In 2019 the US Department of Defense (DOD) published a report describing cyborg soldiers equipped with powerful implants, to be deployed by 2050. The DOD’s cyborg enables transhuman fantasies of controlling, augmenting, and weaponizing the body and the environment. The Cyborg Foundation, non-profit organization run by two artists, offers a different approach. These artists identify as cyborgs who aim to perceive the world differently, connect with nature, and expand normative human bodies and senses.
In these human/machine fusions, and in cyborg theory, hybridity is an essential part of the cyborg’s appeal. Hybridity, however, can also reinforce binary oppositions or provide the veneer of choice under the mantle of self-regulation and governmentality. Calculated illegibility might afford a different vantage point into cyborg politics, negotiating the sites at which the body is identified and known, and the possibility for opacity, sousveillance, or subversive misrecognition. The Cyborg Foundation offers a useful illustration of calculated illegibility, a way of performing cyborg identity and embodiment that runs counter to traditional cyborg narratives.
This article engages a close reading of the DOD report and the Cyborg Foundation, and an interview I conducted with one of the organization’s founders, Moon Ribas, to argue that illegibility better aligns with Donna Haraway’s call for a cyborg politics that disrupts and recodes the hegemonic communication systems and militarized control over the body and the planet.