Kage Baker was fascinated with the idea of cyborgs – as you all know well, Dear Readers. The idea of cyborgs is central to her Dr. Zeus/Company series of time travel stories – she needed operatives who could survive time travel, and it was her opinion that un-augmented humans would make a pretty bad job of that.
It was Kage’s observation that most people can’t even manage the changes that time inflicts on their own lifetimes. It’s axiomatic that the elderly insist on living in the past – their own, personal past. For each of us, our youth, our “salad days”, are considered preferable to whatever modern life is serving up in our 70’s or so. Actually, the preference for the Golden Age starts in our adolescence and is pretty much writ in stone by the time we hit 30: the old days, whatever the hell they were, were always better. People’s minds and bodies get stiff and unwilling to learn new habits, as their time goes on – most folks are just not flexible enough to cope with several decades of constant change.
Old people who can cope, tend to live longer. They tend not to go senile. Everyone knows some bright, capable nonagenarian who may creak when they walk – but who remain vital and competent. Kage figured that attitude was paramount to permitting the human mind to survive immortality. Her original plan for How To Make Company Operatives revolved around a careful regimen of philosophy and mental discipline.
Then she decided that humans really couldn’t be relied on to do that. Mechanics had to be added, since almost no one has the attention span and motive to convince their kidney cells not to senesce. Fruitarians, Breatharians, yogis and swamis and the more ecstatic sorts of Christian saints all purport to do it – but, you know, they die. That automatically renders their method irrelevant. “Immortality that works until you croak it,” Kage commented, after researching someone’s claims to have survived for 50 years on one cream biscuit, “is a fucking failure.”
So she went to machinery. She was more comfortable with it anyway, being a hands-on sort of person herself. Clockwork was regretfully rejected as both too detectable and too fragile; also, the business of aging – or not – occurs down at the cellular level, and so the devices to control it had to fit into cells. Thus, nanobots to keep constant vigil on friable telomeres; nano-machinery to produce new chemicals and redesign old organs into useful, immortal new ones. New bones, new skin, new blood; all better than new. Your cyborg will never need their wombs or testicles: think how much brand new machinery you can pack into those spaces!
And of course you’ll need nano-electronics to wire it all together – that’s pretty much what the human nervous system does, after all. It can be done better too.
Prostheses and molecular machinery is what Kage settled on. finally. But she kept the programming, too; because, she said, “Corporations would program their employees if they could. Dr. Zeus can.”
So, Kage was always fascinated when someone got augmented in some way. The innovations in prosthetic limbs just fascinated her; she used to sketch decorative schemes she wanted if she ever had to replace a limb. She really liked the flame motifs you see on trucks and motorcycle tanks …
None of us managed to get really interesting surgical amendations, though. True, one of my ureters has been partly made of Teflon since I was 18; and I do have five platinum stents in my cardiac arteries. But those are only brute-force plumbing, no more advanced than the Romans spiling a stream. She’d was delighted when she herself was fitted with a permanent port in her arm, complete with teeny pumps in her chest – she said it felt just as she’d imagined: which was, she could barely feel it – except when she was asleep, and dreamed of the humming machinery no one could see beneath her skin.
She would love the clever little machine my brother-in-law wears under the hollow of his shoulder. It monitors his laggard heart, and broadcasts its activity several times a day via a dedicated modem. The modem sits next to a Lava Lamp on a living room shelf, under a pretty tea towel to hide its glowing green eye … thus do we shroud vast changes with homely familiarity, so we sleep at night without an eldritch green light painting the walls.
My monitor is not so fancy, because it’s a temporary measure. A recording device. Someone asked me yestreday if I was sure an actual doctor had installed it as it seemed to be bugging me. And yes, it does; but also yes, it was – it’s just freaking inconvenient.
I understand that for men it’s easier to use, being stuck on lower on the chest – in my case, it had to go above the swell of the breast in order to hear my heartbeat. And since I have the remains of what was once an heroic bosom, they practically had to wrap it round my throat. Also, I have (amusingly) a slight case of dextrocardia, meaning my heart is a bit further to the right than is standard. Not a true situs inversus, just enough to make it harder than usual to locate my heartbeat. So the ZIO had to be lined up with my sternum.
The ZIO is a way to monitor my heart without sticking me in the hospital, of which I approve. It’s a prelude to deciding whether or not I need a monitor/pacemaker installed permanently. If that happens, my life will be a lot easier! In the meantime – I have this weird rubbery lorgnette glued to me for another week. But Kage would be better pleased with it – it looks so modern. It’s plastic, it’s an awkward shape and an unnatural colour, it’s uncomfortable to use. The very soul of modernity. If that’s not an oxymoron …
Could be worse. No one’s started in on my brain.