Did you know that there is a growing trend of non-institutional science and technology development going on right now? I didn’t either.
Forward-thinkers who want progress in spite of lack of interest or downright obstruction from the large science and technology development organizations that normally run everything have set out on their own paths, ignoring the limitations of mainstream thinking and action to invent new devices and capabilities previously disparaged by “the experts.”
Undoubtedly inspired by science fiction and comic book characters who enhance their minds and bodies with computerized parts, biohacking is gaining ground as people known as grinders pursue open-source transhumanism and techno-progressivism to create the perfect biopunk.
Transhumanism is a movement which Irish author Mark O’Connell summed up in his 2018 Wellcome Book prize-winning book “To Be a Machine: Adventures among cyborgs, utopians, hackers and the futurists solving the modest problem of death.” O’Connell explained why transhumanists want to embrace “a movement that seeks to cheat mortality and use technology for human evolution:”
“It is their belief that we can and should eradicate aging as a cause of death; that we can and should use technology to augment our bodies and our minds; that we can and should merge with machines, remaking ourselves, finally, in the image of our own higher ideals.”
As The Guardian points out, artificial augmentation of human body parts has been around since “wooden legs, hearing aids, spectacles and false teeth.” But future tech is boldly going where no tech has gone before.
In point of fact, anyone who has a pacemaker or cataract replacement has been bionically enhanced – and is a living transhumanist.
The left-wing of the transhumanist movement is termed techno-progressive. According to Dale Carrico’s blog Amor Mundi, Transhumanism is “essentially a techno-transcendental digital-utopian and/or ‘enhancement’-eugenicist futurological discourse and futurist sub(cult)ure.”
Now that’s a mouthful.
Put another way, technoprogressivism is a “technoscience-focused branch of political progressivism, which recognizes “morphological freedom” and sees emerging technologies as potential tools for human liberation.”
The idea behind all this is to use every imaginable technological advantage to improve everyone’s quality of life. What is interesting is the tie-in to the new biopunk phenomenon.
Sciencefiction.com tells us that the essence of biopunk is that “upcoming genetic and biological enhancements may give outcasts the tools necessary to be the virtuous (or villainous) rebels of the future.”
Outcasts? In my day, we called them geeks. Some geeks are hackers who modify computer code for their own purposes (usually nefarious) if they can gain access to a private website or email server. Biopunk is derivative of cyberpunk, a “subgenre of science fiction in a futuristic setting that tends to focus on a ‘combination of lowlife and high tech’ featuring advanced technological and scientific achievements, such as artificial intelligence and cybernetics, juxtaposed with a degree of breakdown or radical change in the social order.”
Lowlife? In my day, we also used this term.
So what do you get when you take a bunch of self-described “punks” – code-slinging alternative-culturalists who identify with being divinely inspired and radically innovative as far as biological enhancements from high technology – and set them loose on the invention factory floor?
You get grinders, a subculture of medical punk biohackers. We know they are a subculture because they have their own annual festival, Grindfest, “a weekend dedicated to the merger of man and machine.”
Grinders hack the human body. At Grindfest, an homage to all things biopunk, you can see many manifestations of body augmentation, going well beyond the merely functional (think pacemaker again) to the artistic and spiritual.
Why else would a sane person have a magnet, an RFID (radio frequency identification) chip or a colored LED light implanted under their skin – just for fun?
I suppose having magnetic hands could be useful, but wouldn’t they also be annoying? Every time you pass a large metal object – like a car – wouldn’t your hands be pulled toward it?
More practical biohacking is being pioneered by the likes of Elon Musk whose company Neuralink is developing a brain implant that will communicate wirelessly and by thought impulses to remote devices.
The biopunk dream human has not only enhanced physiology, but also lightning-fast transferable thought processes.
The moral and ethical issues raised by the growing number of bionic people who will, theoretically, never die of “natural” causes due to artificial life-supporting and spiritually fulfilling high-tech enhancements, is a can of worms beyond the scope of this article.
But rest assured that this is not the last you will be hearing about the new-fashioned “organ grinders” who plan to exploit artificial intelligence and computer capabilities to the fullest.