I’ve never been a big fan of science fiction. I’ve watched science fiction movies and tv shows…maybe only one episode of a series…but it has never been a great draw for me. The only book I remember reading in the science fiction category that appealed to me was Steven King’s recent book, 11/22/63. That book was more valuable, in my mind, as a well-written novel than as a science fiction text.
But it occurs to me that science fiction is rapidly becoming a category which is barely discernible from reality. Over the past several decades we have seen amazing technological innovations that would have been considered science fiction thirty years ago. I watched someone type a text message into a wrist computer the other day, and it reminded me that in my youth the Dick Tracy wrist phone was a fantasy that no one really expected to see in their life time.
When I went to college (1958) we were introduced to a computer at a nearby IBM research laboratory that occupied a fairly good-sized building not unlike a warehouse. Now I carry one in my pocket and think nothing of it.
So the boundary between science fiction and reality is a very thin one, and it is very elusive at times. I thought of that the other night when we watched the premiere episode of Intelligence, a TV production that features a man into whom has been injected a device that equips his brain with unrestricted computer data. He is, therefore, capable of artificial intelligence which assists him in his (hopefully) good works. It turns out that the initial reasons for the experiment were somewhat questionable, but the viewers’ hope is that he will aid the triumph of good over evil.
This may be science fiction today, but it’s only a matter of time (maybe even hours or days) before this is a reality. I think about animals that have a chip in them to identify them and locate them. Some people are talking about inserting such chips in their children. I have no doubt that the intelligence community is already experimenting with such instruments. If not, they should be.
The product of such artificial intelligence is called a cyborg. The word cyborg is a portmanteau, meaning a word constructed from the merging of two or more existing words or portions of those words. In the case of cyborg, it is the merger of portions of the words cybernetic and organism.
Cybernetics is the scientific study of how people, animals, and machines control and communicate information. I first heard the word in the 1960’s when reading the book Future Shock. What the author predicted to take place in the field of artificial intelligence and communication over the next 30 years is now commonplace.
Organism, obviously, refers to a living being. Humans are organisms.
Thus, a human whose body has been doctored to contain a cybernetic device which affects or controls its body is a cyborg. In some circles it is restricted to persons who have artificial devices for walking, reaching, or other physical actions. In the case of the TV series, Intelligence, Josh Holloway plays the role of Gabriel Vaughn, a cyborg. He is very real, very authentic. His cyborgian gift is in the category of intelligence. I have no trouble dealing with his artificial intelligence factor. Maybe it is as much a sign of my transition as it is the quality of the acting, writing and directing.
Photo Credit: Intelligence