Optimize Your Identity
I felt as though I had a brief existential crisis after reading the Johnny Mnemonic short story by William Gibson. The main protagonist, Johnny, is a data trafficker who undergoes cybernetic surgery in order to have a data storage system implanted in his brain. The entire story entertains the world of cyberpunk, with surgical technological implants being a contemporary trend, and cybernetically enhanced dolphins being a somewhat norm. This genre is something I had never really stumbled across, however it has caught my attention!
David Tomas wrote a thorough commentary/analysis of the Johnny Mnemonic work, addressing 3 main observations, the third of which I will focus on; the ‘social regeneration of ethnic identity under the influence of cyborg-governed process of technological differentiation in marginal late-capitalist creolized technocultures.’
Technology is altering our sense of self. It causes individuals who had once belonged to a specific social class or ethnical background to be identified by their level of technicity. We can see this in our current society, just look at the ongoing segregation of Apple and Android users. We no longer strongly associate with our gender, race, political views and/or religious affiliations as people traditionally have, but rather with what extends beyond just us. “In Gibson’s world cryogenic processes and enhanced digitalised senses redefine identity” (Coker, 2011).
Plastic surgery is one of these ‘extensions’, and is now quite an established means of customising ones own body. It, along side medicinal implants such as pacemakers and hearing-aids, have catalysed the process of ‘technologizing’, ‘in which bodies are reassembled so that they can function more optimally’. Identity is now imparted in technology that optimizes us.
Mikey Sklar, is one of a small but growing group, who have had a Radio Frequency Identification computer chip implanted into one of their hands. This has enabled Mikey to replace his door locks with an electronic system and replace any other traditional password-lock system, such as his computer and credit card, with a simple swipe of his hand.
Mikey is optimizing his own self, and therefore optimizing his own concept of self. While I am apprehensive about the movement of implanting computer chips and other technologies straight into the physical skin, I can understand the admiration of technical virtuosity, and the desire for it’s excellence to morph itself into our own identity.
- Gibson, W 1984, Johnny Mnemonic, Burning Chrome
- Tomas, D 1989, The Technophilic Body: On Technicity in William Gibson’s Cyborg Culture, The Cybercultures Reader, no. 8, pp. 175-89, Routledge, London
- Coker, C 2004, The Future of War: The Re-Enchantment of War in the Twenty-First Century, Blackwell Publishing, Oxford, United Kingdom, pp. 77