I am a Cyborg – are you?


Photo credit: Chile Turismo


I’m sure like many of you, I had a really busy 2016, both at work and at home, and so it was wonderful to have the Christmas break to rest and recharge. This year we decided to do something to celebrate New Year and so we booked a small cottage in Kielder Forest in Northumberland to get away as a family. The idea had been to get back to the great outdoors and, given that Kielder Forest has the darkest skies in England, we thought we’d take the opportunity to do some star gazing.

Given the remoteness of where we were in Northumberland, one added bonus was that we all had to unplug from our tech gadgets. Fortunately the cottage was well stocked with board games and we all thoroughly enjoyed playing board games after dinner (especially Cluedo!)

With the extra time to reflect, I started to think about the pace of change in 2016 and particularly how technology had accelerated yet again. I was drawn to the question whether this pace of technological changes is a good thing or bad thing? Although I could find lots of articles on exciting new technologies coming in 2017, I found it harder to find articles on finding a healthy balance with technology. I did however read an interesting article from Grant Feller, which gave me a useful lens to see this technology change through.

But as I read more, a voice in my loud became louder and louder. A voice reminding me of a presentation I’d had the pleasure of listening to back in February. The voice I could hear in my head was someone saying “I’m a cyborg and I’m going to convince you all that you are cyborgs too” and it was the opening lines from a presentation that Tom Cheesewright gave at HOME in Manchester – a presentation about the future of technology.

This presentation had a huge impact on me in 2016. It was powerful as I had a really strong reaction to the opening statement – I remember thinking, “I’m not a cyborg and actually I don’t want you to convince me that I am”. From my point of view the term Cyborg was a scary term and it brought back all the memories of hiding behind the sofa when I was a kid watching Doctor Who.

However 15 minutes later I was converted.

Within those 15 minutes, Tom explained the original definition of a cyborg from the 1950s and used a wonderful lens to view the technology changes we are going through. So much has changed in the last 25 years such as processing speed, communication power, cost of electronics and we all now carry around super computers in our pockets.

The message was clear – the term cyborg tends to imply some element of subordination but in reality it gives us extra abilities. Being a cyborg means using technology as a prosthetic extension of our bodies to do things quicker and more efficiently than we could alone. When you stop to think about that message, there are so many examples of how our phones, our tablets as prosthetic extensions of our bodies can give us “special abilities.”

So 15 minutes later, I was converted. I wanted to be a Cyborg!

And that was the reminder I needed about where the healthy balance lies with this incredible pace of technology change. I remind myself that technology is there to give me “special abilities” and that if there’s ever an element of subordination, such as regularly checking the number of Twitter followers I’ve got or LinkedIn profile views I’ve had this week, I should switch it off J

In January I’ve already had a couple of great examples where technology has given me special powers. The first actually occurred whilst we were at Kielder. Now I’m embarrassed to say that I don’t know a lot about star gazing and so in expectation of lots of questions from the children, I downloaded an App in advance. It’s an App that if you point your phone in the direction of the stars, it tells you what the constellation is and helps to visualize it. It made the experience so much more enjoyable to be able to clearly see and name the constellations, that my phone was constantly being passed between our family as we lay in a field watching the night sky.

The second example was on Monday the 9th of January 2017, when we had the tube strikes in London. What could have been a stressful disruption to the journey from Manchester to London, actually turned into an amazing walk across the City. I’d always used the tube to get around London, but with that option removed I learnt the journey I took by tube was actually only a 2 mile walk. With the help of Google Maps giving me directions through my headphones, I was able to take in the amazing scenery as I walked across the City. Something that I’ve been doing more often when the weather allows.

I think 2017 is going to be an incredibly exciting year again for technology. However I’m sure that at times I’ll feel that the pace is going too fast and will be questioning have we got the balance right. But with my Cyborg lens in place, I feel I’ve got better checks and balances in place for 2017 and am thoroughly looking forward to making the most of the technology changes this year!