What Makes a Human

A few weeks ago, I visited Human+ The Future of Our Species at the Center de Cultura Contemporania de Barcelona (CCCB). The art exhibition, which premiered at Science Gallery, Trinity College Dublin, on April 15th 2011, will remain in Barcelona until April 10, 2016. I highly recommend it.


Human+ explores complimentary and contrasting viewpoints about the current position of the human race and its possible future(s). Using science and art, and simultaneously blurring distinctions between the two, Human+ raises more questions than answers. What makes a human? What is age? What is health? What is normal? What is a machine? What is perception? What are feelings? What is life? What the hell are we doing to ourselves?


The augmentation of our own limited natural/biological abilities has attracted our species since time immemorial. That I understand. Building/fashioning arms that replace ones lost in combat, or utilizing machines/drugs/genetic research to overcome birth defects, for example, are comprehensible activities. I understand even enhancing our abilities beyond what is normally perceived as human, such as adding a sixth finger to metamorphose one’s potential – note: “understand” here doesn’t mean condone, it just means I can fathom the theoretical arguments.

What I can’t understand, however, is this.


Generating organs in a lab environment: understandable.

Creating homunculus: what the hell?

I’d say this should be the premise of a tacky zombie movie, only I think it might’ve been overdone.


“Hey, let’s use voodoo-like dolls to which we whisper all our negativity as the base for an experiment that will collapse the distinction between living/animate beings and dead/inanimate objects. If it works, we’ll use our research to harvest organs. If it doesn’t, well, we would have created cute zombies. You in?”


Human+ is guaranteed to trigger one’s existential worries.  It led me to explore developments in robotics (yikes), and the Axolotl’s capacity to generate and share organs.

It’s not unusual for amphibians to be able to regenerate, but axolotls take it to the next level. On top of being able to regenerate limbs, the animal can also rebuild their jaws, spines, and even brains without any scarring.[ . . . ] Scientists have also transplanted organs from one axolotl to another successfully.

I don’t know where we’re headed as a species and whether or not we are prepared (mentally and physically) to deal with the future.

I am aware, however, that whether consciously or unconsciously, we are all partaking in this design. Some, more consciously than others.

Consider, for instance, how gamers are contributing to genetic research.

What are your thoughts?

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