I see this episode as belonging to a two part series (in reference to last weeks episode with Oliver Morton.) In that episode we discussed his latest book ‘The Planet Remade’ and the influence humanity has as well as continue to have, on manipulating this planet.
If we were to run a little further ahead of last weeks conversation, and pull that thesis a little further, we could come up with even more examples related to what it means to ‘manipulate this planet’. This would include not only the changing chemical composition of the atmosphere, the eradication of plant, animal and insect species, but also the geologic influence as we mine to remove hydrocarbons that fuel our civilizations and then replace that with our own form of geology known as concrete which has become so prevalent in construction that more than half of all the concrete ever used was produced in the past 20 years. Let’s not forget our global and interplanetary communication revolution that has produced a veil of satellites and space debris, orbiting the outer edges of our planet.
But the manipulation of the planet goes beyond examples of eradication & pollution of both known and unmapped territories, it also includes the introduction of new synthetic and hybridized species of plants, animals, insect as well as assemblages of metals, silicon and software that have sparked debate about artificial intelligence and the potential spark of a new consciousness.
This is something we’ll cover in more detail in the weeks to come with future guests on the synthetic and what that means for design, engineering, creation, nature & species… in this particular episode, we’re going to discuss US, the human species.
There’s no shortage of discourse in regards to the influence humans have had on shaping earth, but clearly we’ve also sought to manipulate something more than the environments human situate ourselves in, along the way we’ve also influenced our own bodies (how we see, hear, the immunization of our bodies against disease) But it’s only by investigation this through a critical eye that repercussions can be identified and opportunities speculated upon to better guide our futures.
It’s important not to see today’s discussion with Kevin Warwick and our human bodies as anything other than a continuation of discourse with Oliver Morton and the ‘planet Remade’. The changing manmade environments (both local and global) and how our own human bodies are artificially evolving through chemistry and technology are not independent realities. If you’re someone working hard to defend disciplinary territory, I imagine you could bookended or cordon off with your hands disciplinary territory or filters to meet your needs, but that would be unfortunate. That would be shortsighted. That would limit ones view of a larger playing field we exist on.
I stumbled upon a quote from the French social theorist Paul Virilio that’s nearly 20 years old that I think is worth reading….He’s talking about what he sees as three industrial revolutions…first being in transportation, the second being transmission (radio, television, Internet etc. and the third…
”The third revolution, which it seems to me we are on the verge of, is the revolution of transplantations. All these technologies of telecommunication which had been employed in aviation and missiles, favor nano-technology, the possibility to miniaturizing technology to the point of introducing it into the human body, to achieve what futurists wished for: to sustain the human body through ‘technology’ and not just chemistry’. In the future, just as the geographic world was colonized by means of transportation or communication, we will have the possibility of colonization of the human body by technology. That which favors the equipping of territories, of cities, in particular, threatens to apply to the human body, as if we had the city in the body and not the city around the body.” End quote. Well, he said that better than I could ever have…he also did it 20 years ago…that’s why Mr. Virilio gets the big bucks!!
Kevin Warwick is Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) at Coventry University. Prior to that he was Professor of Cybernetics at The University of Reading, England. His research areas are artificial intelligence, control, robotics and biomedical engineering. He is the author or co-author of more than 600 research papers and has written or edited 27 books (three for general readership), as well as numerous magazine and newspaper articles on scientific and general subjects.
Kevin instigated a series of pioneering experiments involving the neuro-surgical implantation of a device (Utah Array/BrainGate) into the median nerves of his left arm in order to link his nervous system directly to a computer to assess the latest technology for use with the disabled. The development of the implant technology was carried out by a team of researchers headed by Dr Mark Gasson who, along with Kevin, used it to perform the ground-breaking research. Kevin was successful with the first extra-sensory (ultrasonic) input for a human and with the first purely electronic communication experiment between the nervous systems of two humans.
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