Deaths of the Cyborgs

Slide Deck

Workshop on Media and Paranoia
Concordia University Montreal
April 26, 2019

AS WE CONTINUE compulsively to “innovate”, we tend to drop off baggage or noise that we deem as unimportant or tangential to how society is working. And I think maybe we shouldn’t because that’s where we start ending up with these lovely biased algorithms and biased technologies and biased ways of understanding worlds.

Me, Jade E. Davis, during the workshop

Things Read Ahead of Time

Things Read Out Loud


The emancipated slave Harriet Ann Jacobs said, “Death is better than slavery.” Cicero, in reflecting on the dead came to the following thought, “The life of the dead is placed in the memory of the living” Because we have erased slavery from our collective memories, the cyborg became a stand-in for what once was. I think all of us here today can agree that The Cyborg is better off dead as long as it is a stand in for the most disenfranchised. We are here to celebrate the Death of the noble technological savage we lovingly called the cyborg.

The cyborg had an active professional life what with the controlled breeding programs and cannibalism that came with each new technological advance. Most of the cyborgs professional accomplishments have been lost to history though. The cyborg was phenomenal at erasing the belief in value in its own previous versions.

The thing I will remember the Cyborg for the most is how welcome the cyborg made us all feel. Who among us has never felt, maybe I too, am a Cyborg? That’s a hell of a legacy.

Well. The cyborg is apparently cloned before we killed it off…

Though we did manage to finally kill the cyborg the cyborg is, and will remain the evidence, not the source of the tension between humans and machines and the desire to have pure communication between the two. I would like to close with this, the cyborg is like the dark smoke of a young fire and we all fear the flames we cannot see.

RACISM AND SLAVERY and the idea of skin color and race being a technology, create a certain type of paranoia for the enslaved and their descendants, which I would call banal paranoia. And there’s banal paranoia in institutional racism for the person who is privileged in that system. But when somebody is called out on racism, or if they have very active racism, it’s a hyper-paranoia.

Me again, Jade E. Davis, during the workshop talk


The hope of the coming globalization that defined early forays into long distance electric media brought with it its own accident: The belief that differences between people wouldn’t matter as we met through machines. Enter the cyborg, a technique to continually bring us closer to communing with machines while always being able to quickly and easily point out artificial difference. When it is built in melted rocks and sand it becomes easier to identify that which marks a body as other. And as technology does, it makes this skill seem neutral instead of something designed into the system.

We would sooner be consumed by paranoia than live with the guilt of the systemic exploitation that the infrastructure of modern technology is built on. Technology is our metaphysics. Technology is our hashtag SupremeBeing. We allow it to externalize our moral and ethical stances. We are the cyborgs in media ecologies designed to sell our souls and lives to the highest bidder through endless streams of data dissected through algorithms we will never be able to access…

We are the cyborg. We are the conspiracy. We must kill the cyborg.

Death to the cyborgs! Death to the cyborgs! Death to the Cyborgs.

Never mind. The Cyborgs are already dead.

Things Landing

The most rewarding thing shared with me after the talk was someone had a class that read the cyborg manifesto and felt a lot of discomfort with the text. To try to fix how it had shifted the course Sorry to Bother You was brought in as something to screen by the students (a choice I highly agree with). She said that she wishes the find and replace version had been available to help students add language to the thing the text was doing and obscuring, which was basically the reason for the talk.

Thank you again to the Global Emergent Media Lab for inviting me and to all the workshop attendees for the lovely conversations!

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