Tag: Anthropomorphobia

Leprosy 7

Is the Human Body Redundant?

The increasing ‘liveliness’ of machines and accessibility to the virtual world has raised questions about whether it is possible to uncouple the mind from the body in through a host of different strategies. The basic idea is that if we are able to escape the ties of our own flesh then we can upgrade them and even replace them with immortal ones. Performance artist Stelarc has made some of the most extreme and enduring work on this subject. The artist characteristically depersonalises his anatomy and claims that it is not only an object that can be subjected to re-designing but is also ‘obsolete’. During his performances, Stelarc mentally ‘vacates’ his own body to prove its obsolescence, and claims that his body is no more than a site for redesigning and re-engineering the human form.

In my view, Stelarc’s work paradoxically highlights the profound importance that embodiment holds for being human. When Stelarc dissociates his mind from his body he demonstrates its sheer plasticity and robustness. The artist then recolonizes the body with robots, communications technologies and soft prostheses as proof of this inbuilt physical redundancy. Yet the machines he hosts are given context by the presence of a body – for in its absence, they are just a collection of machines devoid of meaning. Moreover, redundancy is a characteristic of complex systems, which are a form of organization that does not obey the Cartesian, dualistic laws that govern machines. The artist’s rejection of these qualities simply highlights that the human body is not a machine.

There is nothing liberating about having an anesthetized body, nor one that is functionally redundant. While Stelarc’s suspensions and performances demonstrate that we can temporarily ‘forget’ our bodies in order to explore a transcendent state of being, there are those who live in a permanent state of disconnection.

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Will Eugenics Become an Acceptable Strategy to Avoid Climate Change?

Climate change is one of the biggest challenges of today and various scenarios, ranging from artificial trees, pollution trading, co2 capturing to geo-engineering, have been proposed to cope with planetary heating. Most of these existing strategies, however, focus on the altering our environment, but as global warming is inflicted by people, why not start at the root of the issue and change humanity itself to cope with climate change?

Recently New York University bioethics professor S Matthew Liao published a paper (PDF) in Ethics, Policy and the Environment arguing that one way to tackle the challenges of a rise in energy use is to modify humanity to simply use less energy.

The researchers argue biomedical modifications of humans so that they can reduce and/or adapt to climate change is potentially less risky than geo-engineering. They suggests a range of ways to achieve this, from creating an aversion to meat by giving diners a mild intolerance to it, to using gene therapy to create smaller children.

Although eugenics, the deliberate “improvement” of the genetic composition of people, has been in disfavor since its mid-20th century association with Nazi Germany, the researchers argue it “deserves further consideration in the debate about climate change”. Apparently radical problems require radical measures? Certainly next nature causes more next nature.

Via Wired. Download the entire paper (PDF)

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Internet Traffic is now 51% Non-Human

So you thought the Internet was made by and for people? Think again. A study by Incapsula, a provider of cloud-based security for web sites (mind you where this data comes from), concludes that 51% of all Internet traffic is generated by non-human sources such as hacking software, scrapers and automated spam mechanisms. While 20% of the 51% non-human traffic is’ good’, the 31% majority of this non-human traffic is potentially malicious.

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beluga bubble ring

Nature Ludens: The Natural World at Play

An ingenious Russian crow that used a lid as a snowboard to slide down a snowy roof persuaded millions of YouTube viewers that animals are not merely beasts of burden – they also want to have fun. Indeed, the natural world appears to be teeming with creatures enjoying themselves in all kinds of different ways, and wildlife experts even claim that bonobos and dolphins have sex for fun.

But how can we know this is the case? Aren’t we really just projecting our human values on to animals? After all, moods are subjective, so it’s hard enough for humans to communicate clearly enough to each other, even when they share the same language – let alone try to figure out what another species might be feeling. So, to keep things simple and empirically testable, the kinds of scientific experiments that have established the ‘feelings’ of animals have focused on responses to stimuli in which cause and effect are not at all complicated such as withdrawal from pain [1].

Unsurprisingly, this has produced a very limited model of scientifically ‘proven’ animal behaviour, since there are still no clearly identifiable behavioural markers of conscious experience that don’t involve language. We still don’t know how to unequivocally prove what animals may be thinking. We can only claim that creatures such as these fox cubs playing on a trampoline appear to be having fun, since we cannot be objective about what we observe. However, the work of philosophers of science such as Thomas Kuhn, Stephen Toulmin and Patrick Heelan, among many others, questions the long-held view that scientific data are absolutely objective.

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Corpus 2.1

Could you imagine yourself having QR-code freckles, or a chlorophyl skin? Dutch artist Marcia Nolte visualises these kind of speculative scenarios in a very non-spectacular yet beautiful way. This Corpus 2.1 series is a follow-up to her earlier Corpus 2.0 series, of which we also featured a stunning image in our book.

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Edible Implants

Why turn to implants when the female body can do it by itself? Dutch designer Femke Mosch came up with the idea of making edible implants that stimulate breast growth from within.

smiling dustpan
anthropomorphism and design

#11: Don’t Use Anthropomorphism if it Does Not Serve Any Purpose

Part 11 of the series 11 Golden Rules of Anthropomorphism and Design

Anthropomorphism can be a powerful tool in product design. But there are also risks involved that urge designers to be careful in their implementation. This final Golden Rule is also a warning: Don’t use anthropomorphism simply to ‘dress up’ a product; it will make it distracting and confusing, and although it may increase the initial appeal of the product, people will soon lose interest for it, as the promise of human likeness is empty.

anthropomorphism and design

#10: Enhance Human Experience, Don’t Replace it

Part 10 in the 11 part series Anthropomorphism and Design.

The hidden danger with interactive products is that they will become so good at fulfilling our needs that they start to replace actual humans. This is not a futuristic scenario: In an increasing number of locations, from supermarket self-scan checkouts to online bookstores, automatization has replaced human contact. Eventually this may lead to us becoming alienated from other people, which seems to contradict today’s rapidly increasing communication possibilities. Anthropomorphic products have the potential to support, stimulate and enhance human contact, but they may also eliminate it.

dog and roomba
anthropomorphism and design

#9: Be Aware of the Ecosystem You’re Invading

Part 9 in the 11 part series Anthropomorphism and Design.

With most products, one wouldn’t normally worry about the environment that it enters. However, anthropomorphic products inevitably elicit responses from others, even from non-human entities. This can have obvious advantages, for instance, when a human-shaped scarecrow frightens off the birds. But when daddy’s new toy frightens the children or the pets, there is a significant chance that it will end up on the attic. Bringing home an anthropomorphic product can be like introducing a new person into the household, which doesn’t always go as smoothly as the family might hope.

Image via I’m Not Obsessed.

voodoo knife block
anthropomorphism and design

Rule #8: Use Human Ethics

Part 8 of the 11 part series Anthropomorphism and Design

Anthropomorphic products blur the boundaries between products and people. Ethical norms for people don’t usually apply to products and vice versa. For example, there’s no need to apologize if you accidentally run into an object. But with an anthropomorphic product, you might instinctively say sorry, because it seems like the right thing to do. People can apply their attitude towards humans to products, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But transferring attitudes from a product to a human might lead to problems, especially when the product induces abnormal social behavior. Don’t make your product do what you wouldn’t want a person to do.

Image via Lazy Bone.