Thursday, October 20

You Will Be Assimilated

The inspiration for the following post came from various sources. The ideas are not uniquely my own, but I have synthesized and summarized my thoughts on the topic.

Bill Strickland, in The Quotable Cyclist, wrote:

"...the bicycle is the most efficient machine ever created:  Converting calories into gas, a bicycle gets the equivalent of three thousand miles per gallon."

Its not the bicycle or the cyclist alone that make this efficient machine. It's the melding of the two. Since the 19th century cyborgs have roamed the landscape going upon two wheels.


Natalia Goncharova, the cyclist, 1913

You could extend the point and say that automobiles are an advancement of the combination of man and machine, but I would argue to the contrary. The bicycle was designed to conform to the human body and become an extension of it, the car was designed to conform to the roadway and the human body fits inside. Over time the automobile has become armor for the person inside, a shell and a barrier against the world outside.

Cyborg (n) -- a living being whose powers are enhanced by computer implants or mechanical body parts. (Collins English Dictionary)

A bike has been built with the human body in mind. A bicycle greatly magnifies the power of the human body. My 10 mile commute would take too long on foot and it requires too much energy with other mechanical forms of transportation. Only the bicycle prosthesis allows an efficient method of locomotion.

The bicycle is the perfect transducer to match man's metabolic energy to the impedance of locomotion.  Equipped with this tool, man outstrips the efficiency of not only all machines but all other animals as well.  ~Ivan Illich, Energy and Equity, 1974

The bicycle moves at a human speed, though magnified. The automobile moves a counterfeit speed. The car has robbed nature of a wealth of stored energy to cover the same distance you could cover under your own power for a fraction of the thermodynamic cost and with the best form of renewable energy available to us: human energy.

At its disposal, the unholy man-car melding, has more power than is necessary for most of its needs. It destroys the peace of the neighborhood. It pollutes the air, violates public space, terrorizes the inhabitants of the street and warps the perception of the organic part of its psyche. It is a tank, a gas powered wheelchair, a rigid exoskeleton encasing a weakened host, a waldo for mobility. The auto-sapien is an energy glutton and a fearsome predator.

Stewart Parker speaks through his character Frank Stock and says:

"'Christ on a bicycle,' Frank reflects: 'You can see that. You can't see him driving a Jaguar. Or an Avenger. Or a Sting-ray. A car is just a hard shell of aggression, for the soft urban mollusc to secrete itself in. It's a form of disguise. All its parts are hidden. No wonder they're using them as bombs. It's a logical development. A bicycle hides nothing and threatens nothing. It is what it does, its form is its function. An automobile is a weapon of war.'"


The bicycle was conceived by the human mind, and once built became and extension of that consciousness. It is a perfect cyborg, in analogy and in reality. It is a sensor organ for the mind, feeling the details of the road and the land in ways that the body alone could not. Topography becomes sensory input. The body feels the bumps the feet could feel if not clad in shoes.

Hemingway said: "It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle."

As technology advances it evolves with the man and bicycle into a more connected entity. The Sportiiiis heads up display is only a step away from direct man-computer-bike interfaces. The only barrier to complete cybernetic cohesion is the lack of a direct human-computer interface existing at this time. Once we bridge that gap the cyclists will soon after become a true cyborg.

Imagine bikes built to better maximize human power and provide electric assist that through technology can become a part of the organic consciousness that powers them.


Umberto Boccioni, Dynamism of a Cyclist, 1913

John Howard said: "The bicycle is a curious vehicle. Its passenger is its engine." But the idea of CYCLIST goes beyond that simple, yet powerful, statement. The bicycle cannot function independent of the mind that conceived it, and nothing in the living body of man can equal the simple magnification of power possible with the bicycle.

I'm not a transhumanist, though I am intrigued by the idea of direct human-comupter interface.

No comments:

Post a Comment