Since the turn of the 20th Century human enhancements and augmentations have been increasingly aestheticised and fetishised by medium of Science Fiction. But only in the last two decades are we beginning to encounter tangible advances that could be leveraged towards the project of dramatically altering the human condition.
– Neil Harbisson (@NeilHarbisson)
– Prof. Steve Fuller (@ProfSteveFuller)
– Dr. Rachel Armstrong (@LivingArchitect)
– Dave King (@luddites200)
– Nigel Ackland (@NigelAckland or @bebionic)
– Frank Swain (@SciencePunk)
– Veronika Pete (@Veronika_Pete)
– Luke Robert Mason (@LukeRobertMason)
7:00 Talks and Discussion
…down the road lie some tricky normative issues, not least an enhancement-oriented consumer economy in which conventionally normal people would come to think of themselves and each other as ‘always already disabled’.” – Humanity 2.0: What it Means to be Human Past, Present and Future (Fuller 2011:110)
It is possible that the first steps in achieving the technological means for a transhuman future are no-longer mere speculation. But how do we as individuals deal with the taboo of enhancement and how will society deal with the prospect of a range of differently enhanced human bodies?
It is assumed that the developments brought about by the converging technologies of Nanotechnology, Biotechnology Information technology, and new technologies developed within the field of Cognitive science (NBIC) will usher in revolutionary applications. However, when the outcome of this unification is considered we find ourselves faced with a number of questions regarding both the risks and benefits for both the individuals bearing these technologies and society at large.
An attempt should be made to identify the trajectories along which the enhancement project is already heading. Some associate human augmentation with the creative expression of individuals who choose to engage in an artistic process of self-cyborgisation. In contrast, many identify more politically challenging projects such as seasteading – where ships equipped with research facilities float outside territorial waters allowing them to participate in experiments ‘for the greater good’ that would not usually receive mainstream institutional approval.
In this brave new world, the human subject must negotiate a dominance of narratives claiming they are ‘already and always disabled’ and that technology is the solve for this new problem. This is re-enforced by ‘Retweet Transhumanism’ and drives the political and social urgency of this debate. As we are faced by an age of unbridled enthusiasm for the ‘future,’ developments are ‘Kickstarted’ whilst simultaneously the narrative is sold that policy is merely another barrier to be ‘disrupted’ by the technocracy. As such we may find that we supplant the social project of enhanced humanity for a commercially driven diverse range of differently enhanced individuals who have freedom of choice manipulate the morphology of their own bodies. This, of course, will be sold under the guise of promoting ‘freedom of lifestyle’. As venture capital money accelerates the speed at which new tools reach the marketplace we could begin to see the same with human enhancements.
Cybersalon’s Human 2.0 – ‘Always Already’ Disabled? will address the societal impacts and policy implications of these developments and will include an assessment of the educational, economic, commercial, legal, ethical, political, and social implications. Perhaps there is opportunity for Silicon Roundabout to embrace the possibility of becoming a Silicone Roundabout in the near future?
Image Credit: The Alternative Limb Project, Photo by Omkaar Kotedia
Neil Harbisson is a Catalan contemporary artist, composer and cyborg activist best known for his ability to hear colours and to perceive colours outside the ability of human vision. Neil was born with achromatopsia, a condition that only allowed him to see in greyscale. In 2003, he took part in the development of the eyeborg, a cybernetic eye permanently attached to his head that allows him to hear the frequencies of colours through bone conduction (including infrareds and ultraviolets). Harbisson started to feel like a cyborg, a union between his organism and cybernetics, when he started to hear colours in his dreams. Since then, he creates sonochromatic art works and performances that explore the relationship between colour and sound, and the relationship between bodies and cybernetics. In 2010 he co-founded the Cyborg Foundation with Moon Ribas, an international organization that aims to help people become cyborgs, defend cyborg rights and promote cyborgism as an artistic and social movement.
|Professor Steve Fuller
Steve Fuller is a Professor of Sociology at the University of Warwick, founder of Social Epistemology & Author of ‘Humanity 2.0: What It Means to Be Human Past, Present and Future’
|Dr. Rachel Armstrong
Rachel Armstrong is a Co-Director of AVATAR (Advanced Virtual and Technological Architectural Research) specializing in Architecture & Synthetic Biology at The School of Architecture & Construction, University of Greenwich, London. She is also a 2010 Senior TED Fellow, and Visiting Research Assistant at the Center for Fundamental Living Technology, Department of Physics and Chemistry, University of Southern Denmark. Rachel is a sustainability innovator who investigates a new approach to building materials called ‘living architecture,’ which is the subject of her PhD in Architecture that suggests it is possible for our buildings to share some of the properties of living systems. She collaboratively works across disciplines to build and develop prototypes that embody her approach.
As a pioneering user of the Bebionic 3 artificial hand Nigel enthuses, “Having a bebionic hand is like being human again. Psychologically I wouldn’t be without it. I can hold the phone, shake hands and wash my left hand normally. I’m back to being a two finger typist and can even do a very interesting hand signal which I call the 15th function. Not particularly functional perhaps, but the psychological benefit is immense! The bebionic hand has a great impact on my life: not only does it look more like a human hand but it also functions more like a human hand.”Of the 32 million amputees in the world today, around 80 % (25 million) live in developing countries where only 5% have been fitted with an artificial limb. Around 200,000 people lost a limb as a result of the 2010 Haiti earthquake alone. International Society of Prosthetics and Orthotics (ISPO) data.
A science writer who has published in the Times, Guardian, Wired, New Scientist, Focus and more. Currently he writes the BEYOND HUMAN column for BBC Future. A hearing aid user, he is developing ways to hack his devices to create a new super-sense.In a recent BBC 4 Radio Programme Frank asked what the future holds for people like him, part of a tech-savvy generation who want to hack their hearing aids to tune in to invisible data in the world around them:
David King’s PhD in molecular biology is from Edinburgh University. He was the first director of The Genetics Forum and editor of GenEthics News. He was the founder of Human Genetics Alert and its director from 2000 to present. In 2010 he was one of the founders of Luddites200.
Veronika is an above knee amputee who has been working alongside Sophie de Oliveira Barata, Director of the Alternative Limb Project, in making a futuristic leg cover for her Genium Microprocessor Leg.
|Luke Robert Mason
Luke Robert Mason is a researcher in emerging technology, performance practitioner and journalist based between London and Birmingham. His work is largely focused on the role media art can play as a tool for understanding one of the most important intellectual and cultural developments of our times – the technological extension of the human condition.