As the relationship between humans and computers grows closer, cyborg anthropologist Amber Case is busy examining every nuance of this link at her web solutions firm, Hazelnut Consulting, and speaking at high-profile tech conferences across the country. Here, she reflects on the future of technology and how we are all, essentially, cyborgs.
Everyday life revolves around little electronic devices like cell phones. They cry to us, and we have to calm them back to sleep. When they get hungry we have to feed them by plugging them into the wall. Our society is as much produced by these objects as we produce the objects. Cyborg anthropology examines this interaction. It’s a developing field—in the same way that technology is rapidly changing, cyborg anthropologists must be nimble, to understand and study in an objective way how technology affects culture.
A cyborg has organic and nonorganic components that work together in a symbiotic relationship. Everyone is a cyborg. When you use a cell phone, you’re a not “full” cyborg, because the phone isn’t embedded in your body, but you’re a “low-tech cyborg”—the technology is an extension of the hand. A computer and a human work together symbiotically—a human stores things in a computer, and computers wouldn’t survive unless humans kept purchasing them.
A lot of people think they’re bad with computers, when in reality it’s the computer interfaces that are bad. I’m trying to make a better community for software users, helping people to interact with computers, guiding them to information faster. Successful technology should be invisible and let people live their lives.