The Extension of Man – Hacking the Body

What is a prosthetic?  We have seen artificial limbs for amputees and the Cheetah (R) foot for track and field athletes. You can have your fingertips replaced if you accidentally slice them off while making dinner. Cancer survivors can have their breasts reconstructed if they’ve lost them in treatment.

But what if you wanted a super-human digit? Or what if you want to shave off minutes from your current marathon time?  Where is that fine line between restoring and enhancing?

As part of the TinkTank labs workshop series I helped lead participants through a 4-hour workshop that highlighted how artists and scientists are currently hacking the body and discussed the socio-technical, cultural and ethical issues we will be facing as these hacks become widely possible, prevalent and undetectable.

Hacking the Body Workshop

As part of the workshop we engaged participants in building physical prototypes of their own prosthetic designs using construction materials, microcontrollers, electronics, and Arduino code. We wanted participants to focus on the design and critical theory behind the changing landscape of prosthetics and human augmentation (rather than messing around with and debugging code). To this end I develop several flexible and reusable snippets of Arduino code that participants could use and combine to get their prosthetics working with minimal coding knowledge (the code can be found here).

Overall, the workshop was a great success, with participants trying out and refining designs, and talking and thinking critically about the future of prosthetics, human augmentation, and how these are changing how we connect and relate to the world around us.

Click here to see some of the workshop slides

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