Anti-Cyborg Discrimination Is A Terrifyingly Real Thing

“A robot may not injure a human being, or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.” —Isaac Asimov’s First Law of Robotics

In A Nutshell

A future where humans are prejudiced against robots or cyborgs is practically a sci-fi cliche: Blade Runner, the Matrix films, and I, Robot all flirted with this way-out futuristic theme to some extent. But what they didn’t mention is that anti-cyborg prejudice is already a terrifyingly real thing. Last year, a Parisian McDonald’s witnessed what may be history’s first anti-cyborg hate crime.

The Whole Bushel

Steve Mann is known as the “father of wearable computing.” According to his blog, he’s been wearing a computer vision system of some kind or another for over 34 years. The current device he sports is literally attached to his skull and thus impossible to remove. In case anyone gets freaked out by this and refuses to let him into a museum (or whatever) he carries a physician’s note at all times. Remember this.

Last year, he stepped into a Parisian McDonald’s, where employees took exception to his digital glass eye. Since this was a family vacation, Mann didn’t kick up a fuss. Instead, he politely handed the employees his physician’s note and tried to get on with his meal. And that’s when things got real.

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One of the employees tore up his note while another attempted to wrench the Glass from Mann’s head. Since the device is part of him, there’s pretty much no way this could have ended happily. The McDonald’s goon damaged the Glass, damaged Mann, and then threw him out into the street. As Mann tells it, the police were deeply unsympathetic when he filed a complaint, because the minute you wire a computer to yourself you lose all your rights, apparently.

Frighteningly, this isn’t the only incident of anti-cyborg discrimination on the web. Stories abound of visually impaired people equipped with digital devices getting chucked out of supermarkets and banned from movie theaters. There are even advocacy groups with names like “Stop the Cyborgs” springing up to try and push through anti-cyborg legislation. Think cybernetic prejudice only exists as a metaphor in the movies? Think again.

Show Me The Proof

io9: What may be the world’s first cybernetic hate crime unfolds in French McDonald’s
Cyborg Discrimination: The Dark Side of Google Glass

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