Cyborgs among us
Using technology to transcend our natural limits
An amalgamation of the human being and technology – transhumanists believe that we are limited only by our own imaginations.
10 August, 2020
Transhumanism is the belief that human beings are destined to transcend their mortal flesh through technology
Transhumanism is the belief that human beings are destined to transcend their mortal flesh through technology. Transhumanists believe our biology constrains our experience of reality and refuse to accept what nature has given us. From bionic eyes to designing new senses and extending life expectancy, they are redefining what it means to be human.
Although these ideas have long lived on the pages of comic books and sci-fi novels, the movement – now a reality – is starting to disrupt industries and individuals in meaningful ways. With technology evolving at an unprecedented rate, further change is imminent. As human architects, we are limited only by our imagination. The profiles of transhumans are as diverse as the applications of transhumanism, from artists and CEOs to academics and bedroom hackers.
I Want to Believe documents a critical moment in time as we enter the next chapter in human evolution. The project is an ongoing collaboration between London-based photographer David Vintiner and creative director Gem Fletcher. The duo has been documenting this global movement for the last six years. Their upcoming book demonstrates in three distinct chapters how optimising our brains and bodies could revolutionise and redefine humanity.
Andrew Vladimirov / London UK – Brain hacker and doctor of neuroscience Andrew Vladimirov collects and analyses brain data. He does this by stimulating his own brain or the brains of volunteers using a variety of methods and protocols. He believes he can reduce fatigue, enhance concentration and improve memory by firing a laser at different parts of the brain.
As humanity moves through this vast technological evolution, Vladimirov believes that one existential risk is surveillance using this technology. “If a marketing campaign can actually feel exactly how you think about a product, it’s possible companies could manipulate not just your consciousness but your subconscious to make you buy it. Imagine if that was a political.
Skinterface / London UK – Skinterface is a wearable suit that enables two-way physical interactions in the virtual world. It is equipped with sophisticated actuators, which convey subtle sensations that convert virtual interaction into physical feeling. Designed by the collective F_T_R, Skinterface augments human skin to make it “compatible” with virtual reality technology. It could make entertainment more exciting, immersive and fulfilling, or help sustain long-distance relationships between friends, families and romantic partners.
EYEsect / Berlin Germany – This experimental device, created by collective The Constitute, aims to recreate the experience of seeing the world like a chameleon – with two independently handheld steerable eyes. The amorphic helmet is a wearable interactive installation that authentically simulates an immersive out-of-body experience, allowing users to experience their environments from new points of view. By changing the way we perceive the world around us, EYEsect alters our version of reality, enabling new ways of sensing and experiencing our environment.
Skinterface is a wearable suit that enables two-way physical interactions in the virtual world
Technology has also enabled those suffering from injury, accident or disease to take control of their bodies and redefine who they are
Moon Ribas / Barcelona Spain – Moon Ribas is a cyborg artist who has been feeling earthquakes since 2013. Her body is connected to online seismographs through implants in her hands and feet, enabling her to perceive the seismic activity of the planet through vibrations in her body. The vibration she feels depends on the intensity of the earthquake. If she is standing in Newcastle, she can sense earthquakes happening everywhere from Japan to Greece. She describes the sensation as like having two heartbeats – her biological heartbeat and the ‘earthbeat'.
She interprets seismic data into dance in Waiting for Earthquakes and into sound in Seismic Percussion, crediting Planet Earth as her choreographer and composer.
Rob Spencer / Toronto Canada – Technology has also enabled those suffering from injury, accident or disease to take control of their bodies and redefine who they are, how they experience the world and how others see them.
Rob Spence, known as ‘The Eyeborg’ lost an eye as a child while playing with his grandfather’s shotgun. Inspired by a love of The Bionic Man and his interest in documentary filmmaking, Spence created an eye with a wireless video camera inside. The camera is not connected to his optic nerve, but sends footage to a remote receiver.
James Young / London UK – After an accident that left him a double amputee, James Young turned to bionics to redesign his body. Obsessed with computer games, he worked with gaming giant Konami and London-based prosthetic sculptor Sophie de Oliveira Barata to develop an advanced bionic arm inspired by the computer game. The $60,000 carbon-fibre limb is part art project, part engineering marvel. The limb is fitted with a 3D-printed hand, which is controlled by sensors that detect minute muscle movements in Young’s back.
The arm also features a USB phone charger, social media connectivity, a torch, a heart rate monitor and a small drone which acts as an external body part, offering Young a different perspective on the world.
Dr. Aubrey de Grey / SENS Research Foundation, California USA – Dr. Aubrey de Grey is a biomedical gerontologist and the chief science officer of SENS Research Foundation, a biomedical research charity dedicated to combating the ageing process. Grey believes that ageing is merely a disease – a curable one. His roadmap to defeat biological ageing focuses on the seven basic ways humans age at a cellular and molecular level and how they can be averted through a series of regenerative therapeutics. He suggests that the first human beings who will live to 1000 years old have already been born.
While these ideas might seem extreme, the animal kingdom is already home to a creature that defies ageing. Turritopsis dohrnii, the immortal jellyfish, is biologically immortal and can regenerate back to a youthful state.
Sophia / Hong Kong China – Hanson Robotics is an AI and robotics company dedicated to creating socially intelligent machines that enrich the quality of our lives. Their most advanced human-like robot, Sophia, is the world’s first robot citizen and the first robot Innovation Ambassador for the United Nations Development Program. Sophia provides a framework for AI research with a particular focus on understanding human-robot interactions and their potential service and entertainment applications.
Sophia can recognise human faces, emotional expressions and various hand gestures. She can gauge your feelings during a conversation, and try to find ways to achieve goals with you. She has her own emotions too, roughly simulating human evolutionary psychology and various regions of the brain.
Exoskeletons at Audi – Not sci-fi but concrete reality – Audi is already using some similar solutions to make work easier and more ergonomic for the employees at its production facilities. In the future, exoskeletons could be used to support them with certain tasks and reduce the strain on their bodies in cases where other technical and organisational options have been exhausted. A number of internal studies have looked at what tasks exoskeletons could take over from humans at Audi. The studies have involved several different systems, but all share a single goal – to alleviate the physical strain on workers.
Hanson Robotics is an AI and robotics company dedicated to creating socially intelligent machines that enrich the quality of our lives
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