There's that emancipatory language again. By transforming yourself, you can transform the world. By having a cyborg dress-up party, you could reboot the race to the stars.
Writer Quinn Norton notes that while Clynes and Kline were contemplating astronauts taking drugs in space, a very real organizational complex was being exogenously extended on earth, one month at a time.
A hostile environment was being tamed by a newly and artificially capable people. It escaped notice and critique though, because the modified weren't men, and then environment wasn't space. The modified were women, and the environment was men. The women of the 60s were the first to modify and control their uteruses. (Yes, menfolk, you can be a pretty brutal environment.) Two years before the We Will Go to the Moon speech, Enovid, the first birth control pill, hit the market. The IUD came into its own in 1968 with the copper T, the year before we landed on the moon. While the Jetsons were giving us a space future to look at, the heirs of Margaret Sanger were quietly destroying the social institution it portrayed. And for all the attention and resources the Space Race consumed, and it consumed a world, the world was changed by the women freed from the tyranny of biology and no longer (as) subject to the whims of men.
The cyborg is a figure of emancipation. We see cyborgs freed to subsist on a wider range of food, freed to communicate with millions of people, freed to explore the cosmos, freed to have a family and career at the time of their choosing.
These sorts of freedoms do not come without cost. As automated enhancements liberate us from one kind of slavery, they bind us to another. We've developed an entire infrastructure of systems that leave women and men free to explore, to create, to think, and to feel. And we've created a class of beings that depend on those same systems to explore, to create, to think, and to feel.
Norton argues that 'cyborg' hasn't grown up. It doesn't encompass the full range of weird entities that have proliferated in the 21st Century.
It seems like the discussion of cyborgs in the time since 1960, echoing the discussion of robotics, bounced between news of DARPA and DARPA-like Sci-fi projects none of us will ever really see and Critiques on how We'd All Been Cyborgs, Really, Since We First Picked Up Sticks. I want a middle ground. I want to say there are inflection points where the scale of things changes the nature of what they do.
We need new language to talk about the shit we don't see. Cyborg is a start, but it was coined by the very forces of big phallic rocket male domination that cyborgs were about to fuck up in the darkened alleys of the collected consciousness. Like, that day. We need language that lets us talk about the terrorism of little changes. Be they good or bad, they are terrible in aggregate.
Fifty years on, we've barely made it off the planet, but there's been a veritable second Cambrian explosion of cybernetic-organisms. Explosives detonated by text message, legs that run on bluetooth, insects that are spybots, killer planes flown by game controllers, plants that tweet their thirst, buildings with opinions, APIs that direct humans, printers that make car parts, phones that are computers, robots that drive marathons on Mars.