Separation from the Natural
Jonathan Wang '10

The definition of "cyborg" that is commonly used is the functional combination of man and machine, of nature and technology. The idea of the cyborg often suggests the artifical improvement, augmentation, and redesign of the natural, ground state. In works of science fiction, readers enter a world of artifically enhanced people, of cybernetic citizens, of minds melded to machines. People with synthetic eyes, synthetic beings, altered skin, and reconstructed limbs abound in cyberpunk works like Gibson's Neuromancer and the film Bladerunner, giving us the opportunity to see the chimeraic combination of organism and appliance.

I would like to suggest, however, that the idea of the cyborg applies not only to man and machine, but towards animals, plants, and even the planet, as well. While these inhuman beings are significantly less reliant on information technology, they are still subject to technological tinkering and genetic manipulation that leads to organisms and landscapes that ultimately rely on technology just as much as mechanically modified men. Humanity attempts to remove both their own bodies and their food from the basic, natural state. As people adopt clothing, language, and machinery as departures into the cyborg reality, so does agriculture adapt with irrigation systems, greenhouses, and genetic modifications. Livestock become integrated with antibiotics, feedlots, and herding techniques. Food distribution leaps from simple gathering towards vast, supermarket networks and online ordering services. The very food products are constantly modified by fire, enzymes, and plastics. The production, distribution, and modification of food is so extensive that plants are as connected to technology, if not more so, than humans are. Plants, animals, and food are no longer the the products of nature so much as the synthesis of husbandry and cybernetics, especially in the modern age. The state of food has become an act of defying biology; it is not so much survival of the fittest as it is survival of the delicious. What should not exist on its own has become some of the most precious and widespread commodities; altered corn syrup and plugged up fats and oils are all over the place. There is not so much predator and prey as scientist and resource; organisms are less subject to the whims of the weather now, and increasingly dependent on the economic traditions