Becoming Ourselves

Our biological limitations often make us feel uncomfortable with our own humanity but at the end of the day we are forced to admit that we are human. For some of us this may be easier than others. Despite how we may feel mentally we are biologically human and we might as well embrace it. We are seeking to transcend into something greater so we will have more potential as human beings. We are finally in a position where augmentations are becoming a reality.

With our brains being capable of so much It would be a shame to limit them to our current biology. We can start out with the basics like tattoos and piercings and remember how the first time we were modified we felt ourselves transforming. While some of us got tattoos and piercings for subcultural reasons there were those of us who got tattoos and piercings to look and feel like the people we truly were. I feel that this is what augmentations are all about and that we will continue to transform ourselves in the future to push our physical boundaries and become what we desire.

A few months ago I had an idea of opening up a biohacking salon in LA. The idea was to get a bunch of people who were pushing the thresholds the of human body together in the same room. We would become engineers of our own bodies are reinvent ourselves on our own terms. It might look like something directly out of the book Snow Crash but it would be our actual lifestyle in 2012. Biopunk might replace steampunk as the dominant subculture and instead of blending the past with the future we would be blending our human bodies with the future of humanity. We would be enhancing ourselves as self-identified cyborgs and mutants who refused to let our biology limit our imaginations.

Instead of seeing people with only tattoos and piercings we would see people with mechanical implants from head to toe. Mechanical implants would replace tattoos and piercings as the “hot new thing” and it wouldn’t be long before everyone in the biohacking salon was cybernetically enhanced. Some people would sport mohawks made out of metal spikes that could expand and contract. Others would show off their cybernetic fingers which would be capable of controlling the computers in the room. People could have jam sessions with only their bodies. Cybernetic enhancements could be musical instruments contributing to the symphony of the augmented human body. What would start out as fashion would turn into collaboration and collaboration would then turn into function.

Allowing ourselves to feel more comfortable with our own bodies we can experience humanity like never before. There are so many people who feel completely detached from their biology and there is no reason to remain this way with the options that are currently available. Take, for example, the otherkin subculture. Ranging from aliens to robots to animals there are so many people who identify as beyond human. If you feel like you are an alien why not get a body tattoo that shows the world what you truly look like? If you feel like an elf you can now get your ears modified to look like you are an elf. The possibilities are endless. You can get silicon implants. You can stretch any part of your face. You can become your true self now.

Popular body modification websites like BMEzine are already focusing on surgical enhancement. There is section on the BMEzine website called “Surgical” that features everything from corsetry to binding to facial sculpting to implants. Augmentations are not a type of technology that is only available to the rich. Augmentations are what your children are currently interested in. People are seeking to become cyborgs whether through fashion, medical improvement, or any of the areas in between. As more and more people enhance themselves we notice that humanity is becoming something greater than we ever thought possible. We are evolving into a new species.

This is only going to get more exciting in the future. Soon we will be able to do a lot more than create ourselves in our own image. We will be able to fix our medical problems and enhance the capacity of our brains. If I could change one thing right now I would give myself a sense of direction. I would have an internal GPS that would enable me to navigate. It would also be great to have better access to my memories and to finally stop worrying about eating and sleeping. Yet right now I must accept that I am human and do what I can with the technology available. I am not able to teleport yet and must deal with my biology in its current state. While this may be viewed as limiting I realize that my biology in its current state is actually not so bad. In fact, I feel like my biology is only getting started. This is the beginning of my transformation.

There is a biohacker from the UK named Lepht Anonym who is setting a new standard for what it means to be enhanced. They perform surgery on themself and gives talks on DIY biohacking at conferences. What Lepht is doing is considered so radical that even body mod enthusiasts are shocked by their techniques. While some people see “cutting holes in yourself” as dangerous there are people like Anonym who refuse to stop at what is considered acceptable. They have been embraced in the Transhumanist community for being on the cutting edge of human enhancement. Lepht Anonym is their own surgeon and their own biological designer.

Our bodies are like canvases and we are both the artists and programmers of our future. We are taking the power of human transformation into our hands. We are DIY superheroes who define ourselves through the painting and programming of a new humanity. Wanting to go beyond ourselves is a very human quality. It is not that we are losing our humanity as much as redefining what it means to be human. We are in the process of becoming ourselves.

Rachel Marone is a Transmedia artist and brand developer who blogs about digital culture and the future. She is the founder of the Extreme Futurist Festival which is a 2 day entertainment and tech convention focusing on radical performers and voices of the new evolution.

7 Comments

  1. Judging by what I’ve gleaned from the website you linked to, the man you’re calling a visionary has some serious psychological issues. There is a difference between progress, which the ideals of transhumanism represent, and the horrific reality of what you’re advocating for. Maiming yourself to cope with deep psychological issues shouldn’t be endorsed on this website.

    • P.S.: It doesn’t have much to do with science either, outside of the field of psychiatry that is.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Body_dysmorphic_disorder

      • Psychological disorders are defined by their negative impact on the individual. My considerations don’t have a negative impact. This isn’t about “feeling more transhuman”- it’s about changing myself into something else, because I can. Check out Aimee Mullin’s TED talk about her 12 pairs of legs to see if you can see where I’m coming from.

    • I’d have to disagree with you, Michal- while I don’t feel the way these people do, I don’t know that it’s our place to say what is ‘sick’ or not. Many people accuse me of being unwell and in need of a psychiatrist for my belief that I don’t need to die and won’t do so (via technology, in any way possible). Lepht Anonym may be deeply in the fringes of transhumanism- which is very nearly a fringe philosophy itself- but they have as much right to do with their bodies as they wish as someone who desires a tattoo does. The difference with Anonym and his fans is that they tend to desire more functional modifications. Terrible things may indeed come of people’s self-modifications, particularly with Anonym’s DIY approach, but they might also be the beginning of the advancements that we strive for. Most people on the outside of the norm will be hailed as both visionaries and crackpots- I rather think that history will decide which one is the most accurate.

      • I’d like to correct my calling Anonym by a male pronoun. ‘They’ is more accurate.

  2. Hi Rachel,

    Great article, as always. I’m currently weighing the personal and financial costs of a double amputation below the knee in favor of prostheses but I’m not sure how close to reality that idea really is at the moment.

    I’m also a huge fan of Lepht’s. E is extremely inspiring.

    In keeping with the progressive spirit of the magazine, you might consider using Spivak pronouns when writing in gender neutral terms as you did above with singular “their”.

    • So, generally speaking, you’re considering having your perfectly functional legs cut off, just to substitute them with prosthetics that can cost up to 500.000 dollars but are nowhere near as reliable and functional as your “original” body parts, just so you can feel more “transhuman” ? If you’re not trolling, then you definetly should talk to a psychiatrist – I really mean it.

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