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Roger Clarke's 'Cyborg Rights'


The Challenge of Cyborg Rights

Review Draft of 24 January 2010

Roger Clarke **

© Xamax Consultancy Pty Ltd, 2010

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The first generation of cyborgs is alive, well, walking among us, and even running. Pacemakers, clumsy mechanical hands, and renal dialysis machines may not match the movie-image of cyborgs, but they have been the leading wave. Greater challenges are posed by the legs of sprinter Oscar Pistorius, and by implants of both the cochlear and RFID varieties.

People who are using prostheses to recover lost capabilities will seek to protect their existing rights. People who have lost capabilities but have not yet got the relevant prostheses will seek the right to have them. Enhanced humans will seek additional rights, to go with the additional capabilities that they have.

Professional engineers have an obligation to anticipate these developments, and to brief political, social and economic institutions on their nature, impact and implications. They have to date signally failed to do so, and urgent action is needed.


1. Introduction

Recent decades have seen an increasing incidence of interventions with the bodies of human beings. These interventions raise a variety of questions about rights. Some relate to the right to have the intervention performed, or not performed. Others involve the rights of people who have been the subject of an intervention.

The author addressed the question of 'human-artefact hybridisation' several years ago, in response to an invitation from the organisers of the Ars Electronica event in the Austrian city of Linz (Clarke 2005a). The purpose of the present paper is to build on brief comments made in s.5.2 of that presentation, and somewhat extended in brief companion papers (Clarke 2005b, 2005c), by conducting a deeper analysis of the rights aspects of human-artefact hybridisation.

The paper commences by defining the scope and the terms used, and briefly surveying the notion of rights. A number of mini-cases are used as a basis for investigating the issues that arise. Implications are drawn for engineers involved in linking artefacts with the human body.

2. Cyborgisation

This preliminary section traces the term 'cyborg' from its origins, distinguishes two forms of intervention with the human body, and defines key terms as they are used in the remainder of this paper.

The scope of this paper is limited in two important ways. Firstly, interventions are encompassed that have an effect on the functionality of the body, rather than being merely cosmetic or ornamental, such as body art and body modification for aesthetic reasons. However, some reservations are necessary about the wisdom of completely excluding artistic interventions, in view of the cross-over that exists between art and functionality in the work of Stelarc. Secondly, the focus is on interventions associated with information technologies, largely to the exclusion of biological technologies.

2.1 Origins

The term 'cyborg' is a contraction of 'cybernetic organism', and entered the language in the early 1960s. The term 'cybernetics' was coined by Norbert Wiener in 1948. It referred to the then-new notion of controlling human-designed processes through feedback and response, in ways similar to those evident in natural organisms (Wiener 1948, 1949). He contrived the word from the Greek word for 'steersman'.

The origin of the contraction 'cyborg' is commonly attributed to two US research scientists, who used it to refer to an enhanced human being who could survive in extraterrestrial environments, or, in their own words "the exogenously extended organizational complex functioning as an integrated homeostatic system unconsciously" (Clynes & Kline 1960).

More generally, a cyborg is a human with whom mechanical and/or electronic parts have been integrated. Driven by feature films that depict imaginings of sci-fi authors, popular culture envisages a cyborg as necessarily having functionality that has been extended beyond that of a normal human being. Indeed, the OED adopts that element of Clynes & Kline (1960). Although one definition is "an integrated man-machine system", the other is "a person whose physical tolerances or capabilities are extended beyond normal human limitations by a machine or other external agency that modifies the body's functioning" (emphasis added). For the purposes of this analysis, however, it is necessary to distinguish enhancements from more mundane, but highly valuable interventions.

Also in popular culture, a cyborg's enhancements are physically inserted into the person. This paper will, however, also encompass circumstances in which this condition is not satisfied. Consideration has also been given to the notion of 'bionic implants'. The concept is, however, largely confined to entertainment arena, as a result of a 1973 novel called 'Cyborg', which gave rise to television series called 'The Six Million Dollar Man' and 'The Bionic Woman' - who had 'bionic' eyes, legs and arms.

The analysis has also taken into account the related notion of 'wearable computing'. The latter term has been in use since at least 1980, when Steve Mann applied it in particular to wearable camera and head-mounted displays. More generally, see Rhodes (1997), and the product catalogue at Wearables Central. Steve Mann proposed a broad definition of a cyborg as "a person whose physiological functioning is aided by or dependent upon a mechanical or electronic device" Mann & Niedzviecki (2001).

2.2 Prosthetics

The OED defines a prosthesis or prosthetic as "[a] replacement [for] defective or absent parts of the body [in the form of] artificial substitutes". Its use in this manner is traced to 1706.

Drawing on Clarke (2005), a more appropriate definiton for a prosthetic may be an artefact that provides the body with previously missing or overcomes defective functionality. In one sense, this approach is broader, because it encompasses the recovery of bodily function other than through the installation of a substitute for a missing part. For example, a new and equivalent part could be added without removing the old one; or a quite different part could be introduced, such as a heart pacemaker; or an existing body-part could be adapted by means of an artefact, without directly replacing the missing or defective one. In another sense, this definition is narrower than the OED, in that it requires the artefact to enable the performance of a function, and thereby excludes merely cosmetic or ornamental artefects such as glass eyes and breast implants.

A prosthesis may have various relationships with the human body, and hence the following categories are usefully distinguished:

Prosthetics is defined by the OED as "The design, manufacture, and fitting of artificial substitutes for missing or defective parts of the body; a branch of dentistry, surgery, or medical technology dealing with this", and traces its emergence to 1897. This paper uses it more broadly, to refer to the technology of prostheses as a whole.

2.3 Orthotics

The OED defines an orthosis or orthotic as "An external orthopaedic appliance or apparatus, such as a brace or splint, that serves to support, assist the function of, or prevent movement in a body part such as a limb or the spine". It traces its emergence to 1857, but the usage is primarily from the mid-twentieth century. Used in that manner, its meaning would be either or both of 'external prosthesis' and 'exo-prosthesis', as those terms were defined in the previous sub-section.

Again following Clarke (2005), a more expansive definition of orthosis is appropriate to the present purpose, as an artefact that supplements or extends a human's body, or a human's capabilities. This usage has the benefit of distinguishing a category of artefact that evidences some significant differences from prostheses. It also enables a parallel set of terms to be devised, in order to distinguish the following sub-categories:

Orthotics is defined by the OED as "The branch of physiotherapy that deals with the use of orthoses; the design and fitting of orthoses", and is traced to 1957. It is used here more broadly, to refer to the technology of orthoses as a whole.

2.4 Cyborgs, Prosthetes and Orthots

To facilitate discussion, it is useful to have short-form terms for the various categories of person arising from prosthetic and orthotic processes. The OED definition of cyborg appears to require enhancement of the person, and hence could be interpreted as necessarily involving what was defined above as an orthosis. This would, however, lead to an unfortunate ambiguity. A person may be missing functionality due to the loss, or absence since birth, of a body-part, or due to some defect in a body-part. If the person regains the functionality by means of a prosthesis, then the person is enhanced relative to the state that the person was in prior to the prosthetic being applied. So the person is arguably a cyborg even though they have a prosthesis rather than an orthosis. In any case, for the purpose of analysing cyborg rights, it is important to encompass humans with prostheses as well as orthoses.

It is therefore problematic to use the OED definition in the analysis of rights. Moreover, in the terms proposed in this paper, the original concept of cyborg in Clynes & Kline (1960) is highly restrictive, being a human with a very special kind of exo-orthosis. For the purposes of this paper, it is necessary to use a definition of 'cyborg' much closer to that proposed in Mann & Niedzviecki (2001): "a person whose physiological functioning is aided by or dependent upon a mechanical or electronic device".

The definitions adopted in the remainder of this paper are as follows:

Where needed, the terms prosthetisation, orthotisation and cyborgisation could be applied to the process of installing respectively a prosthesis, an orthosis, and either or both of them.

Further distinctions need to be drawn, to reflect the extent to which the person is an informed and willing subject, or the prosthesis or orthosis has been imposed on them:

3. Rights

The term 'rights' is being used in this paper in the sense declared in the Wikipedia article, which defines them to be "legal, social, or moral freedoms to act or refrain from acting, or entitlements to be acted upon or not acted upon". This section undertakes a review that is of necessity brief and superficial. Otherwise unattributed quotations in this section are from the relevant Wikipedia articles.

Rights may be grounded in religion or philosophy. They may be asserted to be fundamental, axiomatic and inalienable. They may be enforceable; but alternatively they may be more of the nature of claims or interests. In practical terms, the protection of a person's rights depends on:

The history of legal authority for rights is long and tortuous. Commonly recognised steps along the way include Magna Carta (1215), the English Bill of Rights (1689), the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen (France, 1789) and the U.S. Bill of Rights (1789-1791). In many countries, at least some rights are entrenched in the Constitution. Some rights, however, (and in some countries, all rights), depend on legislation that can be overturned by a mere Act of the Parliament, or (in common law jurisdictions) interpretations of case law by courts.

International codification of rights has been achieved, in the following primary forms:

A useful distinction can be made between two categories of rights:

Another distinction of relevance to the analysis that this paper conducts is between three generations of rights:

  1. rights to liberty and participation in political life. Such rights are political in nature, and provide protections for the individual against excesses by the state. Examples include freedom of speech, the right to a fair trial, freedom of religion, and voting rights (addressed in UDHR Articles 3-21);
  2. rights to equality, which are social, economic, and cultural in nature. Examples include rights to be employed, to housing, to health care, and to social security and unemployment benefits (addressed in UDHR Articles 22-27); and
  3. further rights, which have to date achieved less broad international acceptance. Examples of potential relevance to this analysis include rights to self-determination, to economic and social development, to a healthy environment, to natural resources, to communicate, to participate in cultural heritage, and to intergenerational equity and sustainability.

An important aspect of rights is that they have been subject to adaptation over time. For example, until the nineteenth century, many commonly accepted rights applied to only some of the population; and indeed some of those inequalities persisted well into the twentieth century, and a few into the twenty-first.

Developments during the late twentieth century have led to calls for additional rights to be recognised. For example, Internet-era rights were argued for as early as 1995. There has also been a slowly-emergent discussion about the rights of robots.

Contrary trends are also evident, however. The collectivist perspective has been resurgent in recent decades. In East Asia, this can be seen as a reaction against the western European tradition of humanism. Even within 'western-style democracies', however, some critics perceive the freedoms arising from human rights to be excessive or easily abused, and have argued for charters to emphasise responsibilities as well as rights. Concerns have also been expressed about the inherent dominance of the interests of the species homo sapiens over other animals and the plant kingdom, or over nature as a whole. The rise of environmentalism may result in further qualifications to human rights that have significant implications for resources, such as freedom of movement.

4. Case Studies in Cyborgisation and Rights

Remarkably, there appear to be very few publications that address the topic of cyborg rights in the instrumentalist manner being attempted here. There is a sci-fi literature (which is mostly about cyborgs as threats to mankind), a speculative literature (cyborg as posthuman), and a derivative media criticism literature.

Few papers have been located, however, that examine cyborgs as they exist at present and appear likely to increasingly exist in the near future, and consider rights as they apply to augmented human beings. See, however, questions asked in the final paragraph of Warwick (2003) and in a use case scenario in FIDIS (2008), and the tentative 'Cyborg Bill of Rights' suggested in Gray (2001), but also the argument in Levy (2003) to the effect that the challenges arising from cyborgisation are not radical.

In the absence of an established body of theory and evidence, the approach adopted in the present paper is to investigate dimensions of the issues through case studies of various cyborgs operating in various contexts. In order to ensure richness of material, the set intentionally includes a diversity of prostheses, of orthoses, and of contexts.

(1) Access to Quality-of-Life Exo-Prostheses

The assistance of vision through the use of shaped glass dates back at least two thousand years, of lenses at least one thousand years, of spectacles at least 600-700 years, and of contact lenses 500 years in principle and 200 years in practice. An emergent right to have a pair of spectacles to correct sight can be detected in health and welfare systems that provide them on a cost-less or heavily subsidised basis. Similar developments exist in relation to hearing-aids.

Particularly in the USA and the UK, military service personnel returning from war-zones have better access to opportunities for replacement limbs than, for example, victims of industrial and traffic accidents. A recent review of research work on neural control of artificial arms funded by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is in (Adee 2009). Another group that has superior access to expensive, new treatments is the aging rich. A ready justification for this is that the research and experimentation needed demands funding, and only the rich and the government can provide it.

By mid-century, it is conceivable that shoulder reconstructions, hip-joint replacements and knee replacements could have become a legitimate expectation for all who need them, rather than the expensive option for the war-maimed and the well-off and/or well-insured that they generally are at present.

(2) Access to Matter-of-Life-and-Death Exo-Prostheses

Spectacles and hearing-aids recover impaired senses, and hence enhance quality of life. Even wheelchairs and replacement limbs can be argued to be facilities affecting quality-of-life rather than survival. A range of prostheses are likely to be associated not merely with improved quality of life but also increased life expectancy. Examples include stents, pacemakers, renal dialysis and artificial hearts and kidneys.

Debate can reasonably be anticipated as to whether patriotism and financial wealth should be such dominant factors in determining the priority of allocation of quality-of-life but especially matter-of-life-and-death prostheses.

(3) Cyborgs in Public Places

Some sight-impaired people depend on guide dogs, and many mobility-impaired people depend on a walking-stick, or access to their own custom-designed wheelchair. Contention has arisen where such external prostheses have been banned from premises, e.g. dogs from coffee lounges, for health reasons. In some circumstances, a ban on the use of a personal wheelchair within particular premises - such as an airport or an aeroplane - represents a denial of access to important services, and harms the principle of equality of rights for the impaired. A variety of new external prostheses may create further challenges. For example, portable renal dialysis machines would demand both space and power.

Some exo- and endo-prostheses have also already given rise to difficulties, such as artificial hips made of steel and pacemakers, which may be incompatible with airport security equipment. The prospect also exists of exo- and endo-orthoses that represent security threats.

(4) Exo- and Endo-Orthoses for Location and Tracking

Anklets with embedded chips to facilitate detection of non-compliance with movement restrictions were first officially sanctioned in 1983, in New Mexico. Anklets have since been applied in a variety of circumstances, not only to prisoners, but to parolees as a condition of parole, and even to remandees (who have yet to be convicted of an offence, and may well never be). It represents an extension of the prison beyond the prison walls and reduces costs to the state. There is accordingly an incentive to extend it to further categories, particularly recidivist criminals and detested (ex-?)criminals (e.g. those who have completed their sentences for child sex offences), but also dementia sufferers, comatose patients and perhaps other kinds of patients as well. Generally, an anklet is a form of overt involuntary exo-orthosis.

Chips have been implanted in livestock and pets since abut 1990. Chips have been offered for implantation in humans since about 1998, first in tooth-enamel and then in soft tissue. There have been a number of reported instances of chips being implanted in humans (Masters & Michael 2006), although to date no reliable reference has been located for them being imposed involuntarily. A chip-implant is a form of endo-orthosis, and may be voluntary, overt involuntary, or even covert involuntary in nature.

Like other endo-prostheses and endo-orthoses, the chip-implantation process may give rise to infection, it may be rejected by the body, and it may interfere with tissue, organs or bodily functions (CEJA-AMA 2007, Foster & Jaeger 2007). The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) provided the Verichip for implantation in 2004, some years after it had first been implanted in humans. The decision was widely but misleadingly reported as being US government approval for the conduct of chip-implantation in humans.

(5) Handicapped Sports

Many categories of handicapped sportspeople, particularly those participating in athletics and swimming, compete against others with similar disabilities and/or levels of disability. Commonly, the handicapped are protected from the prosthetes, and both the handicapped and prosthetes are protected from the able-bodied, e.g. by segregation into separate events or at least categories.

Wheelchair racers compete separately from the able-bodied as well. However, they go faster than runners. In the case of the New York Marathon, for example, the winner of the wheelchair event is about 35% faster than the winner of the foot-race. Hence segregation into separate events works the other way around, protecting the able-bodied from the orthots. The potential exists for the able-bodied to be precluded from competing in wheelchair events, or to be permitted to compete, and even for them to demand the right to do so.

A particular case of sports orthosis was drawn to attention in the presentation accompanying Clarke (2005a), in Hood (2005a and (2005b) and in some other media outlets around that time. Oscar Pistorius is a South African athlete, who competes in 200m and 400m events. In 2005, it was speculated that, if he continued his improvement, he would qualify for the 2008 Olympic Games, and by 2012 could be at least a semi-finalist. Oscar was born without lower legs, and has artificial legs that include carbon fibre blades.

The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) determined that Pistorius' prosthetics "should be considered as technical aids which give him an advantage over other athletes not using them" (Robinson 2008). They accordingly banned him from competing against able-bodied athletes at the 2008 Olympics. This was based on an amendment to their rules, passed the previous year, that precludes use of "any technical device that incorporates springs, wheels or any other element that provides a user with an advantage over another athlete not using such a device".

Pistorius challenged the ruling, and won, on the basis that the IAAF had failed to show that the legs gave him sufficient advantage (i.e. that the exo-prostheses were in fact exo-orthoses). Due to an injury-plagued preparation, however, he missed the qualifying standard by 0.70 seconds and did not satisfy the criteria for selection for his national team.

A media report has subsequently suggested that the IAAF may now have the required evidence (SD 2009), and hence may now succeed in banning double-amputees using such devices in able-bodied events. Ironically, the brand-name of the legs Pistorius uses is 'Cheetah' - doubtless intended to imply speed, but perhaps now to be interpreted as an admission that they provide an unfair advantage to orthots over the able-bodied athletes.

(6) Further Lessons from Professional Sport

There are many ways in which sportspeople, and particularly professionals, seek advantages over their competitors. Exhibit 1 outlines some of the challenges confronted by sports administrators in recent years that may offer insights concerning where boundaries are judged to lie, and what kinds of rights are involved.

Exhibit 1: Athlete Enhancement and Athletes' Rights

(7) An Emergent Chip-Bearing Norm?

RFID chips respond to challenges from other devices, commonly making available to them a chip-identifier, and in some circumstances other data as well. Such chips are commonly 'promiscuous' in that they will respond to any demand for the data; but various security safeguards may be built in, to protect against various threats.

The passports issued by some countries now carry an RFID chip. Tollway payment cards are also commonplace - and most such applications have been designed in such a manner as to destroy the right to use roads anonymously. Public transport tickets, event tickets, and perhaps airport boarding passes, may be moving in the same direction. Some jurisdictions are seeking to add RFID chips to drivers' licences and, where they exist, to national id cards. Some consumer goods carry RFID chips through the distribution system from factory to retail outlet, and some of those may remain in the goods when they are purchased. Similar technologies can be used as a means of covert tracking of articles such as bags and cars, and hence as a means of covert tracking of the individuals who travel with them.

Items that carry an RFID-chip and that are closely associated with an individual represent a form of external or exo-orthosis. Individuals who have such chips implanted in them have an endo-orthosis. As discussed above, issues arise concerning knowledge and consent, and hence duress, sufficient cause, and due process.

It is possible that RFID chips may become a mainstream component of the way in which particular services are provided (e.g. the checking of passports and visas at border-crossings, entry to events, payment of tolls, payment of public transport fares). If so, then people who lack the orthosis may suffer disadvantages, and may even be denied some categories of service.

(8) Triumph of the Orthot?

It is intrinsic to orthosis that the recipient is thereby enhanced relative to normal human beings. It is therefore necessary to consider the notions of meritocracy, posthumanism and supremacism. 'Meritocracy' carries with it the implication that those who are more capable should enjoy greater advacement in employment, socially and/or economically. The related notion of technocracy values people with relevant knowledge, expertise or skills, rather than the vague organisational and political skills of the bureaucrat. These ideas actively deny the proposition that full equality among individuals does, or should, exist.

The term 'posthuman' is much-used but seldom clearly defined. Like the Nietzschian notion of 'Übermensch', it refers to a future species that is 'beyond human', and that has - somehow - moved beyond the pettiness of mere human beings. Discussions of poshumanism and transhumanism frequently invoke not only biological technologies, but also information technologies, such as bionic implants and nano-technology. They also involve varying degrees of spiritualism and technological utopianism.

The notion of supremacism is concerned with the belief that some category of being is superior to or more worthy than others, and that the interests of that category should be the primary basis for value-judgements and decision-making. Human societies have generally been at least strongly anthropocentric and arguably anthropo-supremacist (although some cultures have valued nature as a whole, or elements of it, such as mammals). The eugenics movement of the first half of the twentieth century aimed to develop more worthy humans, using biological interventions. It appears inevitable that some applications of cyborgisation will be - whether subconsciously, tacitly, or expressly - intended to achieve much the same ends as eugenics.

The notion of techno-supremacism does not appear to have yet gained currency. Evidence for its emergence can, however, be found in the military, national security and law enforcement fields. For example, there has always been great difficulty in conducting prosecutions for actions undertaken in war-zones. Moreover, national military forces are commonly accused of ensuring that most actions taken against the enemy, and even against civilians, by most of their own employees, are effectively exempt from prosecution, particularly prosecution outside the military's own judicial system. Hence there is a sense in which soldiers have rights greater than normal human beings.

Warfare is not only waged by armed forces raised and run by governments. Mercenaries have a long history, not least because of the profitability of the activity. In recent decades, mercenaries have achieved considerable public relations success, and shifted public perception by means of new labels such as 'public military corporations' (PMCs). The services of PMCs include the supply of materiel, combat, intelligence-gathering and analysis, and the conduct of interrogations, including the use of torture.

The difficulty of conducting prosecutions for actions undertaken in war-zones applies to mercenaries/PMCs as it does the national military forces. There is also considerable evidence from recent wars in the Middle East that PMCs enjoy some degree of additional protection, much like government soldiers.

The implicit rights of human soldiers and mercenaries/PMCs to perform acts of violence without recourse is relevant to this analysis because soldiers commonly use external orthoses in the form of weapons, and exo-orthoses such as protective suits. Further, there have been long-running projects to enhance soldiers, to improve both their effectiveness in neutralising the enemy and their capacity to survive attacks.

Civilian security personnel also have access to external orthoses such as batons, shields, radios and cameras, and to exo-orthoses such as protective suits. Where they can reasonably demonstrate the existence of danger or provocation, they may well argue for freedoms to act, of much the same kind as soldiers enjoy in battlefield contexts.

This cluster of mini-cases gives rise to at least two kinds of arguments in relation to cyborg rights. Firstly, the calls for more effective armoured protection for soldiers against Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) is evidence of an at least emergent right of a soldier to orthoses of a protective nature. Secondly, military and security orthots inherit what are effectively rights against prosecution, particularly for acts of violence in war-zones.

Finally, because of their superior capabilities, military and security orthots may become leading-edge claimants for extended rights to exercise their extended powers.

5. Implications

This section draws on the cases outlined above in order to identify the kinds of rights that may be emergent, or may be at least asserted, claimed or desired, variously by cyborgs and by non-cyborgs in reaction to the cyborgisation of others. Exhibit 2 provides a tabulation.

Exhibit 2: Possibly Emergent Rights

Rights of the Non-Cyborg (or Pre-Cyborg)

Rights of the Cyborg

6. Conclusions

Claims for new rights can be analysed from the perspective of applied ethics. An example of a field in which some progress has been made is bio-ethics, which has been active since at least the 1920s. Spurred on by Huxley's anti-utopian novel 'Brave New World', published in 1931, and the adoption of eugenics by the Nazi Party, it came to be widely appreciated that biological sciences and bio-engineering are meddling with human-ness, and that adjustments are needed to the framework within which relevant political, social and economic institutions operate. There has been significant feed-forward from the bio-ethics arena to law reform agencies and parliaments.

Information technologists also have ethical obligations in relation to the impacts and implications of the new capabilities that they create. The basic tenet proposed in (Clarke 1988) was that "all researchers and professionals must regard the implications of their work as part and parcel of their research in and application of IT. Consideration of implications needs to be integrated, not segregated".

Over two decades later, the IEEE Code of Ethics (version of 2006) states merely that "[a member of IEEE commits] to accept responsibility in making decisions consistent with the safety, health and welfare of the public, and to disclose promptly factors that might endanger the public or the environment". But nowhere is this translated into enforceable, operational commitments.

A fledgling robot ethics movement was initiated by Asimov (1942) as the Laws of Robotics, and examined in (Clarke 1993). An IEEE Technical Committee on Roboethics has existed since 2004. But, 70 years after the problem was defined, the movement appears to have generated no specific outcomes.

Robotics has matured far more slowly than the imaginations of sci-fi authors and academic and commercial salesmen; so perhaps 70-year delay represents no great problem for mankind. Cyborgs, on the other hand, are here and now. Yet despite that, no cyborg ethics movement has emerged. A single contribution was located in the medical profession, but it is an internal Committee report with no direct impact (CEJA-AMA 2007). Contributions in the engineering profession are merely at the level of discursive articles such as Foster & Jaeger (2007).

How are the questions of cyborg rights identified in this paper to be addressed in the absence of a framework for cyborg ethics? Of the most serious concern are involuntary orthosisation (under the pretence of choice, but without genuine consent) and covert orthosisation. Also at issue is the avoidance of liability for harm arising from the installation and use of prosthetics and orthotics.

Exhibit 3 outlines, in concrete terms, functions that a cyborg ethics movement must perform.

Exhibit 3: The Responsibilities of Engineering Profession

The process of cyborgisation harbours great promise, but also significant threats. The scope for inequitable access to potentially beneficial prostheses is enormous, and so is the risk of a luddite backlash against orthoses that are perceived to be 'unnatural' or potentially harmful. Political, social and economic institutions must grapple with the fruits of the labours of the information and communications technologies, and they must be informed by the professional bodies that represent the researchers and engineers. At present, however, those professional bodies are unacceptably inactive.


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UDHR (1948) 'Universal Declaration of Human Rights' United Nations, 10 December 1948, at

Warwick K. (2003) 'Cyborg morals, cyborg values, cyborg ethics' Ethics and Information Technology 5, 3 (September 2003) 131-137

Wiener N. (1948) 'Cybernetics, or Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine' MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1948, 1961Wiener N. (1949) 'The Human Use of Human Beings' Avon Books, New York, 1949, 1974

Author Affiliations

Roger Clarke is Principal of Xamax Consultancy Pty Ltd, Canberra. He is also a Visiting Professor in the Cyberspace Law & Policy Centre at the University of N.S.W., and a Visiting Professor in the Department of Computer Science at the Australian National University.


Covert ...
Of Involuntary Prosthetisation, Orthotisation or Cyborgisation, where the person is not aware of the prosthetic and/or orthotic (2.4)
A human with either or both of a Prosthesis or an Orthosis (2.4)
The process of installing either or both of a Prosthesis or an Orthosis (2.4)
An Orthosis internal to the human body and effectively integrated with it (2.3)
A Prosthesis internal to the human body and effectively integrated with it (2.2)
An Orthosis on an outer extremity of the human body and effectively integrated with it (2.3)
A Prosthesis on an outer extremity of the human body and effectively integrated with it (2.2)
External Orthosis
An Orthosis separate from the human body, but connected to it, or interfaced with it (2.3)
External Prosthesis
A Prosthesis separate from the human body, but connected to it, or interfaced with it (2.2)
Involuntary ...
Of Prosthetisation, Orthotisation or Cyborgisation, neither at the person's request, nor with the person's consent (2.4)
Orthosis (also n. Orthotic)
An artefact that supplements or extends a human's body, or a human's capabilities (2.3)
A human enhanced by means of an Orthosis (2.4)
The technology of Orthoses (2.3)
The process of installing an Orthosis (2.4)
Overt ...
Of Involuntary Prosthetisation, Orthotisation or Cyborgisation, where the person is aware of the prosthetoic and/or orthotic (2.4)
Prosthesis (also n. Prosthetic)
An artefact that provides the body with previously missing or overcomes defective functionality (2.2)
A human with a Prosthesis (2.4)
The technology of Prostheses (2.2)
The process of installing a Prosthesis (2.4)
Voluntary ...
Of Prosthetisation, Orthotisation or Cyborgisation, at the person's request, or with the person's consent (2.4)

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From the site's beginnings in August 1994 until February 2009, the infrastructure was provided by the Australian National University. During that time, the site accumulated close to 30 million hits. It passed 65 million in early 2021.

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