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We know that what separates humans from other mammals is our superior brains. What separates humans from machines in the era of artificial intelligence? It’s increasingly up for grabs. You’d expect a panel of scientists, some Silicon Valley heavyweights and maybe a philosopher or two to examine the question. But what if the best argument was made by a literature Ph.D. and a few theatre nerds?

That’s the dream team behind To Be A Machine (Version 1.0), the not-to-be missed motherboard of Hong Kong Arts Festival’s digital programme in March. The team consists of Mark O’Connell, author of the award-winning book To Be A Machine: Adventures Among Cyborgs, Utopians, Hackers, and the Futurists Solving the Modest Problem of Death; Bush Moukarzel and Ben Kidd, co-directors of the Irish experimental theatre company Dead Centre; and Game of Thrones star Jack Gleeson.  It’s a seriously theatrical reflection on what it is to be human and it throws a body block at the rapidly advancing future of mind-uploaded consciousness.

Ben Kidd & Bush Moukarzel. PC: Lucas Beck

Such a future is the subject of O’Connell’s book, which introduces ordinary mortals to the techno-utopians who fall along the spectrum of transhumanists, or believers in a movement pioneering technologically aided, physical and cognitive enhancements aimed at extending human life. Among these are the Google AI wizard Ray Kurzweil, who has long heralded the coming of the “singularity” or the time when AI will surpass human intelligence; Max More, the guru of cryonics, the practice of deep-freezing corpses until technology can revive them or at least exploit what remains; and Tim Cannon, who is on a DIY quest to become a cyborg by implanting heat sensors and magnets into his body. While some transhumanist ideas are already in the mainstream—Cannon’s “biohacks” are not much different from pacemakers, contraceptive implants and other familiar tech tools used in modern medicine—O’Connell likens these futurists to members of a “liberation movement” whose objective is “nothing less than a total emancipation from biology itself.”


This article was originally published by ZolimaCityMag on March 17, 2022, and has been reposted with permission. To read the original article, click here.

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This post was written by Zolima CityMag.

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