How far is it from Prozac to cyborgs?
Daniela Cerqui is a social and cultural anthropologist at the University of Lausanne and explores the edges of “posthuman” society, a society marked by human and computer hybridisation. We talk to her about the definition of “normality” in a technology-centred world, chip implants and the future of human evolution. Daniela Cerqui is also know for following and studying Kevin Warwick’s life as a cyborg from an anthropological point of view.
In Daniela's Words
I am a social and cultural anthropologist involved in the study of the relationship between technology and society and, more fundamentally, humankind.
My researches focus on the development of the new information technologies and the 'information society' these technologies are supposed to create. In such a society computers are more and more integrated everywhere in our environment ('pervasive computing'). Furthermore, chips and human bodies are merging and such a symbiosis has consequences for the future of humankind. I am especially interested in how engineers who work on these new technologies see this future: what is (descriptive aspect) and what should be (normative aspect) a human being according to them?
Furthermore, I am interested in the ethical and social aspects of the convergent robotics, nanotechnology, biotechnology and information technology, as all of them are merging to modify humankind.
Main fields of interest:=
- future of humankind in the era of human and computer hybridisation (cyborgs, posthumankind, posthumanism);
- therapy versus enhancement (implants, Prozac, genetics), definition of normality;
- social and ethical issues related to converging technologies (information technology, biotechnology, nanotechnology, cognitive science);
- pervasive and ubiquitous computing;
- cybernetics, artificial intelligence and artificial life, robotics (self-organisation, bio-inspiration);
- information society, networked society, cybersociety, virtual life (i.e. CCTV, the Internet, mobile phone, laptop, etc.).
Anthropologist Daniela Cerqui discusses Warwick, cyborgs and implants
Posts about Daniela
Daniela Cerqui — Cyborgs: what kind of human being are we building? Posted on 08.02.2007 by Stephanie Booth
Kevin Warwick: implant in arm (real surgery!), measure signal when opening closing hand, to see what the right signal for it is. => able to control a robotic hand with his brain (by moving his hand).
Question of feedback. Sensors => capacity to get feedback from the robotic hand.
Applications: blindfolded, used the hand to “feel” something at a distance.
Wife: electrode fired into nerve, no anesthesia, really painful! Brain-to-brain interface, two human systems linked to each other. When he moved his hand, a signal would appear on his wife’s system.
Controlling robotic hand in the UK (from the US) by sending signal through the internet. Implications? will we one day be considered “disabled” if we cannot control a robotic hand across the ocean? We get used to technology and our ethical boundaries shift. What does normal mean?
(steph-note: lots of photos, very evocative)
Commercial applications: 2004 nightclubs in Rotterdam and Barcelona use membership implants instead of cards (and Kevin had his first in 98 — just a few years before!)
Kevin’s point of view: if it is used now, then I was right to develop it.
Humans are flexible. Get used to almost anything. Can we redifine ourself without boundaries. When do we become “other than human”?
Kevin looks towards enhancements. Happy with the idea we might become other than human. Promoting cyborgs as a new species.
Often, people draw the line between medical and non-medical applications, but it’s usually impossible to draw the line between therapy and enhancement.
Kevin is not such an exception.
We are on the same path as Kevin, whether we like it or not (connecting brains to machines and brains to each other). In our society, being “normal” means being connected.
Daniela Cerqui "Towards a society of cyborgs?" (Lift07 EN)
Daniela Cerqui is an anthropologist at University of Lausanne. She presents about “Towards a society of cyborgs?” at the LIFT07 conference on Thursday, February 8, 2007.