In season two of Star Trek: The Next Generation, the villainous Borg were introduced. The half-man, half-machines with the somewhat uncreative name were a species focused on improving themselves by assimilating other species and technology. The Borg tormented the crew of the Enterprise and the rest of the Trek-verse ever since. The Borg aren’t a new idea as countless movies, TV shows, books, and comic books have introduced some form of cyborg, usually as a villain. As technology grows smaller and more integral to our lives, we’re becoming a bit cyborg-ish ourselves. Are we also all doomed to be villains?
Author, computer scientist, inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil introduced the idea of the singularity a few years back. Wanna-be scientists might see “singularly” and think physics and you’d be right. Kurzweil borrowed the term to describe a new phenomenon he sees happening within the next few decades.
The tl;dr of Kurzweil’s Singularity: We’re soon to merge with smaller, more powerful technologies in order to process the growing amounts of data our brains weren’t designed to handle.
Kurzweil explains his ideas in this video:
Half of me thinks, bring it on! I’m a science fiction fanatic and being some super-human machine-man sounds pretty damn cool. I think the most popular attachment would probably be an arm that can also pour beer. The other half thinks, well this is great, but never in my lifetime. Yet, another half of me, meaning I’m 50% more than a regular person which amounts to a fat joke about myself, thinks this is a terrifying dehumanization.
All this brings me to rattling off some of the best cyborgs in fiction:
Cold, calculating, un-humans introduced way back in 1988. The Borg’s first few appearances were terrifying as enemies with a single-minded agenda — to make you part of them. Later episodes introduced Hugh and Seven of Nine, Borg with “personalities” and “feelings” who explored the species in an entirely different way.
Dr. Who’s longtime nemesis … nemes-i … nemesisees … enemy, the Cyberman have been villain-ing for 50 years, premiering on Dr. Who in 1966. Cybermen are more machine now than flesh, but were once all soft and spongey just like us. In a way, the Cybermen are a further evolution of where the Borg are going only with prettier design. Cybermen are the Mac to the Borg’s raggedy custom PC.
William Gibson’s novels are voyages into an intricate world that mixes man and machine more than any other. The cyberpunk genre introduced Molly Millions, a tough-as-nails cyborg who first appeared in the short story “Johnny Mnemonic.” Someone once told me that they made a movie based on Johnny Mnemonic starring Keanu Reeves but I like to believe it was a dream I had while near-death from a fever. Molly Millions is one of Gibson’s best characters and easily one of the most badass female characters in science fiction.
As we speak, Victor Stone is in the process of his greatest challenge … being included in the DC cinematic universe. Cyborg’s comic book origin is a bit Frankenstein-ish as the son of scientists who experiment on their son. Later Vic’s scientists parents use cybernetics to save his life. Cyborg has endured as a premiere character since his introduction in 1980.
That’s right, super-genius, billionaire, playboy, Tony Stark is also a freakin’ cyborg. Early on, when his machine parts are keeping him alive, they are a hinderance that the Iron Man suit helps him overcome. But later, Stark gets the suit built into his bones with nano-technology. #ImWithCyborg
C’mon, no list about cyborgs should ever be without one of the most iconic cinematic villains ever. Darth Vader is a gentle, potato-headed, half-man in a high-tech suit that keeps him alive and makes him one imposing opponent. If you’re fan of the Prequels then Vader is a whiny child-murderer who was carved up like sushi and revealed in one of the most iconic terrible scenes in movie history. My Facebook relationship with Vader is complicated.
If we’re going to end up half-man, half-machine, which kind of cyborg would you choose to be?
Honorable Mention: RoboCop
As one final point of soon-to-come cyborg WTF-ery there’s this: