Ars Electronica in Berlin 2017
You and I
Let’s talk about your future. Person to person, as equals. Just like we’ve always been taught to do. But what if I weren’t a human being? What if I were a robot, a chatbot or a self-learning algorithm? Would you still want to talk to me, solicit my opinion? What would you think about me, and how would you come across to me? Would you confide private information to me? And speaking of entrusting—what would I have to do for you to be able to trust me? And what may I under no circumstances do?
DRIVE. Volkswagen Group Forum, Berlin, Germany
July 21, 2017 – October 26, 2017
Admittedly, these are all questions that you probably can’t answer so easily. But then it gets even more complicated—What if it weren’t even possible anymore to clearly differentiate between human beings and machines? What if artificially generated organs and limbs, intelligent prostheses, robotic implants, nano-sensors and such things were body parts that people had come to take completely for granted? How much machinery could you have in and on your body and still be a human being? And what would constitute your nature then?
First and Second Nature
Speaking of nature—everybody’s familiar with the so-called first nature. After all, it’s always been there and you’re one of its creatures. You can see, hear, smell, taste and feel this nature because evolution endowed you with these capabilities, your senses. And you should also definitely help to conserve this nature. Not because this is so romantic but because you couldn’t survive without it. Since you rely on fresh water, clean air and healthy food—in stark contrast to the machines.
OK, and then there’s this second nature. The one you and your fellow human beings have created yourselves. And even though you can’t see, hear, smell, taste and feel this second nature, it influences your life just as strongly as the first one. This second nature is a kind of digital parallel dimension in which you increasingly communicate with other people, in which you do your banking, sign up for insurance and go shopping. People aren’t the only ones who use this parallel dimension; more and more machines and programs do so too.
And Our Future
Ever since people like you have walked the Earth, they’ve been striving to make life simpler, richer and more livable. That’s the only reason human beings develop technology in the first place, why we can look back on so many achievements—and have to look back on several catastrophes as well. After all, the development of technology and thus configuring the future are always open as far as the outcome is concerned. Everything depends on what you do and how you do it. It all depends on you. It order to have a say in which direction you’re changing yourself and our world, you need openness and curiosity, knowledge and critical faculties, courage and optimism. Simply put: All of what makes you a human being.