This post is inspired by Tim Maly’s 50 posts about Cyborgs, to celebrate the 50 years since the term was introduced.
Cyborg is a term coined in 1960 , when Manfred Clynes and Nathan Kline used it in an article about the advantages of self-regulating human-machine systems in outer space. Also referred to as a cybernetic organism, the typical description is “…a being with both biological and artificial (e.g. electronic, mechanical or robotic) parts”. According to some definitions of the term, the metaphysical and physical attachments humanity has with even the most basic technologies have already made them cyborgs. In fact, Tim Maly of Quiet Babylon takes the definition a couple of steps ahead in his satirical piece, “What is a Cyborg.”
In film and literature in the latter half of the twentieth century, the concept of the cyborg, the hybrid of man and machine, has been featured prominently enough to constitute its own genre of fiction, and has infiltrated popular culture, from music to film, comic to Manga.
Cyborgs in TV
#1 Six Million Dollar Man
The Six Million Dollar Man is about a former military officer with fictional bionic implants working for the OSI (which was usually referred to as the Office of Scientific Intelligence). Austin is severely injured in the crash and is “rebuilt” in a series of procedures that costs six million dollars (hence the name!). His right arm, both legs and the left eye are replaced by “bionic” implants that enhance his strength, speed and vision far above human norms.
#2 Adam in Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Originally a fallen agent of the Initiative, Adam is a creation of Professor Maggie Walsh. He is part human, part demon, and part robot, and was to be the perfect organism, with the adaptability and intelligence of humans, the strength of demons and the emotional detachment of a robot. Adam is created in Lab 314, and his first act was killing Professor Walsh with a retractable skewer inside one of his arms.
#3 The Bionic Woman
A spin off series from The Six Million Dollar Man, the show was originally broadcast in starring Lindsay Wagner in 1976, and then again in a short lived remake starring Michelle Ryan in 2007. Jaime Sommers, was nearly killed in a skydiving accident (car accident in 2007), and was rebuilt by the same team as The Six Million Dollar Man (by her botfriend in 2007). As the result of her bionic implants, Jaime Sommers had amplified hearing in her right ear, a greatly strengthened right arm, and enhanced legs, enabling her to run faster than a speeding car (including a Bionic eye and clever nanomachines in the 2007 version).
#4 The Cybermen in Doctor Who
The Cybermen are a race of cyborgs who are amongst the most persistent enemies of the Doctor. Cybermen were originally a wholly organic species of humanoids originating on Earth’s twin planet Mondas that began to implant more and more artificial parts into their bodies as a means of self-preservation. This led to the race becoming coldly logical and calculating, with every emotion all but deleted from their minds. The Cybermen not satisfied with a rivalry with Doctor Who, they also really hate the Daleks.
#5 Borgs (Star Trek)
The Borg are a fictional pseudo-race of cybernetic organisms depicted in the Star Trek universe. Aside from being the main threat in Star Trek: First Contact, the Borg also play major roles in The Next Generation and Voyager television series, primarily as an invasion threat to the United Federation of Planets and the means of return to the Alpha Quadrant for isolated Federation starship Voyager, respectively. The Borg have become a symbol in popular culture for any juggernaut against which “resistance is futile”. The Borg manifest as cybernetically enhanced humanoid drones of multiple species, organized as an interconnected collective, the decisions of which are made by a hive mind, linked to subspace domain.
Cyborgs In Film
#6 Darth Vader (Starwars)
Do I need to introduce Darth Vader? Really? Well he is Anakin, who was burnt so badly that he had to be rebuilt, and it’s all the machinery keeping him alive. No wonder he is always so grumpy. Probably one of the most famous cyborgs, after Robocop and the Terminators. Doesnt look too good without his helmet to be honest.
Veteran police officer Alexander James Murphy is transferred to the crime-ridden Metro West precinct and on his first patrol, where he is cornered and sadistically mutilated with shotguns before being executed with a shot to the head. Murphy is pronounced dead at the hospital, but OCP takes his body and uses it to create the first RoboCop. RoboCop is guided by three prime directives written into his programming: serve the public trust, protect the innocent and uphold the law
There have been a number of Terminators since the Terminator series has become a massive franchise, but none match the enigma that was the Cyberdyne Systems Model 101, played by Arnold Schwarzenegger. After all he did give us the line “I’ll be Back”.
#9 Replicants (Blade Runner)
Another iconic Sci-Fi film, Bladerunner is the story of Deckard, a blade runner, (cyborg bounty hunter) who has to track down and terminate 4 replicants who hijacked a ship in space and have returned to earth looking for a solution to stop their premature deaths.
#10 Dr. Arliss Loveless (Wild Wild West )
Ok so not the top person that would come to mind when you think Cyborg, but I thought he was an interesting character and thus merits an inclusion. As a mad scientist, and the arch-enemy of Secret Service agents James West and Artemus Gordon, Dr. Loveless was involved in numerous plots which were always foiled by West and Gordon. I love the fact that he is a Steam Punk Cyborg.
#11 Griff Tannen (BackTo The Future 2)
I bet you forgot Griff. He is the cybernetically-enhanced grandson of Biff Tannen. Griff is part of a gang that also consists of “Data”, “Spike”, and “Whitey” (all Cyborgs) and they are out to ruin Marty’s son. Obviously Griff ended up in the jail, via a quick visit to the watch tower. (he did have a really cool hoverboard though).
Cyborgs in Manga
Although quite a few Anime and Manga titles feature cyborgs, my top two come form Ghost in the Shell and Appleseed.
#12 Motoko Kusanagi
Motoko Kusanagi is the main protagonist in the movie Ghost in the Shell, where she is Aramaki’s second in command in Section 9. She is a very effective leader and is able to use her wits and cybernetic body in bringing criminals to justice. She graduates to Major in the second film and remains the leader of the group in GITS TV series.
#13 Briareos Hecatonchires
Buriareosu Hekatonkeiresu is a character from Masamune Shirow’s Appleseed manga and its adaptations in anime. He is named after Briareus the Vigorous, one of the Hecatonchires (hundred-armed giants) of Greek mythology.
Cyborgs In Cartoons
#14 Inspector Gadget
Inspector Gadgets fashion sense resembles that of Inspector Clouseau from the Pink Panther movies. He frequently ignorantly makes foolish and insufferably clumsy mistakes,and ineptitude always leads him into danger, but he always gets out of trouble through either his trusty gadgets or with the unseen assistance of Brain, his niece Penny’s dog and Penny herself.
#15 Mr Freeze (The New Batman Adventures)
Freeze is a scientist who must wear a cryogenic suit in order to survive, and bases his crimes around a “cold” or “ice” theme, complete with a “cold gun” that freezes its targets solid. In the most common variation of his origin story, he is a former cryogenics expert who suffered an industrial accident while attempting to treat his terminally ill wife, Nora.
Man-E-Faces is an actor who can change his faces from a human face to a beast face to a robot face. He also adopts the abilities and traits of the face he puts on.
#17 The Bionic Six
The title characters of the series are a family of machine-enhanced human beings possessing unique powers after being augmented with bionic technology, much like The Six Million Dollar Man. After a skiing vacation accident involving an alien radiation source renders Bennett family members comatose, Professor Amadeus Sharp deduces that bionic augmentation would nullify the effects of the radioactivity. Each family member is thereafter given a specific bionic power, and thus they form a superhero team named Bionic Six.
Cyborgs in Comics
Probably one of my most favourite rivals of Superman, was Hank Henshaw, AKA Cyborg Superman. With Superman apparently dead after his battle with Doomsday, Henshaw decides to pose as him in order to destroy his reputation. To that end, the Cyborg claims to be Superman reborn, the result of the hero’s body being pieced together and revived with technology. The Cyborg then uses knowledge obtained from Superman’s birthing matrix to construct a body that is genetically identical to Superman.
The aptly named superhero is best known as a member of the Teen Titans. Victor Stone is the son of Silas and Elinore Stone, a pair of scientists who decide to use him as a test subject for various intelligence enhancement projects.
Cable is a result of the Techno-Organic Virus in the Marvel Universe. The virus transforms organic material into techno-organic material. Techno-organic material resembles both machinery and living tissue. He is the son of Scott Summers (a.k.a. Cyclops) and Madelyne Pryor, and was born in the present but was sent into a distant future where he was raised.
Cyborgs in Books
#21 Cyborg (1972)
Cyborg was a 1972 novel written by futurist and aviations expert Martin Caidin. It detailed the crash of US Air Force test pilot, Steve Austin, and his subsequent implantation with bionics. It served as the general inspiration for The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman television series. The book also served as an inspiration for many future renditions of artificially enhanced human limbs in popular culture.
#22 The Bicentennial Man
The Bicentennial Man is a novella in the Robot Series by Isaac Asimov. The story formed the basis of the novel The Positronic Man (1993), co-written with Robert Silverberg, and the 1999 film Bicentennial Man, starring Robin Williams. The reason why i pull this particular story out is that its a reverse process of conversion – a purely robotic entity became human, and was an interesting look at a unique idea in cyborg culture.
Cyborgs in Video Games
Sektor was the first Lin Kuei ninja to become a cyborg. Designated unit LK-9T9, he is sent to find and kill the rogue clansman Sub-Zero during MK3 and MK Gold, but is unsuccessful. In MK: Deadly Alliance, Sektor kills the Lin Kuei Grandmaster but is stopped from claiming the Dragon Medallion, the proof of the clan’s leadership, by Sub-Zero. Sektor flees to Japan in defeat and forms the Tekunin, his own clan of cybernetic ninja warriors.
Cyrax is the second Lin Kuei assassin to be transformed and programmed into a cyborg alongside Sektor and Smoke. Designated unit LK-4D4, he is sent to kill Sub-Zero, who had defected from the clan, but during Shao Kahn’s invasion of Earthrealm, Sub-Zero defeats Cyrax and reprograms him with orders to destroy Kahn.
Smoke first appeared in MKII as a NHC spotted in the Living Forest. He was a gray palette swap of Scorpion accessible through a joystick combination on the Portal stage. Smoke made his playable debut in MK3 as a selectable character that could be unlocked only after entering the correct “Ultimate Kombat Kode” just before the end of gameplay. His backstory was as a friend of Sub-Zero and fellow Lin Kuei assassin.
#26 Cyber Shredder
Ch’rell made a cybernetic engram copy of himself with a Shredder design, just in case of his corporeal death. This engram was locked in a data vault until Viral, who had came to the present, tried to access it, triggering its defenses, turning her into the new Shredder. The term Cyber Shredder was first used in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: Radical Rescue as a cyborg version of Shredder. This version of Cyber Shredder returned as a playable character in the SNES version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters.
Xenoborgs were created by humanity to battle Xenomorphs. Something went wrong, and the xenoborgs went on a rampage, killing anything that they came across. A cross between Xenomorph and machine parts, these cybernetic-organics emit continuous, highly-destructive laser beams from their “eyes”. Due to the added weight of metal to their regularly lithe forms, they are slow movers, and while they can kill an opponent with their gaze, they themselves can be killed with relative ease with the use of heavy weaponry.
Cyborgs in Real Life
#28 The Beetle Borg
The success of the Beetle Borg has sparked an onslaught of research and the creation of a program called Hybird Insect MEMS or HI-MEMS. The goal for HI-MEMS, according to DARPA’s Microsystems Technology Office, is to develop “tightly coupled machine-insect interfaces by placing micro-mechanical systems inside the insects during the early stages of metamorphosis. Watch the video.
#29 Professor Kevin Warwick
Kevin’s research involves robotics and he was responsible (with Dr Jim Wyatt) for Cybot, a robot exported around the world as part of a magazine “Real Robots” – this resulted in royalties totalling over £1M for Reading University. Robots designed and constructed by Kevin’s group (Dr Ian Kelly, Dr Ben Hutt) have been on permanent interactive display in the Science Museums in London, Birmingham and Linz.
I was born human. But this was an accident of fate – a condition merely of time and place. I believe it’s something we have the power to change.
The next two are success stories from Neural Engineering Center for Artificial Limbs (NECAL). The most advanced prosthesis of its kind, the RIC neuro-controlled Bionic Arm allows an amputee to move his or her prosthetic arm as if it is a real limb simply by thinking. The arm also empowers patients with more natural movement, greater range of motion and restores lost function.
#30 Jesse Sullivan: 1st Targeted Reinnervation Patient
During clinical evaluation of the limb at RIC, Jesse Sullivan, a patient of Dr. Kuiken, demon-strated substantial improvements in functional testing, such as the ability to reposition his thumb for different grips, remove a credit card from a pocket, stack cups while controlling his grip force using sensory feedback verses vision, and to walk using the free swing mode of the limb for a more natural gait.
#31 Claudia Mitchell: 1st Woman with Targeted Reinnervation
The Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC), demonstrated its remarkable engineering and rehabilitation science know-how by introducing Claudia Mitchell, the first woman to be successfully fitted with RIC’s Bionic Arm technology
Real Life Cyborg Technology
#32 Real Bionic Hand
Touch Bionics is a leading developer of advanced upper-limb prosthetics (ULP). One of the two products now commercially available from the company, the i-LIMB Hand, is a first-to-market prosthetic device with five individually powered digits.
#33 Neuro Controlled Bionic Arm
For the first time ever, an amputee need only think about a movement-picking up a glass, for instance-and the 12-pound Neuro-Controlled Bionic Arm dutifully coordinates the task. Electrodes intercept the limb’s residual nerve firings and feed them to a computer embedded in the forearm, which then commands six motors to move the device’s shoulder, elbow and hand in unison. Thanks to hand sensors, the wearer can even gauge pressure and fine-tune his grip.
#34 A real life bionic eye for the blind.
The goal of the Boston Retinal Implant Project is to develop a microelectronic retinal implant to restore functional vision to patients with certain forms of retinal blindness. Our implant design has unique features that improve its safety, function and performance.
#35 Real Bionic Foot
The newly redesigned Proprio foot with EVO utilizes intelligent ankle flexion to help users walk confidently and naturally, without watching the ground, trusting that their foot is stable and safe. The resultant lifelike gait reduces stress on back, hips, and knees, enabling users to walk longer, farther, and more comfortably, and most importantly, to walk their way.
#36 Artificial Skin
A new study suggests that adult bone marrow stem cells can be used in the construction of artificial skin. The findings mark an advancement in wound healing and may be used to pioneer a method of organ reconstruction. The study is published in Artificial Organs Journal.
Celebrities as Cyborgs
It seems that we like cyborgs so much that we try and change our celebrities to looks like them. Worth 1000 runs a Celebrity Cyborg contest, and the next few cyborgs are my best picks from their past contests. Purely conceptual, but quite good photoshop work involved.
#37 Jack Nicholson as a Cyborg
#38 Kate Moss as a Cyborg
#39 Tom Cruise as a Cyborg
#40 Sandra Bullock as a Cyborg
#41 Rihanna as a Cyborg
#42 Christina Aguilera Album Art
I am pretty sure that there are many music album covers with Cyborgs on them, but none amuse my sentiments as the one of Christina Aguilera. The artwork for Bionic from Christina Aguilera has been created by D*Face, a street art team, and I think they have done a spectacular job with the overall effect. After seeing her dance in her videos, I wasn’t sure an ordinary human could move that way anyway…
Sexy Cyborgs in Sci-Fi
After seeing the celebrity rendition of cyborgs, it would be a shame not to include some of the sexiest ones from Science Fiction.
#43 Cyborg She
Cyborg She is literally a story about a guy who falls in love with a cyborg. Then she sadly passes away and a future cyborg comes back and falls in love with him again. It is actually totally and utterly mind blowing, and really, really heartbreaking, not to mention that the character playing the Cyborg is absolutely gorgeous.
#44 Dark Angel
Set in a post-apocalyptic Seattle, the show chronicles the life of Max Guevara (X5-452), a genetically enhanced super-soldier, portrayed by Jessica Alba as an adult and Geneva Locke as a child, who, after escaping from a covert government biotech/military facility as a child, tries to lead some semblance of a normal life and constantly try to elude capture by government agents, while searching for her genetically-enhanced brothers and sisters scattered in the aftermath of their escape. Anyway, forget the back story, its Jessica Alba!!!
#45 Seven of Nine
Any talk of cyborgs should include Seven Of Nine. This is the unspoken rule of the internet (oops I guess it’s no longer unspoken). Seven of Nine (born Annika Hansen) is a fictional character on Star Trek: Voyager, portrayed by actress Jeri Ryan. Born human, she was assimilated by the Borg at the age of six. Eighteen years later, Voyager left Borg space with Seven on board, after attempts to negotiate passage through Borg space prove only semi-successful.
#46 Cameron – Sarah Connor Chronicles
Cameron is a cyborg from the apocalyptic future described in the timeline of the Terminator universe, in which a self-aware computer program, Skynet, launches a nuclear holocaust and wages war against a rebellion led by John Connor. Cameron is sent back in time via time travel to 1999 by John to protect John and his mother, Sarah and stop Skynet’s creation. Cameron’s role is that of John’s guardian, much like Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character in the second and third Terminator films. Played by Summer Glau, she is one of my top 5 sexy Cyborgs of all time.
#47 Daryl Hannah as Pris
Pris is a “pleasure model” (incepted on Valentine’s Day) created for entertainment and thus even more of a slave-object than the others. However, she shows that she can be quite adept at manipulation of the human male when she uses her wiles to “make friends” with J.F. Sebastian, a man who, until then, literally built his friends.
#48 Angelina Jolie in Cyborg 2
Casella Reese is a top-of-the-line cyborg developed for corporate espionage and assassination and she is hot as hell. It was her first film as an adult, and I give her credit, she looks great in edgy roles.
#49 The Terminatrix (Kristanna Loken)
The TX, played by Kristanna Loken, is as dangerous as her appearence is beautifull. A advanced Terminator send from the future to kill John… The acting wasnt so hot, but she sure was.
#50 Jaime Wells Sommers
Jaime Wells Sommers is a fictional character portrayed by Michelle Ryan in Bionic Woman, a remake of the original 1970s series The Bionic Woman. The character was created by Kenneth Johnson based upon concepts from author Martin Caidin’s novel, Cyborg. The series was short lived, but memories of her aren’t.
More Cyborg Links!
- 10 characters you may not know were Cyborgs (io9)
- 16 Genuine Cyborg Technologies (Oobject)
- You are a Cyborg (Wired)
- Cybofree – Cyborgs, Fantasy, Reality, Ethics and Education
- Pentagon’s new weapon – cyborg flies that are spies
- Difference Between Android and Cyborg