Week 3 Summary – Biohacking and Transhumanism

There are a growing number of Transhumanist socieities. Humanity + is one such organisation. It has over 6000 members in over 100 countries

This week my interest was piqued by the unusual practice of biohacking, and how this has contributed to the transhumanism discussion. Newton Lee, in The Transhumanist Handbook defines transhumanism as anyone that is “using science and technology to enhance or alter our body chemistry in order to stay healthy and be more in control of our lives.” (Lee, 2019, 5). The YouTube clips and tweets on biohacking from this week’s lifestream were certainly representative of this view, particularly in respect to the idea of greater control, which was predominant theme throughout most of the social media on this topic. As individuals merge their bodies with technology, ranging from RFID chips inserted into hands as a replacement to contactless debit cards, to more radical cases such as Tim Cannon’s (rather crude) forearm implant that records biometric data from his body, there was consensus amongst all biohackers – these experimental modifications had given them greater agency and control of their individual lives.

There is little doubt that biohacking is a growing trend, and the discussion on the BBC Sounds podcast, as well as the interviews with Michael Laufer and Eric Matzer from this week’s YouTube clips, supports this view.  However, many critics of biohacking argue that its growth will ultimately be limited to a niche subculture, and that the movement is unlikely to gain enough traction to became mainstream. Medical ethics and opposition on religious grounds will ultimately curb the movement and limit its potential to grow beyond the very curious.

Conversely, proponents of the movement claim that biohackers are extropians of human change and that by pushing these boundaries today, they are catalysing an inevitable movement towards posthumanism. However, this does raise some very important questions. If this transhumanist movement is an inevitability for the 21st century, what ethical issues must be considered as we progress down this road of human change? Should there be interventions to regulate the range of practices this encompasses and, if so, what should that regulation look like? And if this were to happen, how long will it take before we start to see the appearance of modification clinics on the high street, offering biohacker-esque body augmentations to a mainstream market? Biohackers would certainly argue that this will be sooner, rather than later.

References

  • Lee, N. (2019) ‘Brave New World of Transhumanism’ in The Transhumanism Handbook, Springer: Switzerland, p5.
  • ‘Transhumanism’ (10 February 2020) Wikipedia, available at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transhumanism (Accessed: 10 February 2020)

A dystopian novel that imagines the opposite of Lee’s vision of ‘more control’. Instead it shows an oppressive, divided society, examing the possible winners and losers of human immortality. An easy read but it has some links to the themes we have explored in the cybercultures.

Liked on YouTube: Biohacker Explains Why He Turned His Leg Into a Hotspot | WIRED

 

Biohacker Michael Laufer recently had a 512GB drive implanted in his leg, which can store data, stream music or movies, and power a hot spot and mesh network. It’s called the PegLeg, and WIRED’s Daniel Oberhaus spoke with Laufer about the device and the field of biohacking.

For more of Daniel’s reporting on Laufer, his PegLeg and Biohacking technology, visit WIRED.com: https://ift.tt/2HAdH5o

 

 

Liked on YouTube: Experimenting with Biochip Implants

 

Humanity just made a small, bloody step towards a time when everyone can upgrade themselves towards being a cyborg. Of all places, it happened in the back room of a studio in the post-industrial German town of Essen.

It’s there that I met up with biohacker Tim Cannon, and followed along as he got what is likely the first-ever computer chip implant that can record and transmit his biometrical data. Combined in a sealed box with a battery that can be wirelessly charged, it’s not a small package. And as we saw, Cannon had it implanted directly under his skin by a fellow biohacking enthusiast, not a doctor, and without anesthesia.

Called the Circadia 1.0, the implant can record data from Cannon’s body and transfer it to any Android-powered mobile device. Unlike wearable computers and biometric-recording devices like Fitbit, the subcutaneous device is open-source, and allows for the user the full control over the data.