The Origins of Embodiment Visible in Recent History

Posted by Patrick Millard | Sun Sep 28th 2008 12:39 a.m.

The Origins of Embodiment Visible in Recent History

With every tool man is perfecting his own organs, whether motor or sensor, or is removing the limits to their functioning…Man has, as it were, become a kind of prosthetic God. When he puts on all his auxiliary organs, he is truly magnificent; but these organs have not grown on to him, and they still give him trouble at times…Future ages will bring with them new and probably unimaginable great advances in this field of civilization and will increase man’s likeness to God still more. But in the interests of our investigations, we will not forget that present-day man does not feel happy in his Godlike character.
—Sigmund Freud, Civilization and Its Discontent

For quite some time now, humans have been surrounded by a new trend that has proven to be the emergence of a new form of species. This embrace of technology and the need for embodiment is not a temporary fetish, but rather has become a strange sort of necessity for survival. By examining the culture surrounding humans, it is shocking to acknowledge the amount of technological embodiment in use today: prosthetic limbs, cochlear implants, pacemakers, contact lenses, Lasik eye surgery, gastric lap bands, Blue Tooth technologies, and mobile locative media are just a few of the integrated materials we’ve welcomed.

Many of these technologies have been embraced without the slightest resistance because of their natural branching off from previous technologies, while some engendered more negative initial responses. Cochlear implants, for instance, are still an arguable topic for many of the deaf community who believe that deafness should not be viewed as a disability, thus not treated as one. For many parents with deaf children who want to give their child the right to choose whether to have or not to have the implant later in life, it then becomes problematic for the child to learn spoken language, since young children have an aptitude for learning lingual skills in early development. Waiting for a deaf child to be of proper age to make his or her own decision eliminates years of opportune language learning.

Other technological advancements in the medical field were also seen as a threat to human beings. When vaccinations for children were first introduced, they were widely met with aversion. Now, aside from a small percentage of parents who refuse vaccination due to religious or other personal reasons, it is not only the norm for vaccinations to be given, but also a requirement for a child to be enrolled in a public school system.

While these changes to the biology of the organic body will at first seem intrusive and give a sense of the uncanny, they will soon be admitted as part of a system of normalcy and accepted behaviors. This not only occurs because of the initial steps in accepting technology, but moreso because the benefits that will be granted to the human body via these upgrades will be so monumental that they may seem irresistible. We would certainly not avoid advances in our senses such as an expanded field of vision (including the possibility to perceive ultraviolet and infrared light), a higher aptitude for hearing sounds that now lie outside of our frequency apprehension, an electronic sense of taste that could allow for us to know when a food is spoiled or harmful to our bodies, or an expanded sense of touch that heightens our notion of materials observed and our experiences of intimacy.

Again, when examining culture today, acceptance of the tech-body is emerging. For instance, on a return trip from Denver, CO in March of 2008, I sat next to a man who had in his ear a cellular Blue Tooth adaptor, allowing him to have cellular conversations without the bother of holding onto a phone (fig. 6). The man was not only conversing with the person on the other end with his Blue Tooth implant, but was also surfing the web from his handheld receiver. Not only are we becoming comfortable with machines that are applied inside our body (the man’s ear in this case), our field of comprehension is expanding farther and farther to hold simultaneous interactions with separate communication devices (the phone call and internet, in this instance).

Human beings never seem to limit themselves in expanding their experience of the world they live in, especially when it comes in the form of perceived betterment. In the future, humans will continue down this path of synthesis between the organic and inorganic in order to advance their place in the world. As evolution has shown, a more powerful, mindful, and healthful form of life will overshadow the lesser-qualified of the species. Through the application of prostheses, mind and memory upgrades, and bodily health programs, the homo-sapien will become something else, something that I like to call the techno-sapien.

Figure 6: Plane passenger immersed with Blue Tooth technologies.

*excerpt from Formatting Gaia: A Comprehensive Outline of the Photographic Work
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