I recently read an article on Wired that highlighted the growing trend of body hackers who perform self surgery to add modifications to their own bodies. Some of these additions literally give the hackers new senses and abilities such as being able to control your digestion, see in different wavelengths of light, feel the shape of an electromagnetic field, or sense the direction of magnetic north.
The one big problem with these types of modifications is that no licensed doctor will perform them because they are seen as not being medically necessary. This could open up a whole line of argument about what it means to call some procedures medically necessary and others not.
In any case, while I do not applaud the hackers disregard for their own safety I do recognize their drive and passion for pushing boundaries and exploring the new, which is a rare thing these days. So while I am intrigued by the level of technology involved in these modifications and I think that in the future this will become more common and accepted by our larger culture. I am also disturbed by the spiritual implications that these surgeries and their intended purpose bring up.
First off, by spiritual implications I do not mean to suggest that these types of body modifications or others such as putting ID chips in our hands are a sign of the end times. While they may not on the whole be a healthy sign for our culture I don’t believe that they are a problem by themselves. People have been modifying their bodies as long as there have been people. I don’t believe that these types of modifications are inherently different than adding pacemakers or artificial limbs to our bodies. While there may be many valid concerns of privacy, safety, and equity in this arena I do not believe that our souls are in danger if we modify our bodies.
That being said, I am troubled by the idea that modifying our bodies alone can somehow lead to transcending our humanity. These body hackers are part of a growing “transhumanist” movement, and while I understand that they are transcending many of humanities’ past natural physical limits they are by no means changing what it means to be human. No matter the body or the abilities of said body our human soul is above all what defines us as humans. This is a lesson that we are still learning or perhaps are relearning in the 21st century. We are not defined by our physical differences or modifications, but rather by our inherent value as human beings and as children of God. Again while I am not against these types of modifications in principal, especially if they can be done safely, I do wish that people and our culture in general spent as much time and energy as we do on our physical selves on our spiritual selves as well.
You can read the full Wired Article here.