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The Reading Room #5: Natural-Born Cyborgs

Minds, Technologies and the Future of Human Intelligence by Andy Clark

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Guest reader: Wybo Houkes
November 18th, 2015
19h – 21h
Location: Vrije Academie Gemak, Paviljoensgracht 20-24, 2512 BP, The Hague

The Reading Room is a series of reading groups revolving around short texts provided by invited guests – contemporary researchers, cultural theorists, philosophers and artists – who join us to provide insight and context to the topics at hand. The Reading Room is a joint cooperation between the artist-initiatives Platform for Thoughts in Motion and iii

For this session we are delighted to be joined by Wybo Houkes. We will be reading a text written by Andy Clark, from his book Natural-Born Cyborgs: Minds, Technologies and the Future of Human Intelligence. We ask that those interested in joining please reserve a spot by sending an email to platformtm@gmail.com. We will also provide you with a copy of the text.

Guest biography:

Wybo Houkes is associate professor in philosophy of science and technology at the School of Innovation Sciences of Eindhoven University of Technology. He led an NWO-Vidi project titled “Darwinism in the Human-Made World” (2008-2013) and was a post-doc in the NWO Programme “The Dual Nature of Technical Artefacts” (Delft, 2000-2004). His research interests include technical artefacts and their functions, the role of intentions in design and use, technological knowledge, and cultural-evolutionary models of technology.

About the text:
Recent advances in technology – social media, synthetic biology, brain implants – offer unlimited possibilities for exploring and enhancing ourselves, our interactions with others and our relation to the ‘natural’ world. We are witnesses, perhaps even participants, in a ‘cyborg’ revolution or a transition to a ‘Post-Human Era’ – or are we? According to Andy Clark, the merging of humans and machines is perfectly natural: it is what human brains and bodies have been doing for ages. Using examples such as Stelarc’s Third Hand and artificial vision, Clark builds a powerful argument for his claim that we are ‘natural-born cyborgs’. He gets additional support from archaeology and anthropology. Dietrich Stout’s work on the making of stone tools shows that even seemingly rudimentary technologies require an interplay of environmental scaffolding, sophisticated brains, embodied skills and social traditions. The cyborg revolution may be speeding up, but it has been gathering steam for millions of years.