The term cyborg, a portmanteau of cybernetic organism, is used to designate a creature which is a mixture of organic and mechanical parts. Generally, the aim is to add to or enhance the abilities of an organism by using technology.
The term was popularized by Manfred E. Clynes and Nathan S. Kline in 1960 to refer to their conception of an enhanced human being who could survive in extraterrestrial environments. Their concept was the outcome of thinking about the need for an intimate relationship between human and machine as the new frontier of space exploration was beginning to take place. A designer of physiological instrumentation and electronic data-processing systems, Clynes was the chief research scientist in the Dynamic Simulation Laboratory at Rockland State Hospital in New York.
According to some definitions of the term, the metaphysical and physical attachments humanity has with even the most basic technologies have already made us cyborgs. In a typical example, a human fitted with a heart pacemaker might be considered a cyborg, since s/he is incapable of surviving without the mechanical part. As a more extreme example, clothing can be seen as a cybernetic modification of skin; enabling us to survive in drastically different environments by constructing things that aren't naturally existing in those environments. A notepad can be seen as rudimentary memory augmentation. The boundary blurs even more when controlled fire or agriculture are thought of as modifications to our digestion processes. Most definitions only consider technologies made possible by the industrial revolution, especially those that are inside the body.
In the feminist thinking of Donna Haraway the cyborg becomes a starting metaphor for exploring ways of breaking down the nature/culture binary. She demonstrates how the desire to separate these two aspects of the world is becoming increasingly difficult and attempts to utilise this confusion of borders in order to create new ways of acting politically. This line of thought is known as cyborg theory.
The term fyborg (a portmanteau of "functional" and "cyborg") was coined by Alexander Chislenko to differentiate between the cyborgs of science fiction and the everyday ways humans extend themselves using technologies such as contact lenses, hearing aids, and mobile phones.
A 1972 science fiction novel by Martin Caidin titled Cyborg told the story of a man whose damaged body parts are replaced by mechanical devices. This novel was later adapted into a 1970s TV series, The Six Million Dollar Man.
A book titled Cyborg: Digital destiny and human possibility in the age of the wearable computer was published by Doubleday in 2001. Some of the ideas in the book were incorporated into the 35mm motion picture film Cyberman.
- Manfred E. Clynes, and Nathan S. Kline, (1960) "Cyborgs and Space," Astronautics, September, pp. 26-27 and 74-75; reprinted in Gray, Mentor, and Figueroa-Sarriera, eds., The Cyborg Handbook, New York: Routledge, 1995, pp. 29-34. (hardback: ISBN 0415908485; paperback: ISBN 0415908493)
- Cyborg: Digital destiny and human possibility in the age of the wearable computer, (2001), Steve Mann with Hal Niedzviecki, ISBN 0385658257 (A paperback version also exists, ISBN 0385658265)