93 results for “Biopolitics”

The beginner’s guide to biohacking

Peter Joosten
November 19th 2019

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the term 'biohacking'? Perhaps you are now thinking of a bunch of kids sitting in their kitchen with a DNA kit, (wannabe) cyborgs inserting subcutaneous chips in their bodies, or perhaps a person striving for optimum performance through a perfect lifestyle. These are all types of biohacking, but there's more to it. Here's what you need to know (and were too affraid to ask).

Bulletproof coffee

The problem …

Should men be able to give birth to children?

NextNature.net
October 30th 2019

Within a few years, it may be possible for premature babies to grow inside an artificial womb. And when that day arrives, should men be able to give birth to children? Should we externalize pregnancy with artificial wombs? And are these feminist dreams or frankenstein nightmares? Welcome to Reprodutopia, a debate on our reproductive futures.

A new narrative

For a long time the birds and the bees served us well to explain where our children come from. Yet radical developments …

There’s a new urgency for speculative design. Here’s why

Freya Hutchings
September 10th 2019

Pink chickens, synthesized tiger penises and salads grown from bodily fluids - how could they shape our future? In a Next Nature collaboration with the Gogbot Festival, the event’s 2019 conference challenged audience members to suspend their disbelief and imagine. In a series of fascinating presentations from designers, artists, scientists and bio-hackers, participants and audience members alike were invited to consider: what would a world in which biotechnology becomes our next nature look, taste and feel like?

Technology as nature…

GOGBOT Conference 2019: Your guide to a future with biotech

NextNature.net
August 12th 2019

Look around you and try to find the most natural thing in the room you are in now. It is you. But for how long?

Welcome to the wonderful world of bio design; a world full of agricultural crops, in vitro meat and designer babies. An increasingly large group of young artists and designers are exploring this relatively new design discours, in which the sciences and art merge. These artists and designers use their imagination to envision future scenarios and …

Maurizio Montalti talks nature’s cycle of life

Meike Schipper
January 24th 2019

As modern humans, we are out of balance with our natural environment. With use of technology, we try to prolong our human lifespan and create materials that live longer than we do. And instead of embracing our nature, we are resisting the very essence of our being: the impermanence of life. This realization fuels the work of interdisciplinary designer Maurizio Montalti. Working with living materials such as fungi and bacteria, he explores ways to renew the balance.

Educated as both …

Interview: Curator Ilari Laamanen on Momentum9, the Nordic Biennial

Ruben Baart
August 4th 2017
We recently spoke to Ilari Laamanen, to peel the outcrops of Momemtum9, and unveil the overlapping themes to the next nature philosophy.

Our Tribal Genes Affect Politics

Alejandro Alvarez
November 18th 2016
What if the cause of our politic choice was in our evolution, hidden deep in our genes and digging up our tribal instincts?

Eco Currency Questions

Billy Schonenberg
July 10th 2015
Discussing the possibility to put a price-tag on nature, and what this would implicate.

Interview: Nadine Bongaerts, Synthetic Biologist Bridging Science with Society

NextNature.net
June 7th 2015
We recently talk to Nadine Bongaerts about the role and impact of synthetic biology, the gap between bio­sciences and society and the importance of communication to overcome the fear of new technologies.

Recreating Woolly Mammoth DNA

Yunus Emre Duyar
April 4th 2015
Scientists at Harvard University inserted wooly mammoth DNA into the genome of the Asian elephant.
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What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the term 'biohacking'? Perhaps you are now thinking of a bunch of kids sitting in their kitchen with a DNA kit, (wannabe) cyborgs inserting subcutaneous chips in their bodies, or perhaps a person striving for optimum performance through a perfect lifestyle. These are all types of biohacking, but there's more to it. Here's what you need to know (and were too affraid to ask).

Bulletproof coffee

The problem with biohacking is that all the examples outlined above are true. Amateur biotechnologists, cyborgs and supporters of a healthy lifestyle all associate themselves with the term biohacking.

Within the latter group, which I call the lifestyle optimizers, Dave Asprey is the guru. Asprey is the frontman of the American brand Bulletproof. Among other things, this brand sells special coffee that you must mix with butter and coconut oil. The promised result: instant focus, without any sugar crash and hours of satiation.

A brief bio of biohacking

But what exactly do we mean when we speak of 'biohacking'? The term was first used in 1988 in an opinion piece for the Washington Post. The article described the possibilities to perform all kinds of technological experiments from your basement. This included DNA analysis, the cultivation of bacteria and testing the effect of viruses on fungi. Today, this definition is still dominant for the group of amateur biotechnologists.

Within the other two groups, the cyborgs and the lifestyle optimizers, biohacking is aimed at people. In using the term, the link to computers is made: just consider how computerhackers break into hardware and software vs. biohackers grinding their own wetware.

The cyborgs take this notion quite literally, by implanting technology into their bodies, whereas lifestyle followers believe that you can improve the human body and prevent aging with smart nutrition, health hacks and useful gadgets.

Steam engines and other metaphors

The comparison with computer technology comes from our current technological paradigm. Yet in the past, the paradigm of that time was used to look at the human body.

At the time of the Industrial Revolution, the human brain was considered a constellation of pipes, steam and drive shafts. The saying "blowing off some steam" is also a good example of how people saw themselves as, well, a kind of steam engine.

These days we see the brain often described as an algorithm or hard disk and the body as a battery that needs to recharge. Keeping this in mind, the idea of biohacking is not that strange.

Technology after all, is what makes us human.

Shifting boundaries

Take something as simple as sight. In prehistoric times, your chances of survival were nil when suffering from poor vision. When the first glasses were made around 1200 AD, our ancestors most likely responded, “Your vision was given to you by God—why change that?"

As we have developed ourselves scientifically over time, so did our technology; as contact lenses are socially accepted today, does this also apply to smart contact lenses that have a Google Glass-like function tomorrow?

And what about LASIK (laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis), or commonly referred to as laser eye surgery. This technology is becoming more accessible, but how socially accepted is it to give yourself super vision like golf superstar Tiger Woods

This is my point: ethical boundaries of what we find socially acceptable are constantly shifting. That is what biohacking is about. Glasses are no longer biohacking, but smart contact lenses are.

Thinking ahead, one may wonder: Will glasses at some point become out-dated? Will everyone have genetically modified eyes for optimum vision?

Chances are, the next generations of biohackers will be at the forefront of these technologies. Perhaps they will replace their biological eyes with bionic ones. Perhaps they will simply change their diet.

Just like our technology, biohacking (and its dream and ideas that we have of ourselves) moves along the progress of mankind. But as with other technological developments, it's impossible to predict how these will evolve in the future. But there is one thing that we can be certain of. Things will change.

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Within a few years, it may be possible for premature babies to grow inside an artificial womb. And when that day arrives, should men be able to give birth to children? Should we externalize pregnancy with artificial wombs? And are these feminist dreams or frankenstein nightmares? Welcome to Reprodutopia, a debate on our reproductive futures.

A new narrative

For a long time the birds and the bees served us well to explain where our children come from. Yet radical developments in reproductive technology force us to rewrite this story.

Artificial wombs, gene editing techniques and reprogramming adult cells into eggs or sperm cells are revolutionary ways for human beings to reproduce, and appear to be closer than any of us can imagine.

It’s time for a much-needed discussion about the way technology radically alters our attitude towards reproduction, gender, relationships and love in the 21st century. If we are to rewrite the human story, let’s make sure it becomes a story that benefits all.

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Pink chickens, synthesized tiger penises and salads grown from bodily fluids - how could they shape our future? In a Next Nature collaboration with the Gogbot Festival, the event’s 2019 conference challenged audience members to suspend their disbelief and imagine. In a series of fascinating presentations from designers, artists, scientists and bio-hackers, participants and audience members alike were invited to consider: what would a world in which biotechnology becomes our next nature look, taste and feel like?

Technology as nature

In times where the term ‘biotechnology’ alone may trigger feelings of discomfort and fear, the conference sought to provide an alternative view on biotechnological applications and to visualize constructive collaborations between nature, culture and technology.

Hosted by NNN’s editor-in-chief Ruben Baart, the conference began with a talk from NNN director Koert van Mensvoort. Crucial to his philosophy is the notion that technology has become so complex, autonomous and omnipresent that the line between nature and technology is blurred - that technology can be best understood as nature in itself.

The body as a resource

Following Koert van Mensvoort’s philosophical framing of the permeability of nature and technology, the first part of the conference focused on the idea of the body as a resource and what being human may mean in a world of biotechnological progress.

This began with a presentation by biohacker and DIY-futurist Peter Joosten. His talk focused on the potential of the human body as a site for modification, and proposed how hacking our own bodies may lead to exciting possibilities. Joosten pushed the audience to consider their own attitudes towards biohacking, asking what technologies they would be comfortable with - from glow-in-the-dark eye drops to having a bionic eye.

Following this, design researcher Thieu Custers discussed his project Bodyponics in which he used natural by-products of his own body to grow the ingredients of a salad. His project played with our conceptions of bodily fluids as waste products whilst offering a more sustainable way of producing food. To their surprise, audience members were invited to contribute their own urine for Custers’ DYI salad kit project!

Exploring the potential of biotechnology

The next part of the conference consisted of short presentations by five upcoming designers who shared their visionary proposals for the future applications of biotechnology. 

Shahar Livne presented her project The Meat Factory and in particular, her sneakers made of animal blood. The project is an ongoing exploration of material processes. Livne uses animal blood (an often unused by-product of the meat industry) as a material alternative to the highly polluting leather industry. Her approach challenges with the line we draw between attractiveness and disgust, the usable and unusable, sustainable and unsustainable.

Kuang-Yi-Ku discussed his Tiger Penis Project. A work imagines a future in which - using the designers words - a “culturally stronger penis” could be produced. The designer’s goal involved synthesising the practices of traditional Chinese medicine and mainstream Western medicine. Through the speculative creation of an artificial tiger penis, made using animal cells, the hybridization of medical practices was proposed to prevent the destruction of traditional cultural practices and the animals they involve.

Non Human Nonsense, consisting of Leo Fidjeland and Linnea Vaglund, took the stage with their wish to turn all chickens on Earth pink. Their work aims to unbound certainty and explore how speculation can reveal the complexity behind our relationships with nature. In their imagined application of CRISPR technology, the designers proposed world every chicken would be genetically modified to be pink. Eventually, their fossils will also colour the geological strata pink - forming the ultimate marker of the Anthropocene. Whether utopian or dystopian, this project opened up conversation about the future uses of technology such as CRISPR as well as the lasting impact of humans on the earth itself.

Quang Tran Bich’s project imagined how we may adapt our skin to better sense an increasingly virtual world - the designer asked, “what if we could feel wifi?” His work contemplates how transformations in our technological surroundings may require a change in the way we interact, sense, touch and use our bodies. He powerfully presented a future in which our skin may be the next interface.

The fifth speaker was Valerie Daude, a designer who addresses our relationship with our gut microbiomes. She thinks about the ways in which we can make our bacterial levels visible through the use of wearable masks. Daude considers how sharing our highly unique microbiome levels with others, like data, may transform our relationships with humans and nonhuman bacteria. Could we use the masks as a therapeutic tool, or transfer desired bacteria to each other when needed?

Towards a joint vision

The event culminated in a panel discussion that invited experts and audience members to engage in the debate and to help formulate a joint vision. Ruben Baart, Koert van Mensvoort, biodesigner Emma Van Der Leest and science communication researcher Joyce Nabuurs discussed the role of speculative design and the importance of the projects presented in terms of fostering debate and changing attitudes.

The takeaway message of the conference was one of positivity and momentum. The afternoon demonstrated a critical engagement with the huge potential for biotechnology to positively impact our lives and the planet as a whole. The format of the conference, which allowed audience members to engage with speakers, continually highlighted the importance of discussion and the democratisation of scientific ideas. Ultimately, we all have a right to participate in the formation of our futures. Finally, the conference demonstrated how the projects discussed can play a vital role when it comes to the idea of biotechnology becoming our next nature.

These projects can form a guide for progressing with technology in meaningful and collaborative ways - particularly at a time when social hurdles seem to outweigh technological ones.

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Look around you and try to find the most natural thing in the room you are in now. It is you. But for how long?

Welcome to the wonderful world of bio design; a world full of agricultural crops, in vitro meat and designer babies. An increasingly large group of young artists and designers are exploring this relatively new design discours, in which the sciences and art merge. These artists and designers use their imagination to envision future scenarios and wonder out loud what these technologies will bring us.

The GOGBOT Conference 2019, curated by Next Nature Network, delves into this development and examines what it means to be human in the technological age, by looking at a future with biotechnology. We wonder, is it going to be a dream or a nightmare?

Join us on Saturday 7 September, from 3-7pm, at the Muziekcentrum in Enschede with Dr. Koert van Mensvoort (creative director of Next Nature Network), Peter Joosten (biohacker), Emma van der Leest (researcher biobased art & design), Shahar Livne (material designer), Non Human Nonsense (art collective), Kuang-Yi Ku (dentist, bio-artist), Valerie Daude (social designer), Thieu Custers (design researcher), Quang Bich Tran (designer), Joyce Nabuurs (research assistant VU). The day will be moderated by Ruben Baart (editor-in-chief Next Nature Network).

PS: Member of Next Nature Network attend the event for free! Not a member yet? Join us!

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As modern humans, we are out of balance with our natural environment. With use of technology, we try to prolong our human lifespan and create materials that live longer than we do. And instead of embracing our nature, we are resisting the very essence of our being: the impermanence of life. This realization fuels the work of interdisciplinary designer Maurizio Montalti. Working with living materials such as fungi and bacteria, he explores ways to renew the balance.

Educated as both an engineer and designer, Maurizio Montalti’s work stands out for its collaborative, idealistic and experimental character. In his work, biology, science, technology and design seamlessly blend together. Maurizio welcomed us in his studio to talk about life and death, and what it means to combine biology and technology in a consumerist society.

The workshop for the little bodies

In 2010, Maurizio founded Officina Corpuscoli, a multidisciplinary design studio in Amsterdam. The studio is small but intriguing, filled to the roof with objects made of fungi and flasks with undefinable liquids. Maurizio is sitting behind his desk in the center of the room, both literally and metaphorically surrounded by living systems.

The name Officina Corpuscoli demonstrates Maurizio’s Italian roots and his strong fascination with microbes. “Officina”, he explains, “is usually the place where you bring your car to repair, it's a mechanical workshop.” Corpuscoli is the diminutive of corpus, so it translates as “the little bodies”. If you take it all together, the studio is the workshop for the little bodies, mainly microbial systems. The design practice is a collaboration between himself, the studio and the other living systems such as microbes and fungi. He refers to them as his “partners.”

Life, death and decomposition

Just a few minutes in, the designer starts talking about death. Maurizio considers death to be a complimentary part of life, that is able to reconnect us with nature. It frustrates him that in our Western world we don’t embrace it at all, as we consider our human bodies a cultural artefact rather than biological substance. This attitude is revealed by traditional ways of burying; methods that focus on preserving rather than decomposing of the body.

Maurizio’s research on decomposition originates in a design frustration. During his time at the Design Academy Eindhoven, he noticed that he was often working with “synthetic materials and compounds, that are wonderful to be working with but also highly impactful once they are discarded. We are often creating and working with materials that are hyper long-lasting, that are embedded in products that have a very short life cycle.”

He started to look for alternatives and discovered how he could actually operate in a different way as a designer. “It became a little bit of an anti-design statement, where instead of introducing new objects or beautiful aspects into the market, my point was that we need to get rid of things.”

The recyclers of the natural world

These reflections on the cycles of nature led him to fungi. “I inevitably stumbled upon fungi and their role in nature as the main decomposers, the main disassemblers, the main recyclers of the natural world.” Ever since, he has been researching the specific capabilities of fungi which resulted in a series of products, projects and experiments. Especially mycelium, the fast-growing vegetative part of fungi, is very useful because it is capable of harvesting, transforming and re-distributing nutrients.

https://vimeo.com/15707338
Mycelium inspired Maurizio to create projects such as the Mycelium Shroud, which is a burial suit that allows the body to degrade while it simultaneously filters toxins out. Part of his research called Continuous Bodies.

While working with fungi, Maurizio noticed the strong aversion that most people have against these organisms. “We have been educated about the fact that microbes are dangerous. We have been establishing this hyper clean society in which fungus is especially problematic.” And although it is true that there are certain organisms that can be harmful for humans, we also have to recognize that we ourselves are walking biotopes.

From anthropocentrism to inclusion

This disconnection between human beings and the natural world, between culture and nature, is what drives Maurizio’s work. “We have adopted a fully anthropocentric way of looking at the world, and we believe in human supremacy because we believe that we are able to do things that other organisms cannot.” Maurizio fiercely argues that we forget that other living systems have their own senses and qualities, and are in balance with their natural environment; qualities that we as human beings lack.

“We see ourselves as a bunch of different actors and individuals that have nothing to do with each other, as opposed to recognizing how everything somehow is connected and how everything cycles.” According to Maurizio, the human disconnection to the cycle of life is what eventually led to climate change and problems with waste. He hopefully states that, if we would really learn from biological systems, we will eventually end up in a symbiotic relationship with other biological systems.

In order to shape our future, we need to introduce “a new paradigm, a new perspective where production is not anymore exploitation, production is continuous regeneration. A regeneration of materials that are based on responsible kind of processes and that are responsible themselves because they are ultimately 100% natural. Meaning that at the end of the life cycle, no matter how long they can last despite their natural qualities, they can be reabsorbed.”

Biology is the ultimate form of technology by which we learn how to work with it, and not necessarily just to exploit it.

This is exactly what next nature means to Maurizio. “The idea of next nature is the capacity of looking at it all in a highly inclusional way,” meaning that all living systems are in fact cooperating and understanding the needs of one another. “I think there's no difference whatsoever between technology and biology. Biology is the ultimate form of technology by which we learn how to work with it, and not necessarily just to exploit it.”

Partnership with nature

If we work together with nature rather than exploiting it, are we not losing some of our power as designers to decide what something will look like? “Of course”, he answers with a big smile, “which is wonderful. It's called co-creation.”

“The beauty of it is that no matter how much you try and direct and establish a framework within a certain process needs to happen, there is always certain autonomy in the process. The finer qualities of the artefacts can change, making therefore a very unique artefact.”

What happens if we push this autonomy a step further? “Of course, now, these objects (pointing at the mycelium designs around him) wouldn't be morphologically developed in such form out of the genetic information contained in the fungus. But somehow, I think it is not so far fetched that one day a mushroom could grow into a chair. We're not there yet for sure, very far from that. But yes, there is a fine boundary which is what interests me the most.”

I think it is not so far fetched that one day a mushroom could grow into a chair.

Catalyzers for change

Genetically modifying mushrooms to grow into chairs might sound like science fiction, but Maurizio states that we are already living in the biotech era. “We are at the very beginning of it, but we are already part of it. And this is the revolution that I think will mostly contribute to strongly affect our capacity to reintegrate ourselves within natural cycles.”

Eventually, using and employing natural phenomena will enable us to advance the society that we are part of. “We need to have fields such as biology, chemistry, design, architecture, engineering, business development, to converge and to be capable to learn from each other, talk the same language and work towards the same aim.”

Maurizio additionally emphasizes the responsibility of designers as fundamental catalyzers change. “We shouldn't underestimate and forget about the seduction level that the design field plays towards the attention of the public. Who might much better listen to and understand a design language, rather than a scientific language.”

Standardizing natural materials

With Officina Corpuscoli, Maurizio reached out “to the design arena and the design atmosphere, through a series of lamps and plates, like signifiers of a tangible opportunity.”

But eventually, he wanted more. “Of course it is really engaging and pleasant to converse with the cultural audience, festivals, museums, lectures, galleries and so on. But at some point, that became very limited. This is a project that is way beyond speculation. It starts from a vision, but it is a vision that is very rooted into something that is achievable.”

Maurizio aims to spread his work and his vision, “not in limited edition in museums and exhibitions, but in millions of pieces coming to every single body for no money. And that was the challenge. And that's what we're doing these days. With all the exciting happenings and all the challenges around the corner every half minute.”

After several investigations on how to do this, Maurizio encountered the right people with whom he co founded the Italian-based company MOGU. “MOGU took up the responsibility to scale up, to industrialize the production of certain typologies of mycelium-based materials, and standardize such materials that, of course, is a requirement that you have to comply to when you want to act in the industry.”

Industrializing natural systems and materials is a contradictory process, that challenged his design-driven perspective. “The beauty in these materials and this process is to be found originally in for instance time, place, and letting the materials grow. This is opposed to the fast pace of production and composition these days. There are things that relate to imperfection that are of more value in the art driven practice, but are absolutely unacceptable within any industrial development.”

The fact that he eventually has to kill the fungus that he is working with in order to deliver them as a stable product, is probably his biggest frustration. “I keep preaching about the fact that I collaborate closely with living systems, that these are my partners and I need to grow them, but eventually if I want to deliver them, I have to kill them. So, I have to kill my partners.” Not because he wants to, but because our society does not know how to deal with living, and thus degrading, objects.

A new cultural perspective

“Nobody wants to commit to the fact that things might be transitory.” He encounters this issue while working for museums and the consumer-based industry. “Value is given to something that stays, while we don't understand that everything in the world we live in and are part of, is transforming. That we are part of that transformation and everything should be part of that transformation. In fact, we want to conserve. And that's a fully cultural approach that we have.”

“Everybody wants a 100% natural material that acts like the most hyper performative material ever invented. It is not there, it is not existing, and it is not possible. So, we need to change our cultural perspective.”

Does he eventually aim to design a living product that can be delivered and kept alive by the consumer? “Absolutely. Yes, you could keep alive, but not forever. Because everything living must die. Must. We are putting so much effort in trying to prolong our existence, but why is that? I don't see the necessity. Ultimately, I think the whole point of being alive is impermanence. And that should not only be about us, it is not only a reflection about human beings and about living entities, it's about every single thing including materials.”

In our disbalance with nature, it seems like we are triggering our own extinction. “Oh yes, we're doing that. The planet would develop very happily without us.” Still, Maurizio stays optimistic and passionate about his work at all times. “It's not only dark, because there are a lot of motivated individuals and competent initiatives, and I hope of course that we are part of this kind of movement that are contributing to some radical transformation. And I think that is very exciting.”

[post_title] => Maurizio Montalti talks nature’s cycle of life [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => interview-maurizio-montalti [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-08-22 10:26:33 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-08-22 09:26:33 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://nextnature.net/?p=107463 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [post_category] => 0 )[5] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 76634 [post_author] => 873 [post_date] => 2017-08-04 10:00:22 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-08-04 08:00:22 [post_content] => This year Momentum, the Nordic biennial, celebrates its ninth edition in the lush landscape of Moss, Norway. Taking the thematic approach of Alienation, the team of curators (Ulrika Flink (SE), Ilari Laamanen (FI), Jacob Lillemose (DK), Gunhild Moe (NO) and Jón B.K Ransu (IS)) seeks to extrapolate new perspectives on the human condition subjected to the rapidly changing interconnected world through transdisciplinary explorations. Presenting a group of internationally renowned artists, the biennial addresses topical concerns of cultural and geographical borders, biopolitics and social inequality, to outline a series of strategies towards "extraordinary futures". We recently talked with one of the curators of the biennial, Ilari Laamanen, to peel the outcrops of the exhibition and explore its similarities with the next nature philosophy.
The idea of pure, untouched nature is long lost
We are intrigued by the curatorial concept of this year’s biennial, Alienation, can you tell us a bit about it? The starting point of the concept was the realization that the world we live is widely disconnected, hard to comprehend, and oftentimes irrational. It seems to be more and more difficult to find a common ground in terms of ideology and philosophy, as the changes in nature, technology and society are rapid and concurrent. This time we live in cries for cross-pollination of methods and new knowledge.People also seem to be more and more lost with the sense of community. Many things might be more shared than before, yet it seems that on a fundamental humane level we are isolated from one another, and alienated even from our immediate surroundings. Our curatorial team invited contributors with different backgrounds to tackle these issues through an interdisciplinary approach and speculation.[caption id="attachment_76643" align="aligncenter" width="426"] Patricia Piccinini, Atlas, Silicone, fiberglass, human hair, car paint, 84x54x50cm, 2012.[/caption]It can be said that the theme of the biennial is related to the next nature topic. What is next nature for you?The idea of pure, untouched nature is long lost. We are forced to look at the consequences of human actions on the planet. The idea of next nature relates intimately to our habitat. The domestication and endless utilization of different species is a valid concern, as are the effects of the countless substances that are migrating into our bodies, with and without us being aware of them, thus different kind of variations of nature and human-made systems are connected to this phenomenon. It is also fascinating to contemplate what kind of hybrids we are ourselves and what we might turn into in the future.Are we becoming cyborgs?I believe that some of the more interesting developments focus on physical body. Indeed, it is not far-fetched to say that our lives are becoming more and more cyborg-like. People use technology to build, enhance and keep track of their bodies. Technology provides means to help people support their malfunctioned systems and enables them to alter or change their gender.
Solastalgia is a sense of existential distress and alienation caused by climate change
A new sense of freedom comes with all these developments, but there’s perhaps some melancholy too, as many of our actions are detrimental to environment. In the biennial, artist Jussi Kivi presents Moon Woods, a nocturnal scenario made of mostly synthetic materials. Kivi’s diorama channels the concept of solastalgia, a sense of existential distress and alienation from one’s most immediate surroundings caused by climate change. This sense of being fundamentally out of place, or longing for something, seems typical of our time.Can you elaborate on the ecological perspective in relation to the body?One should also think of plastic waste in the ocean and how that is affecting different species inhabiting the waters. The litters the fish and crustaceans consume change them and when consumed by people our bodies get affected too. In a similar way, the water we put into our bodies is affected by countless of chemicals and it is becoming quite difficult to find waters that haven’t been polluted yet. In Momentum 9, Pinar Yoldas focuses on this issue and presents new kinds of crossbreeds our actions might produce in a not so distant future.[caption id="attachment_76644" align="aligncenter" width="640"] Pinar Yoldas, Ecosystem of Excess, Detail of an installation, 2014.[/caption]One of our research topics ‘Wild Systems’ investigates how our systems have become so complex that they now behave like independent ecologies (think about an algorithm running our financial systems, or GM organisms thriving in the wild). How to cope with that?Humans did not bring the nature into being and they cannot fully control it. So from this perspective one wants to start considering if there is enough respect towards nature. While a lot of progress is being constantly made in all disciplines, the big mystery remains: how do all the developments and breakthroughs connect to one another, or do they even?So many of the existing systems around - and within - us are still too complex for us to understand. Think the potential of microbes, for instance, and how they affect our physical being and even consciousness. Sonja Bäumel’s Being Encounter is a work in the biennial that address this issue: although we claim to know so much about the things surrounding us, we are oftentimes clueless when it comes to mapping the processes in our bodies.
So many of the existing systems around us are still too complex for us to understand
Jenna Sutela’s work circles around complex biological and computational systems. For the Momentum 9 Biennial she created two site-specific installations. Let’s Play: Life depicts a computer playing through the Game of Life that simulates systems in the real world. It has been proposed as a model for the self-replication of robots. Her second installation Sporulating Paragraph introduces an alien organism operating like a microscopic machine or virus and taking the form of a living graffiti. The work, inspired by 2014 Jeff VanDerMeer’s novel Annihilation, seeks to interfere with our fundamental illusion of control.Do you think technology alienates people from people? I don’t think that technology alienates people from people per se, I would rather say that it is becoming more and more important to cultivate our inter-human relationships in favor of virtual ones. New technological equipment or gadget does not automatically mean progress, as the media theorists like Friedrich Kittler and Marshall McLuhan stated decades ago. On a similar note: not every message delivered through media is factual. Thus criticality towards media and the ability to be self-reflective becomes more crucial than ever before.
Criticality towards media and the ability to be self-reflective becomes more crucial than ever before
Is technology capable of enhancing our humanity?Advancements in technology have enabled freer access to information and data than earlier, so at least in theory this should create greater understanding of us as humans and how we should act and interact on this planet. When we consider the Western culture and its strong embrace of dichotomies and categories, it would be easy to feel worried about technology taking over nature. But as we might want to take a more holistic approach and see all things on some level connected, it would make sense to accept the growing role of technology in our lives and rather make the connection to the fundamental human need to expand its intellect, creativity and ability to invent.[caption id="attachment_76646" align="aligncenter" width="640"] Mediated Matter, Synthetic Arpiary, Honeybee Hive Installation in the Synthetic Apiary environment, excerpt from a video, 2016.[/caption]What does science fiction mean to you? Science fiction can be a useful tool for both speculating future, and touching upon current matters from a distanced perspective. Take Momentum 9 artist Kapwani Kiwanga, for instance, who in her Afrogalactica performance series intentionally confuses truth and fiction to unsettle hegemonic narratives and to create spaces in which marginal discourses can flourish.
How much of our fear is part of cultural conditioning and fiction?
When considering mainstream film productions in the science fiction genre, the setup is typically built around the threat against humanity and this planet we inhabit. A big question in relation to the theme of the biennial is: does the threat come from the external environment or from within? And how much of the fear people feel is constructed inside their heads and how much of it is part of cultural conditioning and fiction?Instead of thinking about stereotypical creatures from outer space, our curatorial team leaned more towards abstract nowhere, where the question is not so much about the threat anymore, but about the realization that we are constantly exposed to, and invited to engage with, matters previously unfamiliar to us. In terms of science fiction related inspiration, Todd Haynes film Safe (1995) and Dennis Villeneuve’s Arrival (2016) are some examples of the more nuanced works that resonate with the biennial’s thematics.[caption id="attachment_76645" align="aligncenter" width="640"] Museum of Nonhumanity, installation view at Suvilahti, Helsinki, 2016. Photo by Terike Haapoja.[/caption]Tell us about the role that insects play in the biennial.In the context of this biennial, the idea of an alien is not necessarily something that comes from outer space, but can be more likely found in our everyday surroundings. The relationship between humans and insects is too often simply utilitarian, or insects are considered a nuisance. We wanted to shed light on this complex relationship through three different works, which can be also seen as connected to the broader themes of the biennial.Mediated Matter by Neri Oxman tackles the issue of possible bee extinction (caused by strong pesticides) through their ‘Synthetic Apiary’. The video documentation, featured in Momentum 9 highlights the pioneering project that enabled the birth of first ever bee in a synthetic, man-made environment. The work is typical for Mediated Matter who, as they put it, “focuses on the nature-inspired design and design-inspired nature”.
The idea of an alien is not necessarily something that comes from outer space, but can be found in our everyday surroundings
Búi Bjarmar Aðalsteinsson’s Fly Factory breeds insect larvae for human consumption. The project started from the designer’s desire to offer more sustainably produced protein and to alleviate potential food shortages in the future. The factory feeds insects on food waste and recycles nutrients they excrete as fertilizer.Lastly, Museum of Nonhumanity, a project by artist Terike Haapoja and author Laura Gustafsson presents the history of the distinction between the humans and other animals, and how this imaginary boundary has been used to oppress human and nonhuman beings. In the section of the museum that deals with disgust, insects are used as an example of species of lesser value: and how certain types of insects have been also used as abusive names for people of lesser value. The project illuminates the worst sides of human actions towards nature and one another. It also makes the audience contemplate their own mechanisms of making distinction between themselves and the others.
No man is an island
The biennial takes place in Moss, Norway; how important is the geographical location - or Nordic context, as you put it - for the exhibit?While years ago the biennial started out as a platform for Nordic art and talent, it became an international, thematic exhibition that addresses topical, important issues in culture and visual arts. For this edition’s curatorial team it was important to spend as much time as possible in the Norwegian city of Moss, where the biennial takes place, to build a connection between the featured works and the local surroundings.I, for instance, found it highly interesting that Momentum Kunsthall, one of the main exhibition venue of the biennial, used to be a brewery. It was also fascinating to learn more about the ecosystem of the neighboring river and how it was in danger of being severely damaged due to plans of building new tower blocks in that area. Furthermore, I got the chance to familiarize with an amazing collection of old taxidermy animals and laboratory equipment from local schools. It was great to collaborate with many of the local people who do not come from the art or design background.What makes the biennial stand out?What makes this biennial stand out is its genuine concern about the topics it addresses - and the very special group of contributors it features. Nordic contemporary art scene, or cultural field in the general, is not strongly market-driven, which enables different kinds of practices and a sense of freedom in the decision-making. While connected to the local, the biennial also has international ambitions, and the featured works take part in discussions that deal with topical issues of our contemporary culture all over the world: no man is an island.Ilari Laamanen is a curator based in New York City. Having a background in media studies and cultural studies in Nordic Universities, he focuses on thematic, interdisciplinary projects. Recent curatorial work includes: Momentum 9: Alienation (Moss, Norway, 2017), Fashion after Fashion (Museum of Arts and Design, NYC, 2017), and Ordered Dance (Station Independent Projects, NYC, 2017).You can find Momentum9: Alienation until October 11th at various locations in Moss, Norway. Watch the trailer below.[vimeo]https://vimeo.com/226262991[/vimeo]Want to stay up to date about the latest next nature news, events and other NNN projects? Make sure to join Next Nature Network and never miss a thing! [mc4wp_form id="72385"] [post_title] => Interview: Curator Ilari Laamanen on Momentum9, the Nordic Biennial [post_excerpt] => We recently spoke to Ilari Laamanen, to peel the outcrops of Momemtum9, and unveil the overlapping themes to the next nature philosophy. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => interview-ilari-laamanen [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-09-12 18:57:43 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-09-12 16:57:43 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://nextnature.net/?p=76634/ [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [post_category] => 0 )[6] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 68471 [post_author] => 874 [post_date] => 2016-11-18 12:28:39 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-11-18 11:28:39 [post_content] => In the last week a lot of people were baffled with the election results in the US and this prompted a myriad of experts proposing their theories to explain it. Some argue that the responsible was the echo chamber effect of social media, others say that the polls were misleading and others blame the mass media. But what if the cause was in our evolution, hidden deep in our genes and digging up our tribal instincts?John Hibbing from the University of Nebraska answered this question. He is an expert in biology and politics and he believes that genes can shape political views.As you may know, a basic element in the process of natural evolution is the instinct of self-preservation, this includes the ability to sense danger of possible threats to our life; Hibbing has evidence that this mechanism is highly influential in the political views of individuals. Specifically he discovered that people with a low sensitivity to threatening stimulus tend to be more liberal, whereas people with higher psychological reactions to this stimulus tend to be in favor of increased defense spending, restrictions on immigration, gun rights, patriotic displays and traditional lifestyles. Furthermore this people tend to be less worried about other problems, like global warming, because this change is completely new and was not registered in our genetic history as dangerous.By contrast, the most common threat to our lives as hunter-gatherer tribes came from other tribes, as Hibbing dais: “Threats from out-groups and from in-group violators of the norm may have become ingrained in our social defense mechanisms”. In other words, the preservation instinct may have pushed the electors to the conservative side of the spectrum because it provided a promise of safety and defense against outsiders.In the XXI century we may see ourselves as modern superior beings devoid of our natural instincts but, as this elections seem to suggest, much of our humanity is still dominated by our tribal fears.Source: New Scientist. Image: NM Political Report [post_title] => Our Tribal Genes Affect Politics [post_excerpt] => What if the cause of our politic choice was in our evolution, hidden deep in our genes and digging up our tribal instincts? [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => tribal-instincts-may-shape-political-views [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-11-20 11:03:32 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-11-20 10:03:32 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://nextnature.net/?p=68471 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [post_category] => 0 )[7] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 53433 [post_author] => 267 [post_date] => 2015-07-10 10:48:37 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-07-10 08:48:37 [post_content] => In December 2014 Radiolab had a show about Worth. The third segment discussed possibilities to put a price-tag on nature, and what this would implicate. Another interesting perspective on an eco-currency. In their own words:“Back in 1997, a team of scientists slapped a giant price tag on the earth. They calculated the dollar value of every ecosystem on the planet, and tallied it all up: 142.7 trillion dollars. It’s a powerful form of sticker shock — one that could give environmentalists ammunition to protect wetlands and save forests. But some people argue it actually devalues something that should be seen as priceless. Then the apple farmers of Mao county in central China turn this whole debate upside down and make us question the value of understanding nature in terms of dollars and cents.”Listen to the story here. Image via Shutterstock. [post_title] => Eco Currency Questions [post_excerpt] => Discussing the possibility to put a price-tag on nature, and what this would implicate. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => eco-currency-questions [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2015-07-21 18:00:48 [post_modified_gmt] => 2015-07-21 16:00:48 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://staging.nextnature.net/?p=53433 [menu_order] => 595 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [post_category] => 0 )[8] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 44843 [post_author] => 367 [post_date] => 2015-06-07 09:59:08 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-06-07 08:59:08 [post_content] => Nadine Bongaerts is a Dutch synthetic biologist and entrepreneur who is building bridges between science, business and society. Fascinated by engineering life at the smallest scale, she designs bacteria with new functions. In 2010, she joined a team of TU Delft students to participated in the worldwide synthetic biology competition iGEM (Internationally Genetically Engineered Machine) for which they developed DNA bricks that turned bacteria into minuscule oil-degrading cells. The work was recognized nationally and internationally and awarded with different prizes. Her current research focuses on using genetic engineering of bacteria to produce a pearl-like material with advanced mechanical properties.Bongaerts is always looking for creative ways to share her knowledge and connect science to societal developments. This resulted in the co-founding of Biotecture (2011), a company for communication and education of Life Sciences. Since 2014, she is Global Community Director of Hello Tomorrow in which she leads a global network of scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs and investors to stimulate interdisciplinary collaborations that accelerate scientific findings to the market.We recently talk to Nadine Bongaerts about the role and impact of synthetic biology, the gap between bio­sciences and society and the importance of communication to overcome the fear of new technologies.The next stage of biology is in a human technology. From the engineering of bacteria to the transformation of entire landscapes, we are the dominant force shaping our planet. What do you think about the concept of nature in this setup? Is it a relevant topic of discussion?[pullquote]"What I cannot create, I do not understand" this is the principle of synthetic biology[/pullquote]I think we are part of a process. In a way, our technological inventions start to resemble more and more nature’s complexity. This is where technology and nature start to converge with each other. I think the relationship between the two is very intricate and as time passes, they will be more and more involved with each other. I can image a future where it will be very difficult to see the difference between nature and or human created technology.Would you define synthetic biology as a technology? And what is the role of this discipline?Synthetic biology (synbio) is using many different disciplines; it's not a single technology. The ambition of synthetic biology is to re­engineer existing biological systems or to engineer organisms from scratch. I always remember this famous quote by Richard Feynman: “What I cannot create, I do not understand”. This is the underlying principle of synthetic biology. In synbio, we often make use of computer models to make predictions about biology, then we go to the lab to verify these predictions. Through this iterative process between computer science and biology, we are able to speed up our biological research. As computer capacity increases, we are also able to test more variables that allow us to understand the complex nature of biology. These fascinating developments help us to better understand what biology is like. But still, I have to admit that even the simplest life forms, like the bacteria I work with, are very complex. Even the most common organisms that we use in the lab are not completely understood yet.[pullquote]Our technological inventions resemble more and more nature’s complexity[/pullquote]What is the relationship between synbio and nature?With synthetic biology, we have a technology that is actually breaking this dichotomy, because we are using nature in this technology. We are working with nature and we are engineering it in a technological sense. So, if we create an organism that has different genes and doesn't exist in nature, you could question yourself about whether or not this is a natural being. I think it is hard to give a good answer to this question. It’s probably a matter of how you define technology and how you define nature, but synthetic biology definitely changes the image of technology and nature being two separate things.You were a part of an iGEM project from the TU Delft, where you developed synthetically produced bio­bricks (standardized DNA codes) to transform bacteria into oil digesting cells. When do you think this technology will be available commercially?Our team did the first steps toward a biological application for oil-polluted water. We took the genes from natural bacteria that already had genes encoding for to enzymes that degrade certain molecules in crude oil and we gave the same genes to E. coli bacteria. The advantage of working with E. coli compared to most other organisms is that this lab-pet is well studied and that there are many genetic tools available to control its cell functions. Especially precise cell control is difficult to obtain. It can take many years before this particular project becomes robust enough to be used as a system for water treatment purposes and it hopefully will inspire other researchers to continue with our work.[caption id="attachment_45170" align="aligncenter" width="530"]_DSC5962 Engineering Synthetic Bacteria[/caption]Synthetic biology and bio­engineering come with a lot of stigma. These technologies are often perceived as something bad because of their manipulation of the natural. What do you think is the root cause of this perception and what can be done to overcome it?Technology is a great tool we can use to find sustainable solutions to certain problems: from curing a disease, to finding eco-friendly energy resource. From this perspective, synthetic biology could help us solve many of these issues; it is a discipline with a high potential in treating humans and the environment. But, as with every new technology, there are also risks involved.I believe that providing information and opportunities for engagement of the general public and specifically stakeholders is essential in the development of (new) sciences and technologies. This is not always easy and there is still a lot of misconception. For example, when you ask people their opinion on GMOs (genetically modified organisms), in most cases, they say it's a bad thing. Then, when you ask what GMO is, many anti-GMO people have difficulties in explaining what it is and why it is so bad. Also, when you explain that GMOs are crucial for the production of insulin or other medicine, the idea of a GMOs is all of a sudden more acceptable. I am not saying GMOs are good in all situations, but the appropriate use of GMOs is again not black and white. As a society, I think we should on the one hand be conscious about the potential risks, while on the other hand we should not let these risks limit us to innovate. This is easier said than done, but the key is that we should try to maximize the problem solving potential of the technology. This is going to be the challenge of synthetic biology.[pullquote]Technology is becoming more and more similar to nature[/pullquote]With Biotecture your mission is to bridge the gap between bio­sciences and society, how do you engage the general public in the discussion about synthetic biology and what do you hope to obtain?First, my co-founder Eva Brinkman and I start with a creative brainstorm session. We always try to bring the science as close as people’s lives as possible. One time, we did a live cooking show in which we pretended to make extra healthy orange bread with the help of genetically modified yeast. During the cooking we explained the scientific details of our new delicacy and asked people from the audience to taste as piece of it when it was finished. In the end, we explained that our live experiment did not really involve GM yeast, as this is not allowed in a public space without suitable facilities. Still, we were able to give people a taste (literally) of what synbio is about. We see that such tangible experiences help people to be more engaged during the debate and to ask more specific questions.Through such public interactions, we learned a lot about how different people respond toward synthetic biology. Right now, we are using this knowledge to help researchers to set up good communication with the public. By doing this, we hope to improve the awareness and use of certain technologies (specifically in the life sciences).[caption id="attachment_45173" align="aligncenter" width="530"]10993281415_466a14ccbc_o Science Communication & Education[/caption]Is there a specific vein of synthetic biology that you think will have a huge impact in transforming human lives completely?There is a technology called CRISPR Cas9, which is a system found in bacterial cells. It's a very primitive type of immune system able to analyze DNA from viruses that are attacking the bacteria. It's a sort of scanner system that detects virus DNA and cuts it off the virus in order for the bacteria to survive. This technology allows us to cut specific parts of DNA, also human. We could theoretically use this technology to make specific genetic changes in our own DNA. It is a recent technology that hugely increased the ability to engineer cells. [pullquote]Synthetic biology could help us solve many issues[/pullquote]Why are we having this Next Nature discussion now, and not 1000 years ago or in 100 years?I think it is because our technology is becoming more and more similar to what nature is doing. Our perspective on nature is changing a lot. We are at a stage where we are getting better at being able to understand the workings of nature and to use it to improve the way we develop our creations.What are your big plans for the future?I will soon start with a PhD research in synthetic biology to pursue my scientific career in depth. My plan is to carry on working on life science technologies that have a positive value to add to society.Thanks so much, Nadine, for sharing your work and viewpoints with us! Interview by Yunus Emre Duyar. Edited by Alessia Andreotti.More interviews: Liam YoungBruce SterlingJason SilvaArne Hendriks, Rachel ArmstrongAlexandra Daisy GinsbergFloris Kaayk, Chloé Rutzerveld [post_title] => Interview: Nadine Bongaerts, Synthetic Biologist Bridging Science with Society [post_excerpt] => We recently talk to Nadine Bongaerts about the role and impact of synthetic biology, the gap between bio­sciences and society and the importance of communication to overcome the fear of new technologies. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => interview-nadine-bongaerts [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-01-17 16:33:14 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-01-17 15:33:14 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://nextnature.net/?p=44843 [menu_order] => 630 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [post_category] => 0 )[9] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 44110 [post_author] => 835 [post_date] => 2015-04-04 15:35:24 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-04-04 13:35:24 [post_content] => Bioengineering might soon enable us to bring long gone animals back to life, à la Jurassic Park. Recently, a team of scientists at Harvard University managed to insert wooly mammoth DNA into the genome of its closest relative - the Asian elephant.Woolly mammoths might have first appeared 400,000 years ago, but they did not disappear from mainland Eurasia and North America until about 10,000 years ago. A small population of mammoths have been discovered to have lived for another 6,000 years on Wrangel Island in the Arctic Ocean. Luckily, the icy lands where these animals used to live preserved their bodies in remarkable conditions. However, their DNA have deteriorated over the years with the presence of microbes and water.Scientists have been able to extract fragmentary DNA samples from these frozen fossils, but they still have to find enough samples in order to carry out cloning experiments. However, genetics professor George Church and his team at Harvard are using the Asian elephant in order to recreate the mammoth DNA. The team compares the DNA of the mammoth with that of its closest relative in order to find the essential differences between the two. Later, they proceed to cut specific parts of the elephant genome and insert the desired mammoth genes.“We prioritized genes associated with cold resistance, including hairiness, ear size, subcutaneous fat and, especially, hemoglobin -the molecule in red blood cells that transports oxygen around the body" Church told the Sunday Times. "We now have functioning elephant cells with mammoth DNA in them. We have not published it in a scientific journal because there is more work to do, but we plan to do so”.Although there are ethical concerns about the experiment, Church believes that a large population of mammoths could actually be useful to the Arctic tundra. "The Siberian permafrost is melting with climate change, but research suggests large mammals could stabilize it” he said.Story via IFL Science. Image via Shutterstock Related post: Occasionally Extinct and Virtually Alive [post_title] => Recreating Woolly Mammoth DNA [post_excerpt] => Scientists at Harvard University inserted wooly mammoth DNA into the genome of the Asian elephant. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => recreating-woolly-mammoth-dna [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2015-04-03 16:19:48 [post_modified_gmt] => 2015-04-03 14:19:48 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://nextnature.net/?p=44110 [menu_order] => 712 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [post_category] => 0 ))[post_count] => 10 [current_post] => -1 [in_the_loop] => [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 125855 [post_author] => 2180 [post_date] => 2019-11-19 12:27:45 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-11-19 11:27:45 [post_content] =>

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the term 'biohacking'? Perhaps you are now thinking of a bunch of kids sitting in their kitchen with a DNA kit, (wannabe) cyborgs inserting subcutaneous chips in their bodies, or perhaps a person striving for optimum performance through a perfect lifestyle. These are all types of biohacking, but there's more to it. Here's what you need to know (and were too affraid to ask).

Bulletproof coffee

The problem with biohacking is that all the examples outlined above are true. Amateur biotechnologists, cyborgs and supporters of a healthy lifestyle all associate themselves with the term biohacking.

Within the latter group, which I call the lifestyle optimizers, Dave Asprey is the guru. Asprey is the frontman of the American brand Bulletproof. Among other things, this brand sells special coffee that you must mix with butter and coconut oil. The promised result: instant focus, without any sugar crash and hours of satiation.

A brief bio of biohacking

But what exactly do we mean when we speak of 'biohacking'? The term was first used in 1988 in an opinion piece for the Washington Post. The article described the possibilities to perform all kinds of technological experiments from your basement. This included DNA analysis, the cultivation of bacteria and testing the effect of viruses on fungi. Today, this definition is still dominant for the group of amateur biotechnologists.

Within the other two groups, the cyborgs and the lifestyle optimizers, biohacking is aimed at people. In using the term, the link to computers is made: just consider how computerhackers break into hardware and software vs. biohackers grinding their own wetware.

The cyborgs take this notion quite literally, by implanting technology into their bodies, whereas lifestyle followers believe that you can improve the human body and prevent aging with smart nutrition, health hacks and useful gadgets.

Steam engines and other metaphors

The comparison with computer technology comes from our current technological paradigm. Yet in the past, the paradigm of that time was used to look at the human body.

At the time of the Industrial Revolution, the human brain was considered a constellation of pipes, steam and drive shafts. The saying "blowing off some steam" is also a good example of how people saw themselves as, well, a kind of steam engine.

These days we see the brain often described as an algorithm or hard disk and the body as a battery that needs to recharge. Keeping this in mind, the idea of biohacking is not that strange.

Technology after all, is what makes us human.

Shifting boundaries

Take something as simple as sight. In prehistoric times, your chances of survival were nil when suffering from poor vision. When the first glasses were made around 1200 AD, our ancestors most likely responded, “Your vision was given to you by God—why change that?"

As we have developed ourselves scientifically over time, so did our technology; as contact lenses are socially accepted today, does this also apply to smart contact lenses that have a Google Glass-like function tomorrow?

And what about LASIK (laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis), or commonly referred to as laser eye surgery. This technology is becoming more accessible, but how socially accepted is it to give yourself super vision like golf superstar Tiger Woods

This is my point: ethical boundaries of what we find socially acceptable are constantly shifting. That is what biohacking is about. Glasses are no longer biohacking, but smart contact lenses are.

Thinking ahead, one may wonder: Will glasses at some point become out-dated? Will everyone have genetically modified eyes for optimum vision?

Chances are, the next generations of biohackers will be at the forefront of these technologies. Perhaps they will replace their biological eyes with bionic ones. Perhaps they will simply change their diet.

Just like our technology, biohacking (and its dream and ideas that we have of ourselves) moves along the progress of mankind. But as with other technological developments, it's impossible to predict how these will evolve in the future. But there is one thing that we can be certain of. Things will change.

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