I am writing a paper on radical life extension for a developmental field in the media arts and sciences. Even though I have tried to avoid it, the technological singularity keeps appearing, not because it was propitious for the paper but because it touches on the very technologies that are crucial for investigation of radical life extension.
The nano-bio-info-cogno (NBIC) convergence and its offspring generate inspiring and devastating narratives. (For those who may be unfamiliar with NBIC, the acronym refers to a nascent field that employs the interdisciplinary possibilities of nanotechnology, biotechnology, information technology, and cognitive science and technology.)
Passing through this nano-bio-infocogno intersection might require some finessing — much like the smooth moves of synthetic nanometer-scale material passing through cell membranes without ruptures. But MIT scientists has done this.
So why is it so difficult to locate enough cognitive surplus to engage in meaningful conversations about radical life extension? Maybe it’s because many people simply want to be in the now and experience as much comfort and joy as possible, and then pass the knowledge on. I suppose it is easier to accommodate our physiological wet-ware by experiencing a sense of accomplishment now, rather than in anticipating an arduous reach toward H+ mental plasticity.
Anyway, since we are, in fact, experiencing the now — we can look to the field of Experience Media Design as a medium for building narratives that can perhaps mimic the experience of radical life extension.
For example, immersive environments, wearable technology, alternate-reality games and, adjacently, bioart practices touch on futuristic scenarios. These works can be found in two distinct fields: the field of industrial design and the field of artistic design. The fields are distinct because of their intention. The intention of industrial design is to serve a client’s or potential client’s needs; the field of artistic design is to realize a concept conjured up in one’s mind — a creative process. These fields overlap and are allied, to be sure, but they are nonetheless distinct. Here are some examples:
You can find a great example of an industrial-type interface at Tronic Studio — a company I am fond of. Working in the context of commercial design, they provide a collection of experience designs for their clients.
Digital Water Pavillion is an example of an artistic experience design that is exhibited for audience viewing and participation. It premieres at the World Expo in Spain, and offers a sensorial experience — architecture as experience.
Another architectural experience – one that spins – is planned for Dubai.
“FrogConcept” is a wearable industrial design that allows for a full-sensory experience by reshaping the world into a soothing spa-like escape. While it gives a robot appearance around the eyes, nose, and mouth, its streamline mask is, in itself, a pleasant design that can’t help but make for an aesthetic experience.
“Seven Mile Boots” is a clever artistic design — a stunning contemporary piece of red footwear that enables the person wearing the boots to be a flaneur in the real and virtual worlds simultaneously.
Seven Mile Boots
Alternative Reality Gaming
This genre is both industrially and artistically based and might be appropriate for engaging with other people in a narrative, real-world experience. Alternative reality gaming could provide a potential inducement for imagining together the actual experience of living longer. Unfortunately, at the Cannes Lions Award, the winner game was Trent Reznor’s devastating narrative of the year zero. Instead, it might be worth looking into the designers at 42 Entertainment, providers of immersive experiences.
What can I say about bioart? It is a fabulously new genre that has a particular set of ideological viewpoints that are not terribly H+, but are in close proximity to NBIC works that some of us designers have been engaging in. Bioart doesn’t include experience design yet, but there is potential, particularly as the nano-bio-info-cogno revolution begins to explores new media. Upcoming exhibitions that are a precursor to a nano-bio-info-cogno rad-life-ex will be appearing at the Moscow International Film Festival and also at the “Evolution Haute Couture: Art and Science in the Post-Biological Age.”
My video, “Bone Density,” will be exhibiting. Returning to my paper, I stumble across a famous 1954 quote from Norbert Weiner, the founder of cybernetics: “The human species is strong only insofar as it takes advantage of the innate, adaptive, learning faculties that its physiological structure makes possible.” In H+ Lab, I will be encouraging all of us to do just that through media and art.