Cyborgs and Androids and Robots– Oh My!

I’m not gonna say I sucked at science, but I will say that I spent most of Physics 101 thinking of song titles for E=Emcee Squared, the great–if fictional–underground Brooklyn DJ whose career I was mapping out in my head. It’s hard enough for me to get a grasp on existing technology, let alone begin the perilous trek into futuristic technologies. Despite my science incapability, I picked up, began, and devoured the new novel Cinder by Marissa Meyer, which you can start reading for a limited time on Figment. When I first snagged the book, I was checking out that metal-y foot on the cover and thinking, “Cinderella as a robot? That’s illin’.” But then I opened the book and found out that despite her metal arm, metal foot, Internet-enabled vision, and built-in lie detector, she was otherwise all humany goodness, I was like…”Cinderella as a . . . robot?” and then the book told me she was a cyborg and I had to go to the place where all confused children go–Wikipedia. Essentially, the difference between robots, cyborgs, and androids is how human these thingamagidgets actually are. From most to least humanoid:

Cyborgs are partly biologically human. They’re people who have been repaired or otherwise supplemented by technology. Think Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator or Cinder in Marissa Meyer’s Cinder. They can also look very robot-y. The Cybermen in Dr. Who, for example, appear to be robots, but it’s shown that they are built upon human shells. It’s this flesh/machine hybrid that makes a cyborg a cyborg.

Androids are human-shaped robots. Traditionally, they mimic humans in speech and movement. They can very from super humanoid (think Blade Runner, where they’re so humanoid that it’s almost impossible to detect them) to more abstractly human (think C3PO or Sonny from I, Robot). Generally, in stories with androids, there’s a whole kerfuffle about what makes a human a human and then the android suffers some kind of identity crisis about what value it has if it’s only ever mimicking something else, nearly human and yet never human, and then the android gets upset and tries to kill everyone, blah blah blah, Will Smith saves the day.

Robots can be technologically identical to androids. The difference is that they are not mimicking humans. R2D2 is a robot, not an android. Dr. Who‘s K9 is a robot. Anything that is shaped like a dog, or a toaster, or a rolling trashcan is a robot.

I think it is worth noting that one of the websites where I found some of my information re: these differences included this gem about the function of androids:

“Many human-impersonating cyborgs from the future have infiltrated the U.S. Congress in an attempt to alter history by stripping humans of their rights and dignity, paving the way for an easy takeover by the machines in the future.”

I’m not saying that John Dingell is DEFINITELY A CYBORG. But, knowledge is power. And so is a good water gun. Rust can be lethal.

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