Intimate Technology S01E05: The Modular Body

NextNature.net
November 7th 2017

The body, like any technology, is made up of countless individual components. Yet, apart from dire medical emergency, have you ever thought about mixing and matching these components, replacing old modules with shiny new upgrades - building a body? In The Modular Body, Floris Kaayk demonstrates what this process might look like.

The protagnoist of the video, OSCAR, is a prototype designed by the fictional biologist Cornelis Vlasman to demonstrate the possibilities of the body as a modular system. When a limb is lost, it can be already replaced with a prosthetic which may even outperform the original. People unhappy with their appearance nowasays have the option of surgically altering the parts they don’t like. But overall, science still views the body as a “closed system”. A body designed from the outset to be modular would radically change this view. We might start switching out parts, and the consequences for medicine would be enormous.

Yet, the movie leaves us to puzzle over the wider implications of the technology ourselves. What we see instead is the very intimate physical process of assembling OSCAR. The image of the body’s central module, the heart, comes into focus as the microscope is adjusted and repositioned. Delicate instruments slot the power module into place with a satisfying click, and the heart begins to beat. As more modules are added, next to the sound of the heart monitor we can hear the excited talk of the doctors assembling this modular body. Here is technology at its most intimate, delicate and satisfying version to work with.

How might a modular body impact the world of medical science? Is a modular body compatible with our concept of intimacy? What would the ability to redesign the body on a whim mean to you?

Credit: The Modular Body by Floris Kaayk (NL)

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Siri Beerends: I really embrace the idea that viruses can teach us a lesson in modesty. It is necessary that our position as the dominant species on the planet is being challenged. I also agree that it is a mistake to think that we are becoming Gods. But unfortunately, this is actually what is happening now. Corona doesn’t teach us to be modest, it teaches us how we can -as quickly as possible- go back to business as usual: saving our capitalistic economy.

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