What Happens When You Ask Your Users About Cyborgs

June 4th, 2012

"I'll be back...to use Fetchnotes." - something we wish Arnold would tweet

"I’ll be back…to use Fetchnotes." — something we wish Arnold would tweet.

Back in March, we emailed our user base looking for beta testers for our mobile and desktop applications. In that email, we asked for their contact info, device type, and, “If you had to pick an optimal human to machine cyborg ratio, what would it be and why?”

We didn’t require an answer for that last one, but out of 319 responses, 242 answered it. You’d think that with such an open-ended, random question we would mostly get simple answers like “3:1” or better yet, “where can I get whatever you guys are smoking?” Instead, we saw tons of Terminator and Matrix references, mathematical analyses, treatises on the meaning of life, references to “Bitchgate" and more. Our favorites are below!


What’s that Emperor Whiskers? You want more Meow Mix?

First of all, this question is slightly confusing. Are you referring to the ratio of machine parts a human would be composed of that would be acceptable? Or the ratio of humans-to-machines should a robot uprising ever occur?

I’ll tell the question you’re not asking: Why haven’t there been any movies made about cyborg cats? I mean, cats are already one of the most evil animals in the whole world; Wouldn’t a self-aware cyborg feline be all the more sinister? What’s that Emperor Whiskers? You want more Meow Mix? Right away, Sir.


D = x*10%

Well, the best, if we don’t want to be like in the Game Deus Ex, where biomechanical augmentations made by biotech companies becoming more and more popular, would be to have 0% ration. But, I still believe that it can be helpful for people with certain disabilities.

So with that in mind, I think, and the question is vague enough to allow me to do this, that the human-to-machine cyborg ration would have to be x * 10 %. Ok, what just happened here? It’s simple, let me explain! First, the “x” is a simple variable you can replace by the value of the number of disabled persons in the world, since like I said earlier, they are the only one I would prefer having an augmentation. I imagine disabled people to be less prone to do harm with their new ability, since, most of the time they have been deprived with that particular ability since birth (or later by having an accident).

Next, why a ratio of 10%? Well, a full 100% is out of question…for the reason that we still need to be conscientious of what we do. The best ratio, for a disable being, is 10% considering it can mean a replaced arm (s), or eye (s), or leg (s), which can be helpful (and better than nothing at all). At more than 10% you would start to become less human, and the person would probably become a reject of the society (anyway, as I envision the future).

"Imagine a world where blind people can see, where amputees can walk, where paralyzed can move…Imagine a world where human become robots, where big brother is ourselves and where we lose control and destroy ourselves. Cybergenetic humans, soon in your daily life." (I don’t endorse what I just wrote, since I am not a conspiracy theorist, but I still like how it sounds in my head).

So, final answer is D = x * 10% where D = disabled beings. (I still believe this equation can be optimized, but I now have to go to school :P ).

I hope this was a satisfactory response to your question. 

-Greetings from Quebec.


You know, because titanium. Duh.

1 part human for 6.74270289 parts machine.

Here is the logic behind that answer:

There are some parts of humans that make us distinctively human, and are better than robots.  They are, in my mind, the brain, which surpasses any computer processor, the eyes, tongue, mouth, and ears, for sensory purposes, and our gastrointestinal system, which is unique to living creatures in that it converts chemical energy of food into usable energy.

The only power source practical for an android other than food is nuclear fuel, which, if used, would necessitate being 100% machine, to avoid side effects of radiation.  And let’s not be foolish, that’s not an android, it’s just a robot, which isn’t nearly as cool.

Now to the maths.  The average weight of an American male is 190.9 lbs, and the average female weight is 164.0 lbs[1].  Since the american population has a male to female ratio of .963 males for every female[2], the average weight for an American becomes 176.95235 lbs.

For humans, the brain is approximates 1/40 of our body mass[3].  The stomach constitutes approximately 1/3 of our GI tract and holds 1.5 liters of fluid[4], meaning that the GI tract as a whole adds 4.5 liters of weight, of approximately 9.92 lbs.  In addition, we are going to assume the collective systems of sight, hearing, smell, and taste add up to about 10 lbs of weight, since I can’t find any statistics of how much they really weight online, which is sort of comforting, actually.

So, of the average 176.95235 lb human, about 64.158 lbs is the part that defines us as human and cannot be replaced by machine parts.  The other 112.794 lbs can be easily replaced with machine parts to improve the functionality of us as beings.  However, of this remaining weight approximately 1/3 is bone mass and 2/3 is muscle mass.  This all needs to be titanium.  You know, because titanium.  Duh.

Average bone density is 1500 kg/m^3[5], and average muscle density is 1.06 kg/l, or 1060 kg/m^3[6].  Titanium is 4.506 g/cm^3, or 4506 kg/m^3[7].  So, replacing the bone mass requires 112.944392 lbs of titanium, and replacing the muscle mass requires 319.65394 lbs of titanium.  This leads to a new total weight for the person of 496.756332 lbs, 64.158 of which is the human component.  This means that, by mass, the ratio of human to machine components is 64.158 : 432.598332, which reduces to 1 part human for 6.74270289 parts machine.

And these are my 



[1] : http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/ad/ad347.pdf

[2] : http://nationalatlas.gov/articles/people/a_gender.html

[3] : http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/bb/kinser/Int3.html

[4] : http://www.nexiumresearch.com/2008/06/09/digestive-system-facts/

[5] : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bone_density

[6] : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muscle#Density_of_muscle_tissue_compared_to_adipose_tissue

[7] : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Titanium 


Find me some cyborg to love.

At least one to one, so that when we inevitably start replacing all social interaction with cyborg interaction and then start falling in love with them there’s enough for everyone to programatically personalize their own soulmate as we die off as species and are replaced by the cyborgs. In that way we will live on through our individually personalized, mechanical inheritants of our also dying planet.

I’m good at making this stuff up

I’m looking at this question from the UX perspective. It’s a very loaded question. Modern design in ubicomp and other HCI-related fields has been grappling with this idea for some time. Clearly, some level of automation (machine control) is useful, but that automation comes at the expense of user control (both real and perceived). The goal for fetchnotes is to develop a way in which users can effortlessly capture notes on the fly, an idea that is clearly visible in the fetchnotes’ design concept. I think that merely providing an easy means of capturing notes while still allowing users complete control over what information is captured is actually a human-to-machine ratio of 1.0.

But then there is the question of note retrieval. If I have, say, a list of grocery items, there would be a clear advantage in automatically presenting those notes to me when I arrive at the grocery store. Here the human-to-machine ratio is probably closer 0.4. But this won’t always be appropriate. I will want to retrieve some notes strictly on-demand, again return to a ratio of 1.0.

Striking the right balance in which users feel like they are empowered to use fetchnotes while making that usage nearly effortless is difficult, a set of decisions illuminated only by extensive user testing and other forms of research.

But, for shits and giggles, let’s throw out a single number. I’m good at making this stuff up. And here it is: 0.7, human-to-machine.


My role model is Agent Smith 


Machines are far more efficient and powerful; Rogue agent “Smith” of the Matrix is a role model of mine, and I aspire to succeed where he failed and find even cooler shades.

The small portion of humanity that remains will be used as an isolated recovery drive to protect me against viruses.


You got us!

Trick question.  There is no optimal ratio.


We kept the identities of all answers completely private, but if one of these is your quotes and you want credit, email alex(at)fetchnotes(dot)com with your name, quote and (if you want it included) Twitter handle or website.