Your Grandmother is a Bodyhacker
Your grandmother is a bodyhacker. No really, she is. Ask her! Well, ok, maybe don’t ask, but it’s likely that she falls into the definition of a bodyhacker or “cyborg.”
We throw around words like “cyborg,” “bodyhacking” and “wetware” these days like they’re the buzzwords of tomorrow. And not 50+ years in the future like Disney’s Tomorrowland version of tomorrow, we mean now. Next month. Yesterday. With movies like Ex Machina making gangbusters and sparking minds worldwide, the idea of a cyborg is getting talked about and accepted more and more. And chances are you’re a bodyhacker yourself. As covered What is Bodyhacking?, the term can really refer to any form of body modification for the improvement of function, skills, or preference. Tattooing, one of the oldest forms of body modification, is bodyhacking, as is cosmetic surgery, vision correction, the taking of pharmaceuticals or supplements, and replacement body parts. Dentures, new hips, and prosthetics may be the first thing you think of when discussing modern day bodyhacking, but so are pacemakers, insulin pumps, and numerous other devices that we have been employing for decades.
Don’t believe us? Take your Grandmother Eleanor for example. She’s hip (or post-hip, with the titanium replacement she had a decade ago), uses email, and still somehow manages to print out her digital photos. She’s living in a retirement community with other octogenarians who are passing their days telling tales of grand and great-grand babies, playing golf, and visiting an ever-increasing list of doctors as humans are apt to once their bodies start to age.
Eleanor found out she had Type 1 Diabetes when she was 36, and was thrilled when she was able to be fitted with an insulin pump for proper regulation of her condition in the mid 1980s. She didn’t think of herself of a cyborg then, but instead took it as a sign of the technological advancements of the past few decades. It’s around this time she also started dying her hair, but she will deny it if you ask her.
When she found herself having trouble with her teeth, she was fitted with porcelain dentures which became a (mostly) effortless part of her routine. Eventually, her hip gave out due to osteoarthritis, and she received a hip replacement made from titanium and polyethylene, and infused with vitamin E to help stop oxidization. Perhaps one of the easier adjustments for her was adapting to using bifocals, something that greatly improved the quality of her life, especially when playing cards or meeting with her reading group. With the advancements in plastic lenses and the decreased cost of frames due to the competition generated by the Internet, Eleanor is able to own several pairs to match her mood.
Her doctor encouraged her to use a Fitbit to track her steps, and has helped her understand the charts and how tracking this information can be a means of motivation. Her iPad reminds her to take her medications at the appointed times and these medications cover everything from handling her hypothyroidism, dealing with dementia and mental decline, to high blood pressure. Thankfully, Eleanor hasn’t needed a pacemaker, but her husband does—so he’s a bodyhacker too.
So Eleanor is looking at at least seven different ways she is modifying her body and how she experiences it—seven ways she’s hacking her body for better results. From hormone regulation for hypothyroidism to using vitamin-infused titanium and polyethylene body parts, Eleanor is truly an example of a modern human: a post-hip, bodyhacking, augmented cyborg. Now obviously this doesn’t mean she’s going to go all Terminator on you at the next family reunion (though no promises if you forget her birthday,) and it’s unlikely that she’s going to be pressuring you to get an RFID chip implanted in your arm. She’s still “herself,” but a better, augmented self, supported through the use of technology and body modification.
- Eleanor is 85
- Born in 1930
- Diagnosed with type 1 in 1966
- Gets insulin pump mid 80s
Photo by Quinn Dombrowski on Flickr