On being a Cyborg

November 13, 2009

I’ve blogged on Aimee Mullins before. People like her really reinforce my thinking that we need to reassess how we define “disability” as a society. It’s not about differences between what one person can do compared to “normal” people.


She recently wrote an essay about athletes like Oscar Pistorius, who I’ve written about, also. We are augmenting ourselves with technology—both the abled and disabled—and it isn’t going to stop.

The fact is, no two people are the same. And there isn’t one “bell curve” that we can sort people onto, there are countless. Everyone is good at, and poor at, different things for different reasons. And our traditional view of “normal” totally breaks down for individuals who are truly exceptional… beyond 99th percentile (or far below 1st percentile).

As another example (also from South Africa), consider runner Castor Semenya, who is intersexed. Semenya has male genes and features, but she competes as a woman. Unfair? World class athletes are genetic freaks of nature anyway; why are certain specific genetic oddities “unfair” and others are acceptable?

You have to look at how people to how they coexist with their environment. Semenya isn’t “disabled” and, other than having no legs, neither is Aimee Mullins. And just like how materials scientists can engineer carbon fiber legs, architects can add ramps and elevators, surgeons can implant sensory devices… society is comprised of us. We are the raw materials. We can engineer ourselves and our relations with one another to make for a more hospitable world for everyone, even those beyond the top and bottom 1%ile.

One Response to “On being a Cyborg”

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