Trust and Complex Technology: The Cyborg’s Modern Bargain - PJ Rey via Cyborgology ⇢
PJ Rey via Cyborgology
Being a cyborg is risky business; we must depend on the expertise of others to ensure that our equipment is fit for use. This radical dependency on expert systems—and the societies that create them—makes cyborgs fundamentally social beings. In fact, it is through dependency on technology, and the subsequent loss of self-sufficiency, that we express our commitment to society. Technology has always been part and parcel to the division of labor. Think bows and shovels. In this sense, being a cyborg requires not only trust in technology producers, but trust in other technology users. There is no such thing as a lone cyborg. The birth of cyborg marks the death of the atomistic individual (if such a thing every existed). Donna Haraway rightly contrasts the cyborg to Romantic Goddesses channeled in small lakeside cabins. Cyborgs are cosmopolitan.
This is not to say that Modern day cyborgs are incapable of being critical of technology or expert systems. On the contrary, the cyborg’s humility in admitting her own dependencies leads her to acknowledge the importance of struggling to enforce certain values within techno-social systems, rather than plotting a Utopian escape (the sort that had currency with Thoreau and other Romantics and that continues to be idealized by cyber-libertarians who view the Internet as a fresh start for society). My favorite Haraway quote explains:
This is not some kind of blissed-out technobunny joy in information. It is a statement that we had better get it – this is a worlding operation. Never the only worlding operation going on, but one that we had better inhabit as more than a victim. We had better get it that domination is not the only thing going on here. We had better get it that this is a zone where we had better be the movers and the shakers, or we will be just victims.
Cyborgs always see the social in the technological; the “technology is neutral” trope is a laugh line.