Aimee Mullins was the guest editor for Gizmodo’s current theme This Cyborg Life. The weekly theme explored many areas, but stuck mainly with the focus on medical / physical prosthesis. I found it while looking for cyborg related content and have been following their updates avidly for the last week. What was interesting about Aimee is how she, using cutting edge prosthesis technology was able to turn a disability into a strength. What was even more notable was how this divided her audience. Looking into the back ground of her posts it seems that disabled athletes are acceptable in the context of the para-olympics but once they start to get good enough to beat conventionally bodied athletes then fur and feathers start to fly and claims are made that their ‘enhancements’ are giving them an ‘unfair’ advantage.
Aimee uses the example of Oscar Pistorius who is still fighting to be allowed into the main (not para) Olympic team in 2012. I found it shocking that we are so determined to give diversely abled people the chance to live a ‘normal’ life but then when they take that chance and run with it (pun intended) we fight just as hard to force them to remain in their disabled pigeon hole.
It places our discussion into an interesting context, and suggests we are not quite ready to allow cyborg technology to liberate us from the shackles of massive identity issues such as race and gender when we can’t even let it free us of our more obvious bigotry.
Aimee however has hope for the future specifically with respect to how children build their identity through the internet and video games:
The generation of children growing up today has a distinct advantage in this realm of identity, thanks to their daily interaction with the internet and video games. It’s commonplace for them to create avatars and parallel representations of themselves, and they see their ability to change, transform, and augment those bodies to best suit their surroundings as beneficial.
That kind of fluid thinking was once solely the domain of those whose imaginations were heavily influenced by both technology and science fiction. Talk about seeing evolution speed up before your eyes. My being able to embrace the art in my artifice, to change my identities—how I perceive myself and how others respond to that perception — has profoundly changed the way I see the world and my opportunities in it. But I didn’t possess that ability at age six.
I keep thinking of how long it takes for most of us to go through the process of first accepting ourselves as we are, strengths and weaknesses, then celebrating that self and starting to have fun with your strengths and weaknesses, then transforming ourselves as architects of own our identities, redefining what our strengths and weaknesses actually are. I think kids today are able to do this faster than previous generations.
Here are some links to Aimee’s articles for Gizmodo: