Cyborg artistry


Once again Thinking Digital has surpassed my expectations. Herb and his team do such a great job in bringing together a range of speakers that entertain and enlighten us. It is the mixture of art and technology that makes it such a good event.

In past years I have left with a feeling of inadequacy having seen and heard about all of the great things that others have done yet this year I was determined to put this behind me. I want to come out filled with a renewed vigour for what it’s like to be human and the part I have to play in this unfolding story. I do good stuff as well.

Being human was very much the theme of the conference this time. Speaker after speaker told us about what it means to be human and how our engagement with technology is making a difference to the way we live.

There are so many things that I want to talk about but I am going to start with the person who stood out the most for me. Moon Ribas’ talk was not the slickest nor the funniest yet I found it the most challenging. It made me think what it means to be human and reignited my passion for the subject of human evolution.

She told us about her project Earthbeat. She has sensors implanted in her feet which pick up seismic vibrations and allow her to perceive earthquakes taking place anywhere in the planet. She interprets this information through dance, with the intensity determined by the movement of the earth. The earth is the choreographer.

Ribas describes herself as a cyborg artist. Popular fiction always portrays cyborgs as dark and menacing creatures, human-like yet devoid of feeling and compassion. In truth though, the world is full of cyborgs, people who rely on implanted technology to live their daily lives. Pacemakers, hip replacements and cochlear implants are all examples of technically enhanced humans yet these are all examples of where technology is used to replace and repair.

Ribas’ technology enhances the human experience. It takes our species to places it has never been. It stretches the boundaries of self.

Fo a long time my belief has been that the future of humanity is technical, in that one day we will leave the frailty of our flesh and bone bodies behind, either partially or in full, and live our lives in a more digital and cyber way. Our digital revolution is our evolution unfolding.

Ribas and her colleagues have shown me that we are already there.

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