Effects of Human-Machine Integration on the Construction of Identity

Effects of Human-Machine Integration on the Construction of Identity

Francesc Ballesté, Carme Torras
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-2211-1.ch030
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Recent developments in social robotics, intelligent prosthetics, brain-computer interfaces, and implants pose new questions as to the effects of technology on identity, society, and the future of humankind. The authors’ standpoint is that such effects cannot be studied separately from their social/cultural context, and thus, this chapter begins by reviewing the existing approaches to the social construction of reality, placing special emphasis on language and its limitations to describe the future. Then, it focuses on the body as the place where the human-machine integration occurs, and describes four levels at which the notion of cyborg has been analyzed in anthropological studies: symbolic, physical, as a permeable layer between nature and culture, and as an intermediate step towards a higher-order existence. The chapter ends up with a word of caution in relation to technological determinism stemming from STS (Science and Technology Studies), as well as the need to establish Relevant Social Groups (RSG) with well-founded criteria that join scientific and sociological academics under a multidisciplinary approach.
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2. Preliminary Concepts On The Social Construction Of Reality

Our study aims to analyze the influence of language as a mechanism of objectification of collective knowledge in a technocratic society and its symbolic universe. From our point of view, this is important in two aspects:

Key Terms in this Chapter

Hybridization: In Biology, it refers to the process of mating organisms of different varieties or species to create a hybrid. Following the thesis of Cyborg Anthropology and the concept of psychosocial integration, there exists a natural hybridization between technological objects and humans.

Explainability: One of the most important concepts of the Ethnomethodology of Discourse. It relates the objectification of social knowledge needed to develop daily habits with how individuals justify their actions socially when interacting with technology. This affects directly on the construction of psychosocial identity.

Cyborg Anthropology: An academic endeavor promoted by Downey, Dumit and Williams (1995)that suggests a different formulation of the history and subjectivities involved in the interaction/integration of humans and machines, not as a simple expression of cultures, but bearing in mind a possible reformulation of the traditional concept of Anthropos.

Transhumanism: The concept of lineal historical evolution after the post-humanist period, with the underlying belief that technology can transcend physical limitations of body. The World Transhumanism Association (www.transhumanism.org/index.php/WTA/hvcs) represents this paradigm.

Cyborg: Commonly understood as human-machine physical integration.

Psychosocial Internalization: The way technological uses are integrated in the dialogical relation between individuals and society, which permits viewing the cyborg as a continuous whole in all that pertains to the study of man.

Agency: Given the possibility of natural hybridization between humans and machines (with a blur boundary), it is not clear who is performing the actions in order to improve their efficiency. Latour (1999) proposes to study the construction of this strong interaction/integration.

Multi-Stability: The concept proposed by Ihde (2004) refers to the unpredictable uses of technology different from the originally intended ones. This is one of the difficulties to foresee technological consequences, and it undermines the long-term extrapolation of concrete case studies.

Dehumanization: A negative idea of the influence of technology on society. It has potential to transform the interpretation of reality leading to new unpredictable social challenges. It comes in part from the negative consequences of Second War World and the thought of some philosophers of Technique. In our article we claim it is more adequate to think of a mutation of the concept of humanization.

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