For thousands of years, people have been modifying their bodies. But have you ever thought about extending your senses beyond the limits of human nature? That's what body hackers do. And Madeline Schwartzman, professor at Barnard College and Parsons, has written a book featuring artistic examples of what happens when people improve the human apparatus with the aid of technology.
I spoke with her about how artists, scientists, and futurists are pushing the limits of our natural senses--sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch--by "hacking the body." When man and machine slowly merge, the results never cease to amaze.
Watch the video above or click the link below to read the full transcript. And don't forget to sound off in the comments section at the bottom of the page. Come on, talk nerdy to me!
CARA SANTA MARIA: Hi everyone. Cara Santa Maria here. For thousands of years, people have been modifying their bodies. But have you ever thought about extending your senses beyond the limits of human nature? That's what body hackers do. And Madeline Schwartzman, professor at Barnard College and Parsons, has written a book featuring artistic examples of what happens when people improve the human apparatus with the aid of technology.
MADELINE SCHWARTZMAN: What is the human capacity to extend the senses? I looked up the world beard and mustache winners and found all these incredible images, mostly of men because I don’t think women can grow their mustaches that long (thank god), and you would see these people that obviously had to go through doorways by turning and moving this way and weaving around and that was interesting to me. We don’t all go through doorways the same. We don’t all kiss our children, you know, sideways because we'd impale them. So, this led to a whole new wave of my thinking about the body and things like antlers and hair.
MS: Why can’t we extend things out of our body, possibly our bone structure? Possibly some nanotechnology like perhaps Michael Burton and Michiko Nitta’s beautiful algae suit? There’s all sorts of potential, and maybe we can use this possible exoskeletal mustache for hanging from a beautiful tree in a beautiful that way is, instead of sitting on the ground. What are the possibilities?
CSM: When man becomes machine to amplify the senses, the possibilities are seemingly endless. Like Stelarc, a performance artist who pushed the boundaries of human perception.
MS: He had a third ear sewn on his arm. Took him a 12-year quest to find a surgeon that would do that, and they created an ear, a real replica of an ear and inside was technological stuff that would allow him to have the Internet hear him and his life, so whatever he did could be heard.
CSM: And that's not even the strangest thing.
MS: I occasionally find something that is absolutely delightful and one of those discoveries was, sounds kind of scary but, electrocution of the face for conceptual purposes. One is Arthur Elsenaar. What is the cause and effect of emotion, facial movement, and he does an out of sync pulsing so that eventually you start to see a face not working bilaterally, symmetrical, like instead of smiling at both sides something droops and something smiles. Daito Manabe took electrodes to the face for a different purpose. He synced them up to a beat.
CSM: What do you think? Want to electrify your emotions? Hack your body? Feel the world in ways you never thought possible? Come on, talk nerdy to me!