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Neil Harbisson Cyborg Digitalization

Keynote Speaker Neil Harbisson

Neil Harbisson: Cyborg Art, Artificial Senses, Artificial Intelligence

Neil Harbisson - What is a Cyborg? Tech for Good.

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Biography

Neil Harbisson is a Catalan-raised, British-born contemporary artist and cyborg activist best known for having an antenna implanted in his skull and for being officially recognised as a cyborg by a government. The antenna allows him to perceive visible and invisible colours via audible vibrations in his skull including infrareds and ultraviolets as well as receive colours from space, images, videos, music or phone calls directly into his head via internet connection. Harbisson identifies himself both as a cyborg; he feels he is technology, and as a transpecies; he no longer feels 100% human. His artwork explores identity, human perception, the connection between sight and sound and the use of artistic expression via new sensory inputs. In 2010 he co¬-founded the Cyborg Foundation with Moon Ribas, an international organisation that aims to help humans become cyborgs, defend cyborg rights and promote cyborg art. In 2017 he co-founded the Transpecies Society, an association that gives voice to people with non-human identities, defends the freedom of self-design and offers the creation of new senses and new organs in community.

Speakingtopics Neil Harbisson

What’s a cyborg?
Cyborgs are the union between cybernetics and organisms. Since both are in exponential evolution the definition of cyborg is also in constant change. We define cyborgism as the different types of relationships between technology and organisms. This union can manifest itself in many ways: biologically, neurologically and/or psychologically.

Cyborg Art
Cyborg art is an artistic movement where artists extend their senses beyond their physical boundaries by applying technology into their bodies. The artwork of a cyborg artist is the new sense, but it’s an artwork that happens inside the artist. In cyborg art; the artwork, the audience and the museum is all in the same body.

Artificial Senses vs. Artificial Intelligence
There is a difference between the technology that allows you to know things and the technology that allows you to feel things. Cyborg Art focuses on creating Artificial Senses (AS) where the stimuli is gathered by the technology but the intelligence is created by the human – as opposed to Artificial Intelligence (AI) where the intelligence is created by the machine itself.

Revealed Reality
Creating new senses will make us explore the reality of our planet deeper. We don’t consider this Virtual Reality (VR) or Augmented Reality (AR) but Real Reality o Revealed Reality (RR), because the new sense allows us to reveal a reality that exists but that we can’t perceive through our natural senses.

The use of the internet as a sense
Using the internet as a sense can allow us to separate our body from our senses by feeling things that are happening very far away from our own body, things that happen in the other side of the planet or even in space.

Cyborg Activism
The current situation regarding the approval of cyborg surgeries by bioethics committees and the participation of the Cyborg Foundation in the committee in charge of creating Europe’s first Robolaws, the concerns raised by insurance companies and the public concerns of privacy and physical hackers. Defending the right to self-design and how everyone should have the freedom to decide how they want to perceive reality, to design their own bodies and to have their own identities.

Transpecies
Identifying as a transpecies is identifying with the idea of not feeling 100% human. We are constantly evolving and now we can take an active role in our own evolution. We can be inspired by nature and other animal species about what senses and organs we want to have. There are many senses in nature that we could benefit from electroreception, magneto-reception, night vision, echolocation, etc.

Self-design x Environment
Humans have been modifying the environment for hundreds and hundreds of years in order to live more comfortably on Earth. We believe that by changing ourselves instead of the environment we can lead a more respectful life towards the planet. We can learn from other animal species that have been able to adapt to their surroundings better than us; for example, if we had night vision, like some other species have, we wouldn’t need light at night. We wouldn’t be using so much electricity and our planet could take a breath.

Tech for good
We are the ones who need to decide if the union between technology and ourselves alienates us from nature or instead, brings us closer to nature, other animals and space. If we extend our senses in order to perceive the planet in a deeper way, our understanding of it would be different, and so would be our behaviour. It’s very different to know that the earth is moving than to actually feel that it’s moving. Extending our senses can create more empathy and understanding towards the planet and towards other species also living in this planet.

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