Volume 12, Number 6
18 October 2005

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Meet Your New Body Parts: Keyboard, Monitor and Earphones
The other weekend, there was a short news story from Japan: a phone company has started selling a system by which you can use your fingers as your cell phone. Such an advance hardly surprises us (and that's why it was just a short item being used to fill the news hour), since we all expect to have technological implants (nano-machines, chips, etc.) within decades.

In his book "Simulacres and Simulation," French philosopher Jean Baudrillard says that "from a classical point of view, technology is nothing but a continuation of the body." It sounds all right, but such an idea provokes me to say: Okay, but what is the body other than a biological continuation? Isn't it a collection of useful tools, our first birthday present?

The naturalness of having a complete body shouldn't make us think that it's a must to have the entire collection in order to be a human being. Not to have a part of it doesn't take away part of a person's humanity. You can lose your hand, and you'll still be the same person as you were before.

So, isn't it logical to say that the body is a tool belonging to a man/woman rather than a part of him/her? What makes your hand more "yours" than your keyboard? The feeling of pain, maybe? That's nothing but an alarm system for your body!

In this discourse, I'll take one more step forward and say that the body and the technology we use make up a combination of useful media connected to the mind in one way or another, which can be transformed (likely in the near future) without causing us to give up our humanity. I don't mean that such a transformation won't change who we are, but it won't affect our personalities more dramatically than modifying our cell phones, computers or cars.

Technological advances and our wish to keep up with them will integrate our bodies to the "external" tools slowly, without disturbing the conservative person inside us. Have you heard of the projects that involve nano-robots traveling through our veins to clean them, or thought-controlled computer programs for disabled people? This last one is important, because when you're talking to a computer, it feels like the computer is an independent being listening to you. But when you're controlling a computer via your thoughts, the computer will literally become a part of your body. Controlling it won't be different from controlling your arm.

It's hard to see what's coming when we're all tumbling down the hill of inventions faster and faster every passing day, but guessing won't hurt. I can easily imagine that these technological products will destroy (I'm not using this word in a bad sense) our current understanding of reality. Our new organs (earphones, cell phones, monitors, etc.) will create a difference between the place where our body exists and the reality our mind is dealing with.

So, would I be wrong to make the statement that humans will soon quit using their bodies for daily tasks?
I guess not.

İsmail O. Postalcıoğlu (POLS/III)

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