The line between human and tech is blurring.
In 2016, we have scientific and technological advances at our disposal that were once relegated to the most imaginative of sci-fi plots. Thanks to developments from genetic engineering to cyborg implants, we're no longer stuck with the meatbags nature gave us—and body modifications of varying intensity offer a new vision of what it could mean to be human.
Motherboard is partnering with UK philosophy and music festival HowTheLightGets In to discuss this "brave new horizon" and what it could mean for the future of humanity.
We'll be joined by a panel of speakers who have their own insights into where the human race is headed.
British philosopher David Pearce, cofounder of transhumanist organisation Humanity+, has an optimistic outlook on human enhancement. He's written about how we could use genetic engineering biotechnology to eliminate suffering—and believes that we are ethically obliged to do so. He foresees a time when we can "discard the legacy-wetware of our evolutionary past" and engineer ourselves to be happy." (And in the meantime, there's always drugs.)
Sci-fi author Richard Morgan deals in fantasy, but we could well expect him to bring us back to Earth a bit based on his often rather dystopian visions of the future. His 2002 novel Altered Carbon presents a world where humans last forever—in digital form—but leads to questions of whether immortality of this kind would really be desirable.
If it sounds like we're getting ahead of ourselves, Nicky Ashwell exemplifies how the increasingly intimate relationship humans enjoy with technology even today. Born with one hand, Ashwell is a pioneering user of a new bionic prosthetic. The Bebionic Small, designed to be anatomically accurate, shows how technology can already integrate with the human body, and hints at a future where bionic devices could not only complement but enhance humankind as we know it.
That's why it's so essential to have these debates now. The future of human modification might seem distant, but the seeds were planted long ago. This year, British regulators approved the first research to conduct gene editing on human embryos. Self-described cyborgs are already implanting magnets and sensors under their skin. We're taking steps towards our future, but we don't know exactly where we're headed—or whether we want to go there.
HowTheLightGets In runs from May 26 to June 5 at Hay, and you can buy tickets here. The 'Brave New Horizon' session will take place on June 2 at 4 PM in the Globe Hall.