusion of biological entity and machine. A phone, however addicted we may become to it, is just a portable device, not a welded or otherwise attached appendage.

At 8:53 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I agree with your agreement with my agreeable disagreement.

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

At 4:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have we not had "cyborgs" for some time now? There are many people with hands, arms, legs, and possibly even eyes now that are tied into the persons nerves and react to thoughts.

I do not think a cell phone is an appendage no matter how loudly the victim screams when it is ripped from their hands; however, I do think a cell phone is so integral to many people, with such vast capabilities and storage, that it should require a search warrant for law enforcement to access it.


At 7:48 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Yes, we've certainly had cyborgs. No argument there.

Jeffery Hodges

* * *


Post a Comment

<< Home