Prostheses for Instincts - Susanna Hertrich
In Prostheses for Instincts, Hertrich has created a set of extra-sensory technologies to help us do things that animals can do—or things maybe humans have done in the past, but have now lost the ability to do.
In Prostheses for Instincts, Hertrich has created a set of extra-sensory technologies to help us do things that animals can do—or things maybe humans have done in the past, but have now lost the ability to do. The project comprises a collection of wearable devices that react to the environment around them and act as prostheses for instincts such as fear.
These devices take the idea of augmentation and enhancement and ask, “What can we do?” Some of the pieces Hertrich created sit on the back of the neck and, in risky situations, make the hairs on the back of the neck stand up. Others wrap around the chest and interact with the skin, causing physical fight-or-flight reactions. They are able to read the environment and expand it to help us react to dangers we have lost the ability to sense, in many ways because of other technological extensions of our senses. We don’t notice the open manhole in front of us because we are looking at our mobile device.
“Based on existing technologies and speculative scenarios, this project postulates the idea of the prosthetic device. An electronic extension of the human body induces haptic stimulation similar to natural instincts which enable people to »feel« abstract data. This work builds upon a common theme in transhumanism that is the augmentation of our natural sensory experiences and thus widening the spectrum of things that we can perceive.”
Extensions of the Self
The idea of augmenting our human senses is almost stereotypical now—as common a futures trope as jet-packs. But what is interesting about Hertrich’s project is that it discusses the loss that comes with enhancement. It addresses the McLuhan [link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marshall_McLuhan] idea that augmentations or prostheses also are amputations in a way. In expanding or augmenting ourselves and our senses, what are we gaining and what are we losing in the exchange? In the terms of futurist Sohail Inayatullah, what senses or experiences are we disowning as we augment ourselves.
Hertrich worked with the University of Tokyo’s Meta Perception Research Group and the Design Research Lab at the Berlin University of The Arts [http://www.design-research-lab.org/] to explore the aesthetics, functionality, and ethical aspects of the devices. Robotics and perception technology was used to develop the prototypes and meta-perception research was a key component of the input.
While these ideas are quite common futures fodder, by actually building the prototypes, Hentrich has provided an important step forward in this discussion. Moving from abstract concept to actual wearable is a leap that allows us to engage with the future in a different way, in a deeper way. Seeing the prostheses on the body and letting people explore the idea physically closes the distance between us and the possible future.
- Prostheses for Instincts Project Site- http://www.susannahertrich.com/prosthesesinstincts.php
- Devices That Alter Me (2010), Book by Susanna Hertrich - http://www.amazon.com/Devices-that-Alter-Perception-2010/dp/1463664249/