Cyborg-man-320274_1280My father was a cyborg in a small-scale way (if you apply a definition from “a person whose physiological functioning is aided by or dependent upon a mechanical or electronic device).

And now I just may become one myself.

This week my doctor said I might need a pacemaker due to a slow heart rate, if the cause isn’t the metoprolol succinate I’m taking.

At TeleRead, the instinctive reaction to everything is to ask, “So, is there an e-book angle?” and actually there is one here. Pacemakers and cell phones do not always get along. And guess what’s one of my favorite kinds of devices for e-reading?

The good news is that WiFi apparently isn’t a threat under normal circumstances; nor do phones of less than three watts, the most common variety sold in the U.S., seem to confuse pacemakers’ electronics. To be extra sure, you can keep your cell phone at least five inches or so from the pacemaker.

The bad news is that the American Heart Association says cell phones using new frequencies “might make pacemakers less reliable.” Thanks, guys. Meanwhile, if I do get a pacemaker, I’ll want to check in with Huawei, the Chinese maker of one of my phones, to see if it comes in under 3 watts.

Anyone out there with wisdom to share on these matters? Can I safely fall asleep with my iPad resting on my chest, if I’m using WiFi only, not  the tablet’s cellular capabilities? Or, despite reassurance mentioned above, would I be going too far?

Odds and ends: Yes, if a phrase in the headline seems familiar, it is—see the Amazon listing for I, Cyborg. On an unrelated matter, I was dismayed to learn that pacemaker research may have been put on hold during the 1930s because of news reports hostile to the idea of “reviving” the dead. Oh, well. We know how clueless the media can be about the digital divide. Does anything change?

Update: On September 8, surgeons at Inova Alexandria Hospital, here in Northern Virginia, implanted in me an MRI-tolerant Medtronic pacemaker. As of today, September 16, man and machine are doing great. In terms of my energy level, cyborgdom certainly beats the alternative. I’m doing 300 calories’ worth of exercise on good days, mostly on my recumbent bicycle.

Image credit: DrSJR, via Pixelbay. CC-licensed.


  1. I think you’re pretty safe, anyway they can always revive you if things go south…

    Actually, you’re biggest risk may well be how easy it is to be hacked, most pacemakers have terrible wireless security it seems (I read that Dick Cheney was so worried about a hack-attack, I wonder why, such a nice man, that he had the doctors disable all remote access to the pacemaker he had back before he scored his new heart).

    So if you wake up one day and find yourself a zombie soldier compelled to fight for an oil company somewhere in Africa…

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