Looking back on Your Brain 2030: reflecting on brains, technology and the human condition

September 12, 2017 22:32

Want to look back some more? There’s pictures, visual notes and a vlog!

Unusual places often bring something new. That was why the Dutch Future Society cooperated with Supperclub, a club in the oldest theater of Amsterdam, for the annual event – this year on the future of our brains. Pink light, lounge couches and galaxies on the wall. Around 60 futurists, trend researchers, strategists and artists have joined the event to get inspired about the future of the brain and human enhancement.


Keynote Speaker Jason Farquhar at Your Brain in 2030

Keynote Speaker Jason Farquhar

A core theme for all of the speakers was the relationship between technology and our brains, our consciousness and our wellbeing. The research of Jason Farquhar, scientist from Donders Institute RU Nijmegen, is very much about the use of Brain Computer Interfaces (BCIs). For this occasion, he and his group have come up with three scenarios for the future of people using these BCIs in their daily life. He showed us how developing technology could help overworked people to get through the day, stimulate students for better performance – both in their studies and on the dancefloor! -, and helping paralyzed patients to regain their ability to interact with the world around 2030. From his perspective, hardware development is the main barrier to overcome – our knowledge of the workings of our brain is sufficient to realize his scenarios.


Keynote Speaker Laurens Landeweerd at Your Brain in 2030

Keynote Speaker Laurens Landeweerd

Laurens Landeweerd took us on a journey through the history of philosophy and mythology regarding our thinking of the brain, technology and consciousness. With the story of Prometheus who stole the fire from the gods and gave it to the humans, the ancient Greeks already pointed at technology as a cure and a poison. With our love of technology, for a long time people have looked at the world from a mechanistic perspective: the universe as a clockwork. The brain was seen as a machine that is controlled by a little man called the homunculus. Only recently there is room for a more fluent understanding of the brain as a living system and how this system interacts with the world around us.

Keynote Speaker Hannes Wiedemann at Your Brain in 2030

Keynote Speaker Hannes Wiedemann

German photographer Hannes Wiedemann showed us his work regarding Grinders, a fringe Body Hacker’s scene in rural USA. His documentary images show the dedication of this group, their basic tools and the messiness of invention. Some of these body hackers would insert smartphone sized chips in their forearms that could only report temperature through a simple app. Again, their body modifications make you ask what it means to be human and what shapes the human condition nowadays. For the people in this scene, the implants add another layer of perception, in an anarchistic manner. The name for this scene, Grinders come from a dystopic science fiction book by W. Ellis, Doktor Sleepless, in which disenfranchised people do body modifications to hack the system, depictured by governments and large corporations.


Around the Supperclub several artists, designers and thinkers expressed their views on the future of human enhancement.

Caged Robots by Erik van der Veen (Robotorium Geestzicht)

Caged Robots by Erik van der Veen (Robotorium Geestzicht)

Artist Erik van der Veen for example brought his pets along in a cage. These pets however were quite unusual: they are robots. Erik explained, we are treating robots badly by letting them do the dirty work. Now that robots become more like us, shouldn’t we reflect on the way we treat them? He adopted a couple of robots, but they showed clear signs of depression – pushing themselves to the walls of their cages.

Jelger Kroese wants people to think differently about their relationship with plants. He brought with him an educational talking plant, which adds another dimension to the plant as a living creature. It was designed for children to engage with nature, but it definitely worked on us grown-ups as well!

Yfke Laanstra at Your Brain in 2030

Yfke Laanstra – author of Bits, Bytes & Consciousness

Yfke Laanstra reflects on consciousness in the digital age. She presented her book (Bits, bytes en bewustzijn), in which she reflects on what it means for us feeling and being human in a more technical world.

A video of the work of Roland van Dierendonk was presented. He has managed to adjust a digital image by converting it into synthetic DNA and using CRISPR-Cas to change the image on a DNA level. His project shows us our current ability to adjust life at a core level.

What’s next?

What will it mean to be human in the decades to come? This event has mainly shown us how broad the topic of human enhancement is. Together, we have started an exploration of what is happening at the fringe. We have discussed robots and nature, and above all: human nature. All contributors to the event showed us how technology and human consciousness are intertwined (and according to Laurens: have always been intertwined!).

What’s next? We call for a more in-depth discussion on brain enhancement in specific fields. What will happen in the entertainment industry? What will be our perception of sickness and health? Or as one of the participants remarked: when will brain enhancement techniques become illegal, like most chemical stimulants?

We will keep you posted on our next events, where we would love to meet you again and explore the future further!

Want to look back some more? There’s pictures, visual notes and a vlog!

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