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by Andy Miah, PhD

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Posthumanism in Barcelona

Before this becomes incredibly out of date, I must mention the post-/trans- humanism session that took place at the conference on Ethics and Philosophy of Emerging Medical Technologies at Institut Borja de Bioetica, Universitat Ramon Llul, Barcelona, Spain in August 2005. The meeting was a joint annual meeting of the European Society for Philosophy of Medicine and Healthcare and the European Association of Centres for Medical Ethics.

I gave a paper on Posthuman Medicine and Imagined Ethics, which discussed a number of the futuristic scenarios posed by trans/post humanists, asking what legitmacy they have in critical, current debates on medicine and health care. It was particularly interesting to hear the term posthumanism in a number of papers, including Prof. Ruth Chadwick's keynote address on the definition and meaning of enhancement.

I do not think that posthumanism and transhumanism are informed by the same literature, nor are they speaking with the same intentions. I argued as much in my paper.

Other papers in my session, which itself was titled 'Transhumanism and Posthumanity" were:

F. torralba (Spain)
What does posthumanity mean?

G. Weikert (Germany)
Transhumanism - Hothouse of Mankind [this presenter did not attend]

We had a very engaging debate after the presentations, though I think there remains considerable skepticism for this proposed future, from within the medical community. Many doctors see the transformation of the human species within these terms, which is far from what they see as their role. This presents considerable challenges for advocates of technological enhancement; they have a considerable number of medical professionals to contend with.

Stelarc's Prosthetic Head

In November 2003, Stelarc came to Glasgow to showcase his new Prosthetic Head project at the New Territories festival. I spoke with him about this project and even had a play with the Head itself. Just recently, he published a paper in CTHEORY on the project, which raises a number of questions related to artificial intelligence and posthuman art. The project itself was developed using AI and Stelarc seems to be a valuable exemplar for collaborative work in this area.

Julie Clarke's essay on the project, also published in CTHEORY is also worth reading.

The last I heard, Stelarc's next project was to have an ear surgically attached to his forearm, but he was struggling to find a surgeon who would agree to the procedure.