One last word about CES and then we’ll move on. Here’s a controversial statement: 2016 may have been the first year human augmentation technologies featured at CES.
No, switch that around.
The discourse of human extension has truly reached the dinner table, pounded into the average person’s consciousness by mainstream supermarket checkout journalists looking for a gee-golly angle, and waves of extended cable TV shows talking up bat-like hearing, bionic legs, life extension and on and on.
Having barely had time to peruse an IoT catalog, consumers are being asked to grapple with the feasibility, the desirability, and in some cases, the morality of adding to their original nature (not realizing they started sliding down that slope years ago with their first cup of coffee, first pair of trainers, or first paper address book). But here it is. Everything else is possible. Technology is abundance. Why not this?
At the end of 2015, we poked at this topic in an interview
with Paul Graham Raven and Lydia Nicholas, hoping to get past the fandom aspect and at least give voice to more critical viewpoints. This past week I had the pleasure of spending time with dozens of other critical works looking at human augmentation at Human+
, a new exhibition at CCCB
in Barcelona. Along with friend and colleague Fabien Girardin, I spent an hour or so taking in the impressive range of works probing many corners of what makes us human, where that humanity begins, and where we think the outer boundaries of what defines us as human may lie.
But we aren’t all that is being questioned. The nature of nature itself is increasingly being challenged, and not only as a parlor game for ethicists, but as a business model canvas for an emerging landscape of companies seeking to “disrupt” the inefficiencies of nature, leapfrog Mother Nature’s design imperfections, poor resource management or time-to-market failures, and establish new norms of, well, normality. Biotech companies, “food” engineers, AI specialists…the list is growing longer.
So, with Human+ as inspiration, I thought I’d take this week to point to some questions about emergent supernature. If Barcelona is on your travel schedule before the end of April, I encourage you to visit the show.
Oh yeah, this week’s newsletter is in full color!