Research seminar in Cultural Anthropology with Eric Orlowski. “Moving too fast and breaking the wrong things?” Imagined Futures, Posthuman Emergence, and Risk

  • Date: –12:00
  • Location: Engelska parken Uppsala: Engelska parken room 3-2028. For zoom link contact Mats Utas.
  • Lecturer: Eric Orlowski, University College London and affiliated as a visiting doctoral researcher at the Department of Cultural Anthropology and Ethnology at Uppsala University.
  • Organiser: Department of Cultural Anthropology and Ethnology
  • Contact person: Mats Utas
  • Seminarium

For decades, human augmentation technologies, or technologies that explicitly change or otherwise improve the human form, have been a mainstay in science fiction. However, these fictions are slowly becoming real, which have inspired groups of tech-enthusiasts in Sweden to speed up the scientific progress of such technologies.

This motley crew of transhumanists, biohackers, entrepreneurs, and individual enthusiasts – whom I refer to as socio-technical vanguards, after STS Professor Stephen Hilgartner – create, maintain, and work to fulfil their particular visions of the future, parsing what they see as the “wrong” futures from the “right” futures for our posthuman forms. This interplay between temporality, risk, and posthuman visions is at the very core of this research: what will the future look like? Why that future? What will they do to ensure one future over another? My research places a strong emphasis on the participatory aspect of participant observation, including using the fledgling technologies myself and slowly turning myself into the cyborg of the future promised by these vanguards. These future technologies are imagined to be a watershed moment in human history, playing with the core definition of not only what a human being is, but what a human being ought to be. This research aims to interrogate this, in itself, risky line of inquiry to, hopefully as my informants agree, brighten up the future.

 

Eric Orlowski is a PhD researcher based at University College London’s (UCL) Department of Anthropology. Starting during his MSc. in 2018, his research interests focused on early human augmentation practices in Sweden, specifically by looking at the fledgling human microchipping scene. His PhD project looks at the futures imagined by the designers and inventors of these emergent technologies, how they assess the present and future risks of their creations, and the implications these ideas have on the view of the future human/human in the future. Eric is currently doing his fieldwork in Sweden, and throughout this period, he is affiliated as a visiting doctoral researcher at the Institute of Cultural Anthropology and Ethnology at Uppsala University.