Donna Haraway Donna Haraway with Cayenne, 2006; photograph by Rusten Hogness
You Are Cyborg By Hari Kunzru
For Donna Haraway, we are already assimilated. The monster opens the curtains of Victor Frankenstein’s bed. Schwarzenegger tears back the skin of his forearm to display a gleaming skeleton of chrome and steel. Tetsuo’s skin bubbles as wire and cable burst to the surface. These science fiction fevered dreams stem from our deepest concerns about science, technology, and society. With advances in medicine, robotics, and AI, they’re moving inexorably closer to reality. When technology works on the body, our horror always mingles with intense fascination. But exactly how does technology do this work? And how far has it penetrated the membrane of our skin?
The answers may lie in Sonoma County, California. It’s not the most futuristic place in the world; quite the opposite. The little clusters of wooden houses dotted up and down the Russian River seem to belong to some timeless America of station wagons and soda pop. Outside the town of Healdsburg (population 9,978), acres of vineyards stretch away from the road, their signs proudly proclaiming the dates of their foundation. The vines themselves, transplants from Europe, carry a genetic heritage far older. Yet this sleepy place is where visions of a technological future are being defined. Tucked away off the main highway is a beautiful redwood valley. Here, in a small wooden house, lives someone who says she knows what’s really happening with bodies and machines. She ought to – she’s a cyborg.