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HUMAN DESIGN or EVOLUTION?

“As biotech moves out of the laboratory into the marketplace,there is a need now, more than ever, for a form of design, let’s call it critical design, that questions the cultural, social and ethical implications of emerging technologies. A form of design that can help us to define the most desirable futures, and avoid the least desirable.“ (Dunne & Raby)

 

Is it true that the body in its biological, “natural” state is increasingly becoming old-fashioned? Will science and technology develop smarter bodies?  The Human Design or Evolution-series offers 8 unique perspectives in investigating the human and the biological body as the material and subject of art, design, science and technology.

Body enhancement, body modification, prosthetics, mind uploading and memory upgrades are keywords in contemporary society’s answers to the demands projected onto the (human) body.

The history of human use of tools presents many types of bodily enhancements, varying from modifications of appearance to improvement of physiological functions and extension of cognitive abilities. Current examples of body-altering technologies are e.g. chemical enhancers, plastic surgery, physical prosthetics, organ implants, regenerative medicine, genetic engineering, as well as various external cognitive devices e.g. such as mobile phones and wearable technology. When looking at this list, it becomes clear that contemporary body enhancement practices are no longer solely and necessarily concentrated on repair or replacement of defective bodily functions, but are increasingly focused on a redesign of the body based on one’s unique, individual desires.

It is evident that our perception and attitudes toward the body are changing. This is visible in the general acceptance of ever more radical modifications and enhancements in the functions and appearance of the body, many of which are evidenced e.g. in media, in art & design, and in theoretical articulations concerning the future of the human species.

Design for a future human has become an emerging area (in the art & design), which is tightly related to advancements in science and technology. This area is not only researching future potentialities of humans, including the development and design of a human body; it also addresses important ethical issues concerning such development.  For example, the new field of “synthetic biology” seeks to author or “write” biology by making it a design problem. Through these observations, we might ask: What is the role and the responsibilities of a designer, a scientist or an artist in the field and what kind of possibilities does it offer?

Further, what kind of humans we will be in the future? And what are the stakes in this game? These are some of the questions what this lecture series is investigating. Recently, areas such as biotechnology, nanotechnology, genetic engineering, neuro- and cognitive science, wearable and mobile technology, synthetic biology, tissue cultures, robotics, artificial life and artificial (general) intelligence, as well as thinking developed in post- and transhumanism has become a shared focus of interest for artists, theorists, designers and scientists.

The Human Design or Evolution-series offers 8 unique perspectives in investigating the human and the biological body as the material and subject of art, design, science and technology.