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Notes from the Cyborg-Messe

Notes from the Cyborg-Messe

On Nov 6-8, I had the great honour to be a part of the “world’s first cyborg fair” in Düsseldorf, Germany. Held jointly by the NRW-Forum and Cyborgs e.v., the event brought together artists, academics, philosophers and technologists in an exploration of the current state of the art of human/technology integration.

I gave the keynote address on Friday evening to an enthusiastic audience. I’ll have a video up soon of the talk (slides and audio only, I’m afraid). The abstract is:

Humans have always used technology and one of the most ancient tools we use is storytelling. Science and fiction are a conversation and science fiction in particular lets us try out new futures before we build them. Stories teach us about the past, they create the future and they can be as a personal enhancement technology to change our lives.

After I blathered on, the event continued with a wide variety of items, including

  • an amazing philosophical discussion on citizen science and the moral imperative of enhancing human bodies to become more ethical animals by Tim Cannon,
  • a reading and discussion of her German steampunk books by author Anja Bagus,
  • notes on the current and near future state of the art in consumer implantable technologies by Hannes Sjöblad
  • an academic talk about human enhancement versus body modification by Stephanie Rembold

plus an exhibition of incredible body and skin inspired jewelry by Nadja Buttendorf and a fashion show.

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There were also a handful of companies exhibiting their goods, the main draw being implantable NFC chips, which were available to purchase and receive onsite (I got mine!).

On the Saturday afternoon the press was in full force as Tim Cannon and Shawn Sarver from Grindhouse Wetware were implanted with the first North Star under the skin LED system. Jowan Österlund of Biohax International did the work (and also did my implant — he’s an artist with a needle). There’s a safe for work write-up at Gizmodo and a more extensive one with some graphic images at Motherboard.

All in all it was an incredible experience. Everyone was intelligent and lovely and the diverse mix of people made for a thought-provoking and inspiring time.

I want to thank Elle Nerdinger and Enno Park of Cyborgs e.V. for asking me to be a part of this amazing event and Nicola Funk, Alain Bieber and the team at NRW-Forum for all their hard work in making it all happen.

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