Being one and many | Online International Conference | 9-10 March 2021
On the Possibility of a Non-Dualistic Approach: A Feminist Phenomenology Perspective
This paper reflects on the current philosophical tendency to build non-dualistic subjectivity in response to criticism of traditional authoritarian human subject. The main argument of this criticism was formulated by thinkers such as Emmanuel Lévinas, or Hannah Arendt, who claimed that after the second world war, Western philosophy, and ethics especially, does not answer to the basic moral problems anymore. Literature following Lévinas sees the main source of violence in traditional metaphysics based on dualistic hierarchy. However, I find Lévinas’s proposal of ethics as incomplete due to its lack of social insight. Therefore, perceiving phenomenology as a method that focuses on the lived experience, which allows for a holistic treatment of human identity, I combine this approach with the feminist postulates to overcome the hierarchical, anthropocentric relationship of subjectivity to the world. I invoke the concepts of Johanna Oksala, Sonia Kruks, and Bonnie Mann to ask whether the overcoming dualism phenomenology can be applied to social life or not. I focus especially on Johanna Oksala’s approach presented in her book Feminist Experiences. Foucauldian and Phenomenological Investigations where Oksala proposes a transcendental view on feminist experience. I find it intriguing that transcendental is understood here as situated: historically, culturally, and politically. My final question is then on the possibility of discourse that connects these two usually conflicted approaches: metaphysical and historical.
The Category of Indeterminacy and the Binary Pattern
The notions of horizon and the world were mentioned by Husserl in his Ideas, but they acquired a special significance in his Crisis of European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology, along with the introduction of the concept of Lifeworld.
The category of indeterminacy I am interested in, refers to both the internal and external horizons. The internal horizon, that is the horizon of the sensations is bound by the generic form of the object which is always given in its completeness as a given object, although not all of its parts are sensorily perceived.
External horizon can be understood as the horizon of homeworld, that is the perceptual field which is grounded on a broader foundation of a pre-given lifeworld. Those horizons determine the structure of sedimentation of both individual experiences and cultural meanings ingrained in lifeworld. The sedimented layers of one’s own experiences, as well as those of shared lifeworld function as indeterminate perspective of the constituted phenomena. Thus, each conscious act is experienced against the background of those processes, and in this sense indeterminacy is found in all intentional acts. The levels of indeterminacy can be revealed by the genetic phenomenology method of Rückfrage.
Thus, our experience of what is perceived as ‘normal’ is shaped by the sedimented giveness of homeworld founded on pre-reflective, taken-for-granted pre-giveness of lifeworld. Since ‘normality’ of everyday experience is not thematized and as such remains hidden, both homeworld and lifeworld function as indeterminate horizons of the constitution of everyday phenomena. If something unexpected is encountered against that indeterminate background, it is experienced as alienworld allowing for not only the recognition of the indeterminacy of homeworld but also making it more determinate.
An important part of sedimented meanings of homeworld functioning as indeterminate horizon of everyday experience is a binary pattern organizing phenomena as given in binary category of male – female. Inquiry into the ways some medical data (sex reassignment surgery), historical data (the Viking tombs), as well as anthropological data (hunter-gatherers communities) have been organized could enable revelation of the layers of sedimented meanings that have become indeterminate horizons of the constitution of that binary phenomenon.
Data Auras: A Phenomenological AR Project
Living bodies are incredible biological machines able to capture, process and output countless spatial, sensory and cognitive datasets. The intertwining of bodily presence within physical spaces, mental and cultural spaces form our sense of presence, identity and reality had been extensively explored within the scientific and philosophical disciplines – from physics to existentialism. The formation of a human-made third space – the digital space – generates new layers and perspectives related to our perception of embodiment, presence, and representation.
The ability to track, retrieve, store and analyze mass and targeted data points combined with heightened capabilities in algorithmic training formed a quantified sense of presence and identity.
Following on Boucher’s statement: “In the biotechnological age, life has taken a dramatic form; today’s life is not only concerned with technology, it co-emerges with it. Contemporary biotechnological interventions create intelligent machines, responsive materials, hybrids, cyborgs, semi-living beings, partial life, chimeras: all categories referring to monstrous entities whose demonstrations orchestrate our evolutionary dis/continuities – all kinds of biotechnical individuals” . We have, indeed, entered a new evolutionary phase of human-technology intersectionality, where it is not the mechanical but the computational ethos – weaved into mental, social, economic and political realms – formed a new mental state and is leading to the creation of a new life form – the Databorg.
Data Auras is critical creation project that explores new mindsets related to embodiment, identity and digital materiality. Applying Augmented Reality technology to create a mixed reality representation and exploration of the relationship of the human body in a data-infused world, with the aim to contextualize and visualize the way we interact with, control and conditioned by our physical body’s data emission.
 Boucher, M. (2013). Infra-Psychic Individualization: Transductive Connections and the Genesis of Living Techniques. From Boever, Arne. Gilbert Simondon. Being and Technology (Kindle Locations 1941-1947). Edinburgh University Press. Kindle Edition: 92.
Avatar and Clinical Care in Psychiatry: Underlying Assumptions, Epistemic Challenges, and Ethical Issues
Among therapies adopted in psychiatric contexts, virtual reality is playing an increasingly relevant role. This paper will consider, more specifically, the use of avatars in treating persistent auditory verbal persecutory hallucinations, addressing it from two, interrelated, perspectives: an epistemological and an ethical one. Avatar therapy was introduced roughly a decade ago, as a tool to make people who hear voices have a dialogue with a digital representation (the avatar) of their presumed persecutor. Being voiced by the therapist, the avatar engages into a dialogue with the patient, getting less hostile as time passes by and, thus, conceding power to the subject – who experiences a reduction of stress. We believe that such attempts of integration between digital representations and cognitive behavior therapy raise a range of philosophical questions, which we will address along two trajectories. On the one hand, we will question what notion of mental disorder underlies the adoption of avatar therapy, and how our understanding of psychiatric diseases, and of the relations between their causes and symptoms, can be affected by the implementation of such a therapy. We will discuss to what extent it can help rethink ways to address the so-called “pathology problem”, i.e. to decipher how, where and when the boundaries between normal and abnormal mental functions are to be drawn. Avatar therapy does not only challenge our modeling assumptions and theoretical approaches to psychiatric disorders, but it also questions our practical management of pathological conditions, raising concerns on a range of ethical issues as well. We will investigate, more specifically, what the therapist is actually intervening upon – i.e. what the avatar actually stands for – and what role deceit plays in the enactment of the patient-clinician relation, and in the very conception of the individual patient. Starting from up-to-date scientific literature on the topic and tackling a few core epistemological and ethical aspects, the paper will thus aim to provide a tentative evaluation of trade-offs between promises and limits of this therapeutic option.
Contemporary Tensions: The Body and its Virtualization in Pandemic Times and Beyond
The global pandemic not only challenges health systems and the economy. It deeply transforms our everyday lives and the ways in which we coexist. People have to find new definitions of what it means to be close to one another, to show empathy and to comfort each other. With social distancing being the word of the hour, we learn how to use digital technologies for creating novel forms of closeness. The virus has become the new other, the alien force that invisibly permeates social life. It finds its hosts predominantly in the places where humans get close to each other: When we eat, or meet for drinks. It is the ritual of eating, drinking, and dancing that binds together an otherwise largely disembodied culture. Culinary culture is a rich, vivid and last but not least very much embodied part of today’s societies, that in many cases is deemed to be an intangible cultural heritage. In this talk I aim at describing the changes in cultural rituals with regard to the incorporation of new technologies and the need for embodied practices of coexistence and resonance. The central question is: What tensions and potentials arise from a decrease in bodily communion and a rise of virtual communication and objectification of the body as field of research, treatment and control? I build on ideas from philosophical Posthumanism as field of research that critically engages with traditional humanism and anthropocentrism and aims at initiating a discussion about this pressing issue. From this perspective, I will analyze how we can challenge the dualist notions of body and mind, humans and machines while still being able to criticize body politics involving communication and control technologies today.
Standing Athwart of History: What it Means to Be Human
Transhumanists deserve praise for achieving a global view of our situation. They have spotted the tacit direction of modern culture – the pursuit of infinite desires via scientific and technological advance. But their clarity on what has become a global project raises a new set of questions, the most basic of which is whether we’re taking the dangers of continued knowledge production seriously enough. Surely the perpetual pursuit of technoscientific knowledge will lead to any number of improvements. But as our knowledge increases so does our power, which like the Sorcerer’s Apprentice is liable to spin out of control. This raises terrible possibilities – of political instability, as society fails to properly integrate new technologies; totalitarian government, as advances increase the means for surveilling, manipulating, and controlling the population; and social or environmental disruption, via catastrophic accidents or the deeds of rogue actors.
Beyond these dangers, transhumanism (and modern culture generally) presents us with a philosophical anthropology that fails to account for essential aspects of human experience. Transhumanists view human limitations as solely a matter of weaknesses to be eliminated. They do not appreciate that our limitations and frailties are a central part of what it means to be human. Martin Heidegger made the point nearly a century ago in Being and Time (1927): to be human is to care for things, and to be cared for in turn. But it is impossible to care for things that are immortal. In such cases the idea of care becomes a category mistake: immortals take care of themselves. A successful transhumanism would mean the end of humanity, since whatever creature that resulted would no longer be recognizably human; no matter what we might gain, we would lose ourselves. Science and technology have completed the bulk of their work. Let us put our efforts into increasing a sense of generosity and fellowship rather than further scientific advance.
Does The ‘Human’ Have Normative Standing in the Trans/Post-Human World?
The human is a deeply vague concept, by which I mean that it is an open question exactly which qualities are covered by the concept and which beings fall under the concept. Since the mid-c18, courtesy of Linnaeus, the default position has been ‘Human = Homo sapiens’. However, this equation has been required to do enormous intellectual work for nearly three centuries. It is supposed to capture the nature of an ape with a soul – or higher consciousness, as we now say. And yet, although the phrase ‘human nature’ still resonates today, no social or biological scientist really believes that a living species – let alone Homo sapiens – constitutes an Aristotelian natural kind. Moreover, the simple idea that all members of Homo sapiens are entitled to common legal standing only started to enjoy some measure of international enforcement after 1948 with the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Yet at the same time, over this more recent period, legal claims have been filed on behalf of the rights of other beings, ranging from artificial intelligences to animals and even nature itself. To varying degrees, these claims imply that the rights of humans need to be constrained – even though it is clear that a great many humans have yet to enjoy the rights to which the UN says they are entitled.
Under the circumstances, it would seem that this vague concept – the human – is being destabilised on both empirical and normative grounds. The generally pejorative cast of the ‘Anthropocene’ to characterise the current geological era is emblematic of this state of affairs. Transhumanism and posthumanism recognize this challenge squarely but deal with it in radically different ways. Transhumanists generally operate on the principle (associated with Condorcet) that ‘necessity is the mother of invention’: In other words, all the problems brought about by science and technology – including those encapsulated in the Anthropocene – are more than offset by the benefits they have brought in the name of a greater ‘hominization’ of Earth (to recall the term of Teilhard de Chardin). And so too, transhumanists optimistically predict, humans shall conquer climate change – perhaps by leaving Earth, Elon Musk-style! However, it is by no means clear that transhumanists mean to include all members of Homo sapiens in this secular salvation story, or perhaps even whether the ‘transhuman’ would necessarily take a human form. On the other hand, posthumanists tend to be much more pessimistic – to the point of misanthropy. Humanity’s increasing attempts to dominate – if not eliminate – the rest of nature is continuous with its history of subordinating most of its own members. Thus, posthumanists explicitly call for a decentring of the human as the locus of value in the world, preferring instead a more general locus of value, such as life itself (aka ‘vital matter’).
But in either scenario, is there a future for the Linneaean equation of ‘human = Homo sapiens’ as a normative frame of reference?
Mechanisms, Organisms, and Cyborgs in the Kantian Aftermath
Building on the work of Immanuel Kant and on researchers working in his tradition, we delineate a conception of the living organism based, among others, on its formal teleological structure, and we contrast it with a Kantian conception of mechanistic objects. At the core of our perspective is what seems to us like a stark contrast: Either something is alive, which implies substantial autonomy in its inner functional organization, or it is engineered, which means that the engineer continuously determines the thing’s functional organization. We draw some consequences for the blurring of the boundaries between artifacts and organisms, and for the notion of a cyborg in particular.
Beyond Gender and Human: The Posthuman-Self as a Necessity in David Foster Wallace’s The Pale King
In his article entitled “Critical Posthumanism,” Stefan Herbrechter maintains that among the questions critical posthumanism poses concern the stimuli behind the desire to be a posthuman (Critical Posthumanism). Psychology has taught us that no reaction is arbitrary, for there is an explanation behind every human reaction towards the world and the self. In Wallace’s Posthumous novel, The Pale King (2011), Toni Ware, a survivor of rape, relies on language and bodies to repel others. She “mimics” animals to repel predators and feign death and adopts dogs in an attempt to protect herself. In doing so, she experiments with her human body by incorporating zoomorphic traits to it to be able to survive in what seems to be a threatening milieu. It is quite reminiscent of mythologies where human and nonhuman characteristics meet to challenge anthropocentrism. The present study aims to speculate what it means to have a female body in a posthuman age. Finally, it seeks to highlight that feminist posthumanism is, in fact, a call for empathy.
The Mechanics of Techno-Human Hybridity in Children’s Literature: A Posthumanist Perspective
Philosophical exploration of the relation between human beings and technology is one of the central ideas associated with the discourse of posthumanism. Descartes in Discourse on Method  claimed that there is an inherent distinction between the human, animal and the machine. He pushes the case for the privileged status of the human by arguing that the human is not merely more spontaneous and free, but is also shaped by language. These attributes, according to him, permit human the freedom which the machine is devoid of. Haraway, in “A Cyborg Manifesto”, critiques the human machine relationship as established by Descartes and advances that the infusion of technology, informational flows and cybernetic systems in today’s world has led to the human being no longer just being organic but also becoming part machine [2, p. 149].
Taking in view these arguments about the human-machine relationship, the textual analysis in this paper is aimed at discussing how selected children’s literature text deal with the idea of techno scientific developments and the complicated relationship between man and machine. Through the posthumanist theoretical framework, this paper focuses on the impact of technology on the human subject and ethical considerations of autonomous machines. This paper in its discussion of children, their machines attempts to justify Haraway’s claim that “cyborg imagery can suggest a way out of the maze of dualisms in which we have explained our bodies and tools” [2, p. 181]. It also dwells on the issues that face a posthuman world which crop up with the emergence of cybernetic organisms. It aims to show that the idea of purity i.e. ‘a pure’ human versus ‘a pure’ other, in this case the machine, does not account for our ontological hybridity and the complexity of our machines and complex machine human relationship. In its discussion of fiction for children that represents encounters and relationships between children and their machines, the paper attempts to elucidate the possibility of responses wider and more complex in their scope as they attempt to mitigate the boundaries between machines and humans, at the same time not completely siding with the technophobic or the technophilic tendencies towards technology. This paper discusses two such texts namely, The Homework Machine (2006) and its sequel Return of the Homework Machine (2009) by Dan Gutman [3, 4].
 Descartes René. The Method, Meditations, and Selections from the Principles of Descartes, Tr. from the Original Texts with a New Introductory Essay, Historical and Critical. Translated by John Veitch, 7th ed., Edinburgh and London: W. Blackwood and Sons, 1880.
 Haraway, Donna. “A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century.” Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature, by Donna Jeanne Haraway, Routledge, 1991, pp. 149-181. ResearchGate, doi: 10.1007/978-1-137-05194-3_10.
 Gutman, Dan. The Homework Machine. Aladdin Paperbacks, 2006.
 Gutman, Dan. Return of the homework machine. Simon & Schuster for Young Readers, 2009.
On the Edges of Consciousnesses
When looking from a human perspective, there is no such thing as joined or herd consciousness of a species – unless, it’s just simple mathematics like flocking. This is a claim made by biologist Helena Telkänranta, who is specialized in animal behavior and cognition. This claim was made during a conversation with her about horses and their possible spirituality while I was working on my project Com Scire (2020), which is inspired by Gordon Gallup’s mirror test for self-awareness .
Consciousness is defined as an experience of the world but it’s definitions vary and are a source of controversy. It is described through the vocabulary of philosophy, psychology, neuroscience and spiritual perspectives – to name a few fields. It is also stated that non-human animals have consciousness and capacity for intentional behaviors (Cambridge Declaration of Consciousness, 2012). Philosopher David Chalmers has stated that consciousness might be a fundamental property of nature and exist outside the known laws of physics .
The article presents various perspectives towards inter-species communication with the hypothesis that different species’ individuals have a joined consciousness in between them. And then, species consciousnesses’ could communicate in between each other much like from one herd to another, including humans. Obviously, this is not proven by science, but as an artist I use the opportunity to propose that it might be worthwhile to acknowledge that some of experiences previously unexplained in science have been intuitively proven to work, and they have later become accepted knowledge also in sciences.
My projects Com Scire and The Oracles are presented as artistic case studies that exemplify my hypothesis about consciousness being the essential connection for inter-species communication, which can be strengthened through art. Additionally, the paper will include relevant projects by various artists.
 Gallup, G. (1970): Chimpanzees: Self-Recognition.
 Low P. ed Panksepp, J., Reiss, D., Edelman, D., Van Swinderen, B., Koch, C. (2012): Cambridge Declaration of Consciousness. http://worldanimal.net/images/stories/documents/Cambridge-Declaration-on-Consciousness.pdf
 Chalmers, D. (1996): The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory.
Going Virtual: Virtual Reality and Avatar Therapy in Psychiatry. Medical and Bioethical Perspectives
The application of Virtual Reality (VR) – based on a Head-Mounted Display (HMD) and a Cave Automatic Virtual Environment (CAVE) – offers promising prospects for the development of effective alternatives to the classical methods of psychotherapy. These VR techniques provide a new diagnostic and therapeutic approach (both as monotherapy and as an adjunct to pharmacotherapy) for patients suffering from anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, and developmental and neurocognitive disorders. Unique treatment effects are achievable by replacing the suppressed stimuli of “real” reality with visual, auditory and tactile stimuli corresponding to the virtual environment, which fosters the sense of presence in virtual reality, place illusion and plausibility illusion.
Consistently developed since its invention in 2008, Avatar Therapy (AT) deserves special attention as a type of therapy using advanced digital methods. Clinical trials have already shown the efficacy of AT, especially in the treatment of patients with treatment-resistant schizophrenia who experience continuous auditory verbal hallucinations (AVHs). Such hallucinations, often perceived as aggressive and violent, are chronically experienced by up to 25–30% of the patients despite proper antipsychotic treatment. Through creating their (human or nonhuman) avatars that give voice and face to their AVHs, the patients can reduce their anxiety, stress, and depression levels, which promotes their assertiveness towards AVHs, thus helping them regain self-control, and, in some cases, completely eliminating the experienced symptoms.
As any medical novelty, VR- and AT-based cognitive therapy, cognitive training, and social skill training stir certain doubts among psychotherapy theorists and practitioners. They also call for a debate on the ethics of the clinical application of VR/AT regarding the patient-therapist relationship, perspectives for self-diagnosis and self-treatment, possible benefits and probable risks as a supporting element in therapy. Such a debate is all the more urgent as we are on the verge of transformation not only of our understanding of the human but also of our other “deeply entrenched notions, such as ‘conscious experience,’ ‘selfhood,’ ‘authenticity,’ or ‘realness,’” to quote Michael Madary and Thomas Metzinger .
VR may challenge the current treatments of various psychological disorders and pave the way for new approaches, yet it also provokes a debate on the ethics of its application. In our paper, we will examine some of the issues produced by the blurring of boundaries between the real and the virtual. Specifically, our focus will be on the risk of reducing the sense of agency outside of virtual reality, disturbing the sense of the authenticity of experiences, depersonalization, derealization, and the achievement of permanent and unexpected behavioural changes against the patients’ preferences.
 Madary M, Metzinger TK. Real virtuality: A code of ethical conduct. Recommendations for good scientific practice and the consumers of VR-technology. Frontiers in Robotics and AI. 2016; 3(3):1–23.
Ontogenesis: The Intersection of Karen Barad’s Logic of Diffraction and Gilbert Simondon’s Logic of Transduction
This paper is about the ontogenesis of being that entangles ideas in materiality. And because atoms make up the smallest particle of material reality, it is also a story about space and time. Physicist and philosopher Karen Barad calls this triplet “spacetimematterings” or “time-being.” Our time is a time of colonization, militarization, and racism, according to Barad in “Troubling Times and Ecologies of Nothingness: Re-truning, Re-membering, and Facing the Incalculable.” Exploring the significance of our times through a non-linear story of past and future, etching new imaginings into the past and onto the future, she develops her theory of diffraction exposing generational histories that exist retroactively. By tracing entanglements of violent histories of colonialism (with its practice of erasure and avoidance), she develops an ethics of a “justice-to-come” as an integral part of an embodied practice for re-membering, which is not about going back to what was but, rather, about the material reconfiguring being-time in ways that produce new possible histories by which things might find ways to endure. This is not the progressive linear logic of capitalism but a logic of dynamism that requires us to think imaginatively about the past as part of our future history which we find in storytelling and artworks.
Engaging with Transhumanist Visions of the Future
Transhumanism, the subject of my talk, is a socio-political and philosophical movement aimed at indefinite promotion of the human via radical overcoming of the human limitations and investment in science-backed improvements to the human condition.
Transhumanism argues that humans cannot achieve its full potential in its current form, without a radical transformation of their bodies and outlook. One way of achieving that change is by adopting what I call in my book, a proactionary approach to risk (“The Proactionary Imperative”, co-authored with Steve Fuller), which embraces risk as constitutive of what it means to be human.
Transhumanism’s view of humanity is one of promoting human essence, and not human form; humans can be defined by our most evolved characteristics (reason, foresight) and not our limitations (biological shell), which we should aim to overcome through proactionary risk-taking. This attitude is especially current now, during the Covid-19 pandemic, where whole populations place trust in a newly developed vaccine (which could result in unknown side effects over the long term), in order to reinstate the humanity to its pre-pandemic state, instead of letting the nature ‘play out its course’. Transhumanism envisages the future where humans radically embrace technology and blend the human form with the artificial (bionic limbs, chips, ectogenesis) and biologically-other (genome research). It is the ultimate “being many”, at the biological and spiritual level.
Transhumanism’s deep Enlightenment roots embrace science and informed risk-taking as a default modus operandi of the human of the future – enhanced on the biological level, digitally immortal – and hence place it on top of the political and social agenda, for example, by advocating for cutting-edge research and taking a stance on environmental issues. This is underpinned by immense appreciation for the human and acceptance of its current limits – for if we did not see our limitations how would we be able to overcome them? – transhumanism stresses the elevation of the human, not the destruction of the old.
Human and Non-Human Persons. Towards not Inhuman Civilization
The idea of the Human is strongly ideologized and exists in the context of religious, natural and cultural discourses, defining the ‘Human’ by the opposition to animals and things. However, contemporary times challenges the notion of the Human by showing its strong affinities with both: animal and technological world. Defining the Human by its association with Homo Sapiens species is not effective enough in light of the appearance of the first cyborg persons, such as Neil Harbisson or Moon Ribas, who broaden technologically their senses changing their forms of perception, cognition and communication. Thus, the body-mind dualism needs to be overcome in theoretical reflection, making it impossible to define the Human by the mind or a supposed soul.
I claim that in place of enigmatic notion of the Human it is better to refer to different kinds of persons, either human or non-human (with the term ‘human’ understood in an adjective form). There are also already first examples of formal recognition of non-human persons as in case of dolphins in India or orangutans in Argentina.
The idea of the person that I propose to use comes from Joseph Margolis, who describes a human person as the encultured, ‘enlanguaged’, embodied self, who emerged from the individual of Homo Sapiens species in cultural-natural evolution, understood from a post-Darwinian perspective.
This perspective allows to embrace the evolution of cyborg persons from human persons and it opens up also for other kinds of persons. The problem of the formal recognition of persons could be based for example on Steve Fuller’s proposed ‘Turing Test 2.0’. We may then think about building a ‘not inhuman civilization’ as Bernard Stiegler poses it.
Human Enhancement in the Context of Neurotechnology
The introduction of neurotechnology is one of the most spectacular tactics of human enhancement is introducing. Neurotechnology can be defined as a set of methods and techniques that enable a direct connection of technical components with the nervous system. By incorporating various technologies, a human being becomes a combination of living matter and inanimate matter. Such developments trigger changes in the definition of the human. Our basic concepts, such as human, animal and machine need redefinition. In our presentation, we will focus on the most recent and demanding advancements in neurotechnology, such as deep brain stimulation, brain-computer interface and transcranial direct – current stimulation, which can have both a medical and non-medical applications. Medical applications can foster bring a new and promising approach to the specialist diagnosis and treatment of patients with a wide range of brain disorders, such as sensory and motor dysfunctions. We will start with the trends in treatments for Parkinson’s disease, major depressive disorders, Tourette syndrome, epilepsy and hearing impairments, which will serve as a medical background for our argument. Secondly, we will consider a broader spectrum of challenges associated with neuroprivacy and illuminate the ways in which neurotechnology can be oriented towards neural information. We will conclude that the usage of electroencephalographic signals in security-relevant applications including the Martinovic et al.  study and Guilty-Knowledge Test can be directed against users. We still need to develop neurotechnology in order to further improve and disseminate it in clinics around the world. This type of research has been pioneered by Neuralink Company. In conclusion, we will present the latest achievements and projects of the founder of Neuralink, which may provide more effective clinical treatments in the future.
 Martinovic, I., Davies, D., Frank, M. et al. (2012). On the Feasibility of SideChannel Attacks With Brain-Computer Interfaces, Proceedings of the 21st USENIX conference on Security symposium, August 2012, Bellevue, WA.
Levinas’s Débâcle – Looking for Face(s) of the Human in the 21st Century
We live in a time when – as the poet and painter Erna Rosenstein put it – “everything is coming apart at the seams.” On this account, I attempt to analyze the concept of “débâcle” formulated by Francois-David Sebbah and used by this French phenomenologist to explore the philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas. Débâcle connotes the concept of catastrophe, fracture, failure, collapse or disintegration, but the semantic range of this term also encompasses the crushing of ice, escape and ruin; it can be associated with material remnants and our entanglement with the world. In Sebbah’s approach, débâcle becomes a philosophical operator, enabling the performance of epoché that would allow phenomena to appear, but also reveal their foundation: instability and chaos, the dissipation of meaning, its decomposition and end. Sebbah dissects this category in the context of the philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas. Consequently, it becomes related to the hum of il y a, the abyss of being. Débâcle is both a collapse that reveals to us the foundation that remain hidden behind appearances, and a rupture of meaning that would allow subjectivity to withdraw and, ultimately, reach transcendence. From this perspective, chaos and decay become a necessary phase on the path towards stability, thus allowing the face(s) of the human to be revealed.
In addition to presenting and interpreting débâcle in the context of Emmanuel Levinas’s philosophy, I shall endeavor to relate this category to the description of the present, in particular artistic activity that could be interpreted as revealing the unsteady rhythm of phenomena from which the fragile and unstable structure of meaning emerges. Therefore, from this perspective, should we not consider débâcle as a paradigmatic figure of the present day?
Beyond One, Beyond Many: Wombs, Queer Theory, and Artistic Research
In his novel One, No One and One Hundred Thousand (1926) , Luigi Pirandello stages a modern antihero trapped in a paroxysmal quest for identity amidst self-analysis and social roles. The character concludes eventually he is no one, since his identity is splintered in many impersonations. Today, Pirandello’s powerful deconstruction of identity comes short when read through the lens of contemporary complexity. Whereas social norms inherently tend to normalize subjects, the understanding of what is “human” has irrevocably left its human-only cocoon and multiplicity has a different meaning. In a time when techno-scientific incursions are daily companions, algorithms alter the way people experience the world, environmental disruption and ecosystem depletion are surging, there is need for radical re-thinking and novel vocabularies – and new questions.
Avoiding definitive answers, artistic research may help rethink vocabulary and open questions. This paper takes on the bioart series Wombs and its queer theory ramifications. Wombs ponders possible environmental implications of hormonal contraceptives by weaving together the leaky character of my body and of other-than-human others – asexual bacteria and hermaphroditic slugs. The plural form of the title refers to multiple manifestations – of bodies and the artwork. Wombs exceeds the actual organ per se to peruse the space among sexuality and the environment.
The research embraces the theorization of queer ecologies [2, 3, 4] and Queer Death Studies  to “undo normative entanglements and fashion alternative imaginaries” . Drawing from the overcoming of gender binaries, such reading challenges the categorization of nature as something that is separated from the human, is inscribed within the polarity pure/contaminate, and identifies with a motherly feminine. To queer becomes a verb and a method to think differently, and further expand our questions about one or many.
 Pirandello, L. (2018): One, No One And One Hundred Thousand, Spurl Editions.
 Giffney, N., J. Hird, M. (2008): Queering the Non-human. In N. Giffney, M. J. Hird (Eds.), QUEERING THE NON/HUMAN. Ashgate. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781107415324.004.
 Barad, K. (2012): Nature’ s Queer Performativity. O. Kvinder, Køn Og Forskning/ Women, Gender and Research, No. 1-2, 25–53.
 Mortimer-Sandilands, C., Erickson, B. (2010): Queer Ecologies. Indiana University Press.
 Radomska, M., Mehrabi, T., Lykke, N. (2019). Queer Death Studies: Coming to Terms with Death, Dying and Mourning Differently. An Introduction. WOMEN, GENDER & RESEARCH NO., 3(4): 3–11.
 Giffney, N., J. Hird, M. (2008): Queering the Non-human. In N. Giffney & M. J. Hird (Eds.), QUEERING THE NON/HUMAN. Ashgate. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781107415324.004
Toward a Non-Biological Human: Challenges, Solutions, and Consequences
The challenge of creating a digital replica of the human mind capturing its highest functionality in the real life, using an approach inspired from biology, is known as the BICA Challenge. Here BICA refers to biologically inspired cognitive architectures. Proposed nearly 10 years ago, this challenge remains unsolved. Today we are very close to its partial solution, that can be described as a socially-emotional intelligent actor embedded in a virtual environment (VE). The biggest difficulty here is not in creating a realistic VE/VR/MR simulator, and not in recognizing and expressing emotional states, although these are important and not easy problems. The central problem that stands above all is the human-level (or superhuman) social-emotional intelligence, meaning that the actor will be human-compatible, socially acceptable, believable, trustworthy, capable of empathy, mutual understanding and long-term relationships, socially attractive, charismatic and efficient in its behavior, when interacting with humans. The talk will answer the questions of how this goal can be made precise, how it can be achieved, and what would be the consequences of this. Should humans switch to virtual friends and life-long partners, abandoning other humans? How our values, ethics and morality need to be modified to accommodate for the new social reality with an unlimited number of virtual human-analogous selves in it? What if the technology falls into wrong hands? These and related questions are coming to the foreground in a near future.
Biohackers: New Figures of Rebellion
Science and medicine belong to us not them. Biohack the fucking planet – writes on his blog Josiah Zayner, one of the world-famous biohackers: an artist with a Ph.D. in molecular biophysics and a member of the Central Dogma Collective that claims to have developed a vaccine for the SARS-CoV-2 and to have successfully tested it on themselves. The focal point of my speech will be the public presence and identity of biohackers, created by themselves – on their internet sites, in social media, or YouTube videos – but also by outside observers, producing documentary or fiction films inspired by real-life phenomena.
The primary frame for this description will be the analysis of the cultural representation of contemporary science (understood as a network of institutions and institutional practices, and also as a specific discourse) and technology. Solely within this context, the figure of biohacker gains its meaning and social importance. Firstly, it is the institutionalized, elitist science that triggers biohackers’ rebellion; secondly, this is also the frame that allows analyzing biohackers’ involvement with the ideas of cyberculture, such as the notion of biological life as information (possible to edit or “hack”), or the myths of hacker culture.
The idea of biohacker as a new figure of rebellion prompts questions not only about the causes or possible ways of such rebellion but also about the solutions proposed by biohackers, their relevance and safety. Biohackers’ cultural presence stays in a close relationship to the new ideas of body and mind, heredity and identity, and it helps to shape new visions of the future, both for communities and individuals. Though inevitably marginalized due to its independent and non-institutional character, biohacker culture still offers an interesting lens on many phenomena of the present day.
Microperformativity. Bioengineered Organisms Performing in the Art Context
Within the biotech era, art that addresses the issues of life, and brings biological life into the artistic context, cannot avoid using biotechnology as the technology that enables interventions into the living matter. Art is not only intervening into the living matter in the laboratories, but aims at showing and cultivating tissues and various living cultures in the gallery space. The galleries have turned from spaces for showing artefacts into spaces of events, performances and workshops. In this context, the idea to grow living entities within art testifies of a performative turn, a shift from representational to performative modes of art. Because of the imperative of performativity, art addressing biotechnology requires the presence of living tissues and other living substances in the gallery spaces or spaces meant to show art to public. The author identifies three sorts of microperformativity carried out by biotechnological art in the sense of managing life at the micro level. The most original of these and specific for art working with living organisms means a real-time action of the living microorganisms or bioengineered tissues within the artistic context in front of the public. For this sort of performativity, the artist gets the microorganisms or engineered tissues to perform by themselves for the audience.
From Natural Human to Artificial Human and Back:
An Integrative Neuroscience-AI Perspective on Confluence
For minds in natural humans and in other life forms such as animals, plants, and even bacteria, similar patterns and underlying causal pathways have been found. Such causal pathways can be described in a unified manner as networks of causal relations, also called causal network models, which is a long-standing tradition in AI. Mind relates to brain and body, as studied, for example, in Philosophy of Mind. More specifically, mental causal networks describing mind relate to causal networks found within brain and body. Similar causal networks can be found in many other living beings, which makes us human beings one with them.
The study of mind of natural humans based on human-directed disciplines such as Neuroscience leads to identification of causal mechanisms and pathways, based on which computational causal network models can be designed for a wide variety of human mental processes. These network models include a number of characteristics by which different human traits can be represented. Simulating these causal network models on a computing device and expressing them by avatars, leads to artifical humans. According to their design, in this way natural and artificial humans share similar mental causal mechanisms in their makeup, which makes us one with them. These artificial humans using avatars can be brought back to natural humans so that they together can have interactive joint sessions, for example, in serious or recreational games or in virtually supported therapeutical sessions. In such joint sessions, together they can deepen their insight in these causal relations and pathways of their own and each other’s mental processes. This makes us many so that we can look at others as if we look in a mirror.
In natural mental processes, development and learning are often crucial, which can be considered forms of adaptation of the causal pathways of the own mental processes. Such mental adaptation processes can be described themselves by causal pathways too: causal pathways that change the other causal pathways. This can be described by a form of self-referencing or selfmodeling, similar to what in art is called ‘Mise en abyme’, or ‘the Droste-effect’, after the famous Dutch cocoa and chocolat brand which uses this effect in packaging and advertising already since 1904. This effect occurs in art when within artwork a small copy of the same artwork is included. This can be applied graphically in paintings or photographs, or in sculptures. Self-referencing is also sometimes used within literature (story-within-the-story), theater (theater-within-the-theater), or movies (movie-within-the-movie).
More specifically, to obtain causal models of adaptive mental processes, adaptation can be modeled by change of a self-model of the own causal pathways, effectuated by the specific causal pathways for this self-model. Put differently, the self-model causal pathways are changing the other causal pathways that are referenced. In this way the wide variety of natural mental development and learning processes as known in the literature can be covered as well.
All this has led to a methodology based on self-modeling mental causal network models and avatars expressing their simulation. The shared mental networks make us natural humans one with the obtained artificial humans; their existence as a type of copies of ourselves make us many, where due to their common makeup each can be considered a kind of mirror image of the other. Bringing in this way natural and artificial humans together makes that they can further learn and develop from each other.
Transhumanism: Freedom To Choose Your Nature
The transhumanist foresight about humanity’s future has accelerated this worldview as a largescale movement. With a knack for identifying technologies that change society and pinpointing sciences that uncover new potential, this aptitude brings about a wide-eyed confidence for human longevity and a healthy ecology. Yet, many consider this practical optimism to be overreaching rather than realistic, even while the rationale is evidenced by technological advances in AI, automation, and data analysis that has put the trajectory and applicability of Moore’s Law into question. On a similar note, extending human life through biomedical therapies is often considered unnatural for the human, yet the evolutionary modifications are identified in many species as a continuous, on-going process.
It is a fact that people are living longer, the world population growth is decelerating, and biomedical therapies are offering alternatives to aging. Rather than turning a blind eye, society needs to be informed about the future—the benefits, the obstacles, and the hard decisions. Within the realm of the future: critics of transhumanism who politicize longevity as a socio-economic privilege and suggest an anthropocentric advantage are misleading us and further disenfranchises the transhumanist vision. Advocacy for health and longevity is necessary for all people. People have a right to determine how they want to live, for how long, and whether or not they opt for mitigating anti-aging therapies. Social norms change over time, but one element is constant: people want to be free—free from discrimination, censorship, and dogmas of normalcy. Many would opt for genetic liberty over genetic legacy.
The transhumanist alliance of physiology and technology campaigns for the freedom to choose advocacies that stand apart from normalized narratives of binary thinking. The ideas and practices interlace a balanced, supportive framework that recognizes the diverse characteristics of humanity and of potential AGI, android, posthuman, and other sapience. I argue that reaching into the level-headed transhumanist framework of principles, models, and rights that generated morphological freedom, the Proactionary Principle, and new strategies for long-term incentives, creates a threshold for engaging change and in doing so, sloughs off the scales and barnacles that negate potential. It is imperative that human and non-human rights continue to evolve at the speed of information through impartial decision-making. The sooner the better.
Liminal Family: Viral Culture – BioArt and Society Meetings as a Form of ‘Being Many’ in Pandemic Times
Liminal practitioners from around the world are gathering as a community to “stay in touch.” This a connection built not just to discuss about professional issues but also to express friendship and a personal support. Being liminal and being involved in activities crossing borders among science, humanities, art and technology is not easy. This kind of cognitive practices are still uncommon. Arnold van Gennep defining liminality mentioned that being together helps to inhabit such an undefined position in the form of a communitas.
The Corona Virus pandemic made the above mentioned way of “being together’” even more meaningful. The pandemic time jeopardized the relations between human and non-human agents, liminal practitioners working with living beings in laboratories lost access to those facilities. Every collaboration with human agents has been limited, postponed or moved to virtual reality. An option to meet people involved in affine practices and for that facing similar constraints was really needed.
In March 2020, during the first wave of the pandemic, Claire Negletton, Academic Curator at Pomona College Museum of Art, initiated a series of informal meetings titled Viral Culture-BioArt and Society which lasted until June 2020. The meetings took place every Saturday at 6pm CET connecting people from different countries and time zones. As a participant I have been noting down the topics of our sessions, recording the ideas we developed in each occasion. The writings I produced out of these meetings are a unique picture of how the liminal family reacted in a time of great distress and reality transformation.
My intention is to share the most significative fragments of my records during this speech, being sure that many ideas developed in those days will be crucial for the future of the liminal community.
Photo: P. Jóźwiak
is an artist (2009 graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Łódź, Department of Visual Arts) and researcher, PhD student (Nature-Culture Transdisciplinary PhD Program at Artes Liberales Faculty, University of Warsaw). Working in a laboratory (mostly at the Institute of Genetics and Biotechnology, Faculty of Biology, University of Warsaw) locates her works in the field of bio art, although she tries to avoid using this term. She sees her liminal activity as situated knowledge production. She is mostly focused on life in its broad understanding (its biological and cultural meaning). Her projects have mostly conceptual, critical character. The main point of her research interest are multilevel relations emerging during realization of liminal projects. She tries to put her observations, as an artist/researcher (liminal being), in the context of Science and Technology Studies (STS) Actor-Network Theory by Bruno Latour and feminist humanities.
currently postgraduate student of bioethics at Warsaw University. His research in the fields of psychiatry and neurology focus on the ethical issues they generate. He works on social and bioethical context of the use of virtual reality in psychiatry, concentrating on Avatar Therapy in the treatment of drug-resistant auditory hallucinations experienced by people with schizophrenia.
is a graduate of Medicine and Philosophy with a Ph.D. in philosophy from University of Łódź, Poland. Assistant Professor at the Department of Bioethics, Medical University of Lodz.
Her academic interests focus on bioethics and phenomenology, especially on phenomenology of embodiment, philosophical and ethical issues concerning human enhancement, philosophical thanatology and bioethical end-of-life issues, and on the analysis of gender stereotypes in bioethical and medical discourses.
Habilitated Doctor, Assistant Professor at the Department of Bioethics, Medical University of Łódź, Poland. Her research focuses on bioethical aspects of reproductive medicine, feminist approaches to issues such as preimplantation genetic diagnosis, embryo, gamete and mitochondrial donation, as we as human enhancement and cross disciplinary perspectives (bioethics/film studies/cultural studies/body, bio and cyborg art) on dying, ageing, and embodiment.