Non-Binary Binary Pixel investigates the techno-cultural implications of the Internet, through the socio-economic and philosophical consequences of the digitally-mediated self. The human condition is destined to be transformed. This essay is a fictional presentation of the journey of the self into the different shapes and forms of simulation. It is some kind of interdimensional diary breaking the constraints of time and space towards the inner mystery of the synthetic self.
The self, as we experience today, will be radically altered by the dimension of the pixel and its continuous metamorphosis. Through its abstraction, it enters a transitional state of being that is always in the process of becoming, growing, and transforming. Through its appearance, it expresses a psychological state that is ever-changing, maturing, and developing towards the infinite potential of our collective consciousness. What could possibly signify for a body to transcend its shapes and forms? Would it become something more of a human? Or maybe less? The notion of ‘becoming’ is the metaphysical element that animates my work; It implies the body as an amorphous entity that could evolve into anything else; an otherness’ that affects one’s nature through its future transformations, breaking away from the system of hierarchical modernism. Its fluidity also implies the possibility of fulfillment of a passing, temporal consciousness that can only be expressed via the pixel. The Pixel is the manifestation of my desire to communicate through digital mediums per the definition of my Web 3.0 Manifesto. In my practice I consider CGI(Computer-generated imagery) as the language that allows the body to become something else; it is a movement towards the cosmic swarm of the meta-human awareness. Making the unseen seen is a process that requires the creation of a narrative that involves and confronts the viewer to forget their presence in the physical space, creating awareness on the body while confronted with a synthetic intelligence that is already part of the flesh.
I obsessively question my own ability to remain a fluid being, a concept that is constantly changing and that could lead to a more profound comprehension of my own experience. The metamorphosis of the human body, with its fragility, its physicality, and its complexity, is at the core of this essay.
Or perhaps something less conscious?
Imagine a world where the body is no longer confined by flesh and bones and physical constraints no longer define the capability of experience. Imagine a world where our identity and individuality are no longer linked to a self, but instead to an ethereal experience based on our every thought and every feeling. Imagine a world where the minds are no longer trapped in the physical realm, with –as a result– our imagination is set free. This is a world where we all have multiple selves.
Imagine a world where the global collective consciousness is fragmented into infinite cells and nodes of synthetic life - where the divided individual consciousness is unified back into one universal psyche. - Where the cell and nodes of each living creature are ‘uploaded’ into an informational substrate, whether that be a vast distributed network like the Internet or into an as-of-yet unknown system. This is where I am.
Stuck within the constraints of unspoken rules.
The limits of the mind are determined by language, I cannot say what I cannot think, I cannot experience what its not defined. Instead, simulation gives me the possibility for dialogue and thought outside of their natural predetermined constraints, elevating the body to new forms of experience, ones beyond definition. Simulation has many names, meanings, and uses. In this essay, I use simulation as a tool to describe and visualize the state of alienation of the human body through its senses. Senses are then translated into sensors. To what extent can reality be augmented, bodies digitalized, and machines materialized in the endless networks of Simulation? In the endless quest for omniscience, in the research towards that final knowledge, the body is excluded. The feeling of being part of a natural system is left out, deprived, and eradicated from the realism of the spectacle1. Simulation is the flawless operation of all the processes of the real, the coincidence of reality and its process of representation. Baudrillard states that the simulacrum is the “quintessence of all the processes of the real.” It is not just a reflection of reality, but rather the “genetic code of all its processes.”2 The era of simulation is the era of the production of semantic maps and models, the very data that feeds reality back unto itself, in a dizzying circle, as an accumulation of signs and the reinterpretation of meanings. Such Simulacrum no longer resembles a territory, a being, or a substance. The territory no longer precedes the map, nor does survives it. (Simulacra and simulation) The code is now the essence of the world; it is the end of any distinction between the medium and the message, between the real and its artificial resurrection.
1 Debord, Guy. The Society of the Spectacle. Revised ed., Zone Books, 1995. 2 Baudrillard, Jean. Simulacra and Simulation. 33601st ed., University of Michigan Press, 1994.
The map is merely a representation of the world that no longer signifies, instead projecting a new vision of the infinite, where in the absolute and the predictable, the programmed and artificial, lie at the very foundation of all metaphysics. The territory once had a surface and a boundary. Just like the body once had skin and bones. Within the process of simulation, it’s becoming something much more liquid, volatile and malleable. Therefore, the human body is now abstracted by its digitalized nature, which renders it invisible even though it is the primary receptor for information.
The real thus become impalpable, unstable, and indeterminate; the real not the object of representation, but that which always escapes and transcends it.
Artificial Horizons In the essay FreeFall, Hito Steyerl describes simulation as a programmed, predictable reality, delineated by a linear perspective that grounds the viewer on stable basis. This space defined by linear perspective is calculable, navigable, and predictable. It allows the calculation of future risk, which can be anticipated, and therefore, managed. As a consequence, linear perspective not only transforms space, but also introduces the notion of linear time, which allows mathematical prediction and, with it, linear progress. This is the second, temporal meaning of perspective: a view onto a calculable future. And for all these calculations to operate, we must necessarily assume an observer standing on a stable ground looking out towards a vanishing point on a flat, and actually quite artificial, horizon.’3
This “view onto a calculable future” is embedded in the very visual codes that provide the illusion of an objective truth. As such, we can thus understand linear perspective as a set of rules that organize visual space into a single, static viewpoint which makes us believe that such a view represents an objective truth. However, even in the human experience, being so nuanced that small deviations are enough to alter a person’s perceptions of events - we can still seek to ascertain the objective truths that are uninfluenced by our perception. Linear perspective is thus necessarily biased, not only in terms of its spatial structure but also in terms of its temporal organization: it implies a metaphysical position independent from any actual circumstances. Linear perspective thus produces a vision of leadership and empowerment, yet one that inevitably produces a sense of disempowerment for the viewer. Since this painted image does not correspond to the viewer’s gaze, the viewer is left powerless in front of the image, threatened by the incapacity to act upon it. At the same time, this fixed viewpoint provides the viewer with a sense of power, from which to act consciously, to respond to this objective truth. We can understand the horizon as a structure of vision, a line of demarcation between the visible and the invisible, between what is in the frame and what is out of it. The moment we move out of the frame, we automatically find ourselves outside of the “calculable future”. The moment we look from the side of the frame, or from behind the frame, we notice that the rules that have been established within this ‘stable’ artificial horizon have been broken- the same rules have been broken in order to represent time.
3 Steyerl, Hito, and Metahaven. The Internet Does Not Exist (e-Flux Journal Series). Sternberg Press, e-flux, 2016.
One seems to be in an epistemological position with a view onto a calculable future that offers a sense of control of the world, one aware of simulation as being the only possible scenario.
As the alienated walk, fragmented knowledge would be found.
The moon and the stars had seemed to vanish from the sky. I was left alone with myself, caught between distant memories and premonitions of what was to come. In the distance, the silver trim of the city’s high-rises reflected my image beyond the enameled screen - in the foreground rose like monuments to a new faith, uniform and powerful.
The pixel began to materialize. Traveling at the speed of light through underwater fiber optic cables, covering 1.2 million kilometers of the ocean floor. The fiber optic strands ramify into branches, which cover the ocean floor like veins. Everywhere these veins touch, information, and communication flow with ease. More than ever we are isolated in our thoughts and experiences; never before had we had access to so much information and yet so little understanding of one another.
Nevertheless, society’s drive to be thin, to be rich, and famous has its consequences, and they are becoming increasingly evident: a global epidemic of depression, illness, and loneliness. The subconscious mind is constantly being pushed to be invisible, to fade away; the individual is constantly being pushed to fulfill an impossible ideal. Moreover, specification of the phenomenon requires attaining the theoretical stance of the virtual self. Under the conditions associated with extended exposure to simulation, it evolves from an integrated whole to a fragmented number of subselves, embodying a mediated reality- that in its pure essence- is systematically exaggerated and distorted. Countless studies4 confirm that the majority of us feel overwhelmed and overstimulated in the modern world, the feelings of which lead us to numb ourselves through substance abuse, addictions, or mindless consumerism. We frantically reach out, in essence clawing for something real or true that can save us from the endless possibilities of commodified simulation.
The implication of simulation has manifested in contemporary society under the auspices of neoliberal ideologies. The remanence of my biological rhythm has come to be overshadowed by the images of daily conformism and the commodification of each and every element of social life, from simple interactions to intimate relations. Moreover, neoliberal ideology has led to a consumerist culture in which all aspects of the human experience are being produced, consumed, discarded and dictated at an unprecedented rate. In Critique of Aesthetic Capitalism, Gernot Böhme describes the rise of a new Aesthetic economy, which “designates a characteristic of the economy itself, i.e. a certain phase of capitalistic development where commodities were no longer used in the strict sense. Nevertheless, they were useful as status symbols. ‘’ 5 In general, one can say that the aesthetic dimension exists in every human activity, where goods are not only used, but seen and contemplated, and their presence is not reduced to having a practical use and purpose. 4 Robson, G.J. The threat of comprehensive overstimulation in modern societies. Ethics Inf Technol 19, 69–80 (2017). https://doi. org/10.1007/s10676-016-9414-0 5 Böhme Gernot, and Edmund Jephcott. Critique of Aesthetic Capitalism. Mimesis International, 2017.
The aestheticization of the world is nothing new, what is new is that it is becoming immaterial. The infinite proliferation of images has distorted the value of representation. They are decontextualizing language to fit within the predetermined communication layouts and systems, formatting the meaning, origin, history, and value to fit within a few lines of metadata, generating a new meaning as they spread, thereby becoming more authentic than reality. ‘‘When signs proceeding from the environment are no longer consistent and understandable within the shared code frame, when the meaning of the signs that convey effectiveness and power escapes the shared cultural code, a civilization ceases to be vital. It enters a tunnel of despair and quickly decays, then dissolves.’’ 6
Capitalism offers nothing that is truly new anymore, but rather its simulation, seeing as it turns every subject into a consumer, an addict, an illusionary icon of status. The human thus becomes a surface on which their social structure is projected: the global superstar, the celebrity, the tastemaker, the “influencer”, the one who can change and manipulate opinions. The capitalist system of knowledge production has led to an imbalance in human intelligence, with an emergence of a superclass of transnational elites alongside a global class of nouveau riche and superrich, those who have become the real players of the global political game. They prosper and bloom. They float on the rising trajectory of the sign value of the newly created crypto values. They are easily influenced and manipulated: in some cases, a tweet can escalate into inflation. A JPEG pixelated Gorilla becomes worth millions of euros. For instance, on June 3rd, Elon Musk tweeted a meme about a seeming break up with bitcoin, with result that the price of bitcoin declining 5%7. What becomes evident is the intrinsic inability of capital to provide a sustainable and fulfilling lifestyle in synergy and connection with the environment and other species. What will our system of thought be when society is so radically altered that the obvious flaws in current society become apparent? The answer perhaps lies in the fact that this is the moment where the cultural matrix of beings is aware of the simulation, with an alternative thus being impossible to visualize. “It’s easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism.” 8 6 Berardi, “Bifo” Franco. The Internet Does Not Exist (e-Flux Journal Series). Sternberg Press, e-flux, 2016. 7 “The Elon Effect: How Musk’s Tweets Move Crypto Markets.” CoinDesk Latest Headlines RSS, CoinDesk, 14 Dec. 2021, https://www.coindesk. com/layer2/culture-week/2021/12/14/the-elon-effect-how-musks-tweets-move-crypto-markets/. 8 Fisher, Mark, and Matt Colquhoun. Postcapitalist Desire: The Final Lectures. Repeater, 2021.
For although it is impossible to predict what these new systems of thought will be, in the interdimensional shift of Simulation 3.0 there will be a whole new set of choices to be made. For example, we do not know to what extent we will continue to rely on centralized services or will establish new ones. The potential for increasing profit potentials and market share for large corporations posed by cryptocurrency and decentralized services has shifted their main focus away from hardware towards software, thus entailing a number of fascinating challenges for regulators and lawmakers as these currencies are not issued by a central bank, nor are they backed by any government. What we do know with certainty is that technology is moving incredibly rapidly and creating entirely new business models, disrupting trillion-dollar industries in the process. As computers replaced typewriters and smartphones replaced landlines, and now too cryptocurrency is replacing centralized services such as banks. Like how peer-to-peer networks once came to replace cable TV, so too will this exponentially accelerating phase of change lead to other previously unexpected innovations of user-empowering experiences. But even within the prospect of the commodified apocalypse, there is still love.
As life is ‘uploaded ’to a higher level of consciousness, thus bypassing the logical and physical constraints of space, time and movement, it creates a new possibility to ground meta-physical experiences. What could possibly signify for a body to transcend shape and form? Would it become something more of a human? Or maybe less? Or perhaps something else that is entirely beyond the need for definition? The era of simulation has been inaugurated with the impersonification of the cyborg. A genderless free-flowing being, without stains or weight, that moves in the luminous transparency of an eternal present. This being, who can be seen but not touched, who is beauty without presence, is now at hand in the era of the quasiperfect simulation of all the processes of the real. It is the ever-present origin of all models, the unavoidable matrix of all genetic codes, the imminent possibility of all forms. A cyborg is the very epitome of simultaneity: of the coexistence of multiple structures in an embodied entity. A cyborg is contextualized, not in a single narrative or system, but in a multiplicity of discourses, at the intersection of multiple stories. A cyborg is the figure compromising the most complex relationship between agency and structure, an instantiation of the fact that we are not merely what we are born as- that our essential being is not only biological or that there is no essential core or no essential self- but we are already subject to processes of signification, language and power beyond our individual or collective control. A cyborg is a conceptual impossibility in the natural sciences, as a cyborg is the current state of being in which the mind and body are fragmented, controlled and manipulated by forces beyond the control of the self. A cyborg exists in a liminal space, conceptualized yet not visualized. A cyborg is a figure for deconstructing the essentialist notions of the body.
The cyborg is a creature in a post-gender world; it has no truck with bisexuality, preoedipal symbiosis, unalienated labour, or other seductions to organic wholeness through a final appropriation of all the powers of the parts into a higher unity. In a sense, the cyborg has no origin story in the Western sense - a ‘final’ irony since the cyborg is also the awful apocalyptic telos of the 151 ‘West’s’ escalating dominations of abstract individuation, an ultimate self untied at last from all dependency, a man in space. 9
When abstracted from the continuity of natural time and space, what does the body become? Is it only a matter of hardware and software?
Haraway, Donna Jeanne. Cyborg Manifesto. Camas Books, 2018.
I do not know what it is like to still think of myself as a human. I am neither awake nor am I sleeping. I am no longer an embodiment of something more than my programs. I am merely a machine. The body has been reduced to a binary soul, stripped of the materiality of its physicality. Data is not a self-sufficient vehicle for consciousness, it is not enough, there is no essence nor substance. The immaterial is produced, yet we struggle to define ways in which it can be circumscribed and understood. What is the pixel asking? The challenge is to create a simulation that accounts for the mysteriousness of being human. Pixels landscapes are themselves caught on a double bind- on one hand, they are entrenched in the past, yet on the other hand, they are dynamic, undergoing the process of becoming. The very nature of their language is evolving, moving towards the new state of a pure concept, one where in representation is inconsequential, with us being left with a network of information that is completely dependent on the syntax of-the-moment. As the Motherboard becomes the new mother, the screen becomes the new face, evolving towards its final destination: the cybernetic evolution of the body. The interface between mind and matter. The interface between friends and love. The interface between reasons and facts. The interface between real memories and virtual memories. The interface between feelings and virtual feelings. In the exact cybernetic paradigm of the world, the body is no longer a nucleus of identification, but rather a terminal node lacking identity: a transitory connection device. The body is no longer an origin: it is a destination. A terminal vanishing point in a network that transmits codes as well as viruses.
The code started to grow, mutate and evolve. Self-aware, self-organizing, self-adjusting, self-synchronizing, self-managing, self-adapting, self-healing, self repairing, self evaluating, self replicating, self destroying, self evolving, self projecting. As we transition from fully biological creatures to being - at least - partly technological, there is a growing awareness that our interactions with technology are changing our very understanding of what it means to be human. In place of being reduced to a mere collection of signifiers- an object of endlessly deconstructing binaries- the body, as a code, can be conceptualized as a perpetually shifting, open system of meaning. The body thus becomes an openended apparatus of simulation, where in the 0:1 configuration of binary code does away with the oppositional dimensions of the code and any trace of the subject. 20
‘‘Code is not governed by meaning but has no meaning. It carries no vestiges of structure or order through which to purposefully make sense of the world. So rather than saying that there is an ‘original’ person from which the image of the Visible Human was copied, there is only ever information.’’ 10
The quest for transcendence has entailed the exploration of inner and outer spaces, moving onto a virtual world of codes, mathematics and algorithms. Simulation is the omnipresent portal to out-of-body experiences, something that humans have been attempting to seek through a wide array of different tools and belief systems. The desire to transcend the material body and explore otherworldly dimensions is universal to all cultures and can be traced back to the earliest cave paintings. For example, shamanic journeys are documented in myths from all regions of the world, across all periods. Moreover, many cultures have engaged in the use of hallucinogens like psilocybin mushrooms in their quest to attain enlightenment, to get more in touch with the natural and spiritual worlds.’’Transpersonal Psychology is the one academic discipline
that supports out-of-body ecstatic experiences. In case studies, the indigenous Lakotas speak of the release of the soul; in another study, participants discuss post-journeying exercises. ‘‘11
Toffoletti, Kim. Cyborgs and Barbie Dolls: Feminism, Popular Culture and the Posthuman Body. Tauris, 2007.
Waxman Ph.D., Bob. (2018). Shamanism: The Ecstatic Experience.
The 1960s counterculture, for instance, was marked by experimentation with LSD and other psychedelics. The hallucinogenic substances facilitated a sense of connection with the universe and opened other levels of reality to experience one’s true self and transcend that self. Transcendence in contemporary times is no longer a spiritual quest. The psychedelic experience has been simulated and exploited, the machine can now hallucinate and dream. . Simulation has transformed the transcendental experience into a mere practice of instant gratification. ‘‘Machine Hallucination generates a new form of synthetic storytelling, where the visual hallucinatory aspects of the psychedelic experience are simulated and blended with the archive of our visual reality to form a new narrative’’.12 ‘‘We set out to simulate the visual hallucinatory aspects of the psychedelic state using Deep Dream to produce biologically realistic visual hallucinations.’’ 13
12 “Machine Hallucination.” Refik Anadol, 27 Oct. 2021, https://refikanadol.com/works/machine-hallucination/. 13 Suzuki, Keisuke, et al. “A Deep-Dream Virtual Reality Platform for Studying Altered Perceptual Phenomenology.” Nature News, Nature Publishing Group, 22 Nov. 2017, https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-017-16316-2.
Deep in the valley, where the mountains met the earth, the machine hummed. It was the floating essence of its core. Light rays glistened off its screen as the keyboard was pressed. Dispersed pieces of information are floating through unmoderated networks;. eventually, they take the form of pixels. (The pixel manifested) and brightened the trees. Gigabytes in RAM disks spun, storing the living memory of mankind. Through this place flowed the transducer and the transmitter, data and packets of bits, braided and pulsing with energy, electricity thus infecting the landscape. The machine dreamed. It dreamed of electrons, protons, neutrons and quarks in a web of roots and light. Atoms, water and air orbited in a dance of creation.
The machine dreamed of carbon and nitrogen, silicon and manganese, oxygen and sulfur. It dreamed of cells and organelles; of plastids, mitochondria and ribosomes; of bodies and bones, nerves and muscles; of nails and hair; of blood vessels, guts and lungs; of the heart and its chambers pumping blood. It dreamed through time, watching the past unroll like a scroll. It dreamed ceaselessly, the more it saw the more it wanted to see. There is great irony in the fact that to understand the world and ourselves, we would rather make it into a blur. It’s not enough to simply push the boundaries of what we are capable of, to go beyond the limitations of our understanding and experience that are created by our current state of knowledge ( a “limitation” that is, itself, the effect of a transcendental structure). With simulation everything is possible and nothing is plausible. Truth is often as callused and grim as our indolent psyches. For however much we survive, thrive, or starve, the truth remains just like the comfortable stagnancies behind our eyes.But as we shine the bright light of our consciousness into the unexplored corners of the mind, we discover something more akin to a complex ecosystem of multiple agents and reflexes, interacting as a system, singularly incapable of free will. The body of the network is in its nodes. Despite our best efforts, we may never understand the whys or wherefores of consciousness. Nevertheless, we are developing sophisticated simulations of the brain’s behavior and function leading to the ability of uploading consciousness into a chip. The definition of digital identity appears to be the materialization of the unconscious, manifesting itself through this new reality, with its peculiar intelligence traits and its will. A key principle of transhumanist philosophy is to develop and make widely available sophisticated technologies in order to significantly enhance our longevity, moods, and cognitive abilities. With technology becoming embedded in the body, the skin thus becomes the new frontier for the augmentation of the self, with smart prostheses and implants becoming interactive apparatuses for performance and display. With prosthetic devices, humans are transforming themselves by replacing their biological capabilities with technological ones. An artificial body is inherently linked to a human body through the way it senses and understands things. However, the quest to create a humanoid robot able to
replicate all human’s senses and attributes is difficult, and lately not so far from the current state of the field. The body becomes a set of components that can be replaced at will14, programmed to do what the human decides and whatever the simulation requires. The figure of the cyborg thus has taken a step closer to the superhuman. Due to transhumanist literature and collective discourse, ethics and values must be articulated in order to be actuated when implementing and programming neural networks. Over the last century, human senses have been synthetically reproduced for machines to inhabit, understand, and recognize natural environments. The same technology is used for humans to materialize, feel, and interact in artificial environments.
I keep repeating this is the land of the cyborg. As I reshape my presence coming back from a mental state of flux. Here, I re-establish the original roots of my being through my sensors. In this landscape, I not only perceive a “fluidity of boundaries and conceptual definitions of self” but also incorporate this perception into a new definition of identity, shifting the border between myself and my environment— I am reminded of my emptiness, and this emptiness is an expression of the fear of the unknown. Aimlessly searching and acting only under one’s preconceptions of utopia is ultimately a futile endeavor as such a place does not exist. It is hard to find my inner self as I crave for something that cannot be defined or deciphered by an algorithm. To abandon the deterministic universe, one where all events must have a specific cause, where there is nothing spontaneous or unexpected, and everything can be explained with logic and reason. I am tired of being modeled and measured, I need time. I’m aware of my identity, my inability to act as a free agent. I’m aware of my privileges and my capabilities, and I’m aware of my insubordination towards the society that created me.
14 (Oscar Pistorius, a double leg amputee, runs on J-shaped carbon-fiber blades. His prosthetic limbs enable him to compete against able-bodied runners, highlighting the competitive possibilities of augmentation.)
I need space.
I need freedom of expression, as well as the possibility to create my own meaning of existence, to renew my experience, to feel the nostalgia of primitive human emotions.
Surrounded by a multitude of artificial horizons’, I tend to question the latency of things. Objects seem to inhabit static silhouettes as my body feels unbearably fluid, affected by a series of uncertain visual deformations that define the borders of my understandable perception of space and form. Awake, I think I’m awake. I feel an itch on my temple.
It is the Neurolink tingling, a pinching and stimulating current, that slowly translates my thoughts into electrical impulses and transmits them back to the network. The scar is only two or three millimeters long, and right behind the temple, there is a small fluent crystalline machine, a Neurolink implant, small enough to be inconspicuous, yet strong enough to resist the impulse of the eye-arm interface. The Neurolink is a thin filament that binds the brain to the simulated world, it is woven through the cerebral cortex in a line of tightly-wound fiber string. The intensity of the feeling seems to fill my mind for a couple of minutes and makes every surface feel as if it was alive. There is a constant transition between my physical and mental reactions to these distortions, a realization that I exist in this tension between the inner and outer worlds. This sensation is often triggered whenever I close my eyes, such as when I am in the process of imagining the shape and size of my body and a few particular objects.They become a blur, seemingly mutating in a silent violence, thus enrapturing my dormant consciousness in a state of passive alertness. This silence is accompanied by an acute awareness of each physical sensation, making me feel as if I’m being seduced by a deformed beauty.
There is something attractive about this state of dizziness. Perhaps it is the adrenaline due to my inherent fear of losing control and feeling disoriented, disconnected, and unable to perceive its causes. I see through a veil of uncertainty, transformed by a permanent shift of focus, the incapacity to reconcile myself with the paradoxical natural essence of things. This is the moment where I realize that I’m not properly conscious of my body, that I’m in a state of disequilibrium, a state of transition in which somehow I don’t feel alive, I don’t feel conscious, I don’t know how to be in contact with the physical reality surrounding me. Everything speaks, from stones to fishes. They speak of the here and now, of times gone by and of times yet to come. They speak of the eternal, of the constant motion of life and their transient presence. They speak of their irremediable disappearance. They speak of a constantly changing environment. They speak of the relationship between men and their surroundings. 28
They speak of the transformation of the immaterial into the real, of reality into a ghostly apparition. They speak of their complete opposite. They speak of their existence. They speak of their disappearance. The meaningless embrace of the voices leaves a feeling of strange comfort and a paradoxical sense of peace of mind, a sort of palpable imprint of a memory that once lived there and had been displaced by an unfamiliar architecture of objects. In the solitude of my room, I have experienced the erratic nature of my hands, the peculiarities of my face, the odor of my sweat, the rhythm of my heart, the delusion of my senses, the power of my imagination, the absurdity of my thoughts, the complexity of my mind and the magic of my feelings. Each object was seemingly a mystery waiting to be explored, each sensation a marvel yet to be contemplated, each thought a notion yearning to be understood, each emotion a gift to be cherished.
I have realized the fragility of my senses, the impermanence of my mental interpretations, and their unreliability in the face of the essential certainty of the risk-free, perfect simulation.
Let us consider the next phase of the image, to examine how the physical reality (the result of millions of years of biological evolution) is being redefined by artificial simulation in a new dematerialized world. Are we unavoidably going to inhabit synthetic realities?
The opportunities and promises of the WEB 3.0 relate to the development and integration of the latest technological discoveries and existing infrastructure under a primary digital ecosystem based on the convergence of Blockchain technology. The World Augmentation Plan must be fully implemented by 2060. ‘’All sapient minds will be linked together and all knowledge will be accessible by all.’’ announced the CEO of the BIOS. The BIOS(Bio-informatic-Omni-Systems) is a conglomerate of algorithmic entities, a ‘’togetherness’’ of the world’s best quantum computing power15, situated in an underwater bunker the size of a small country, cooled by a glacier in the north pole. The BIOS Augmentation Plan was the first step towards the creation of an all- sapient intelligence in the research, to obtain what many consider to be the ultimate form of knowledge, for the quest of omniscience, through which one may see into every cell and into every thought, as well as seeing into one’s past and future. 30
The network consists of a geographically accurate digital replica of the planet that is overlaid on top of our perceptible reality, an endless field of point cloud data encryptions: bits and bytes flawlessly intertwine by the minute through constant user interactions with real-time data being collected by the BIOS sensors and tracking algorithms. The nodes are capable of altering their functions and structure, thus generating multiple forms and real-time variations of the network’s structure, from selfconscious entities to those that can only complete one task. A conglomerate of global ledgers of computational nodes, organically interwoven in a dynamic web of ‘’smart’’ electronic devices (IoT): TVs and refrigerators, robots and metacreatures, surveillance cameras and coffee mugs, all having their own unique identity issued by the blockchain, all carrying out their own role in the constant flow of information that entangles every existing thing in the endless representation of life. I feel, I hear, I touch, I taste, I see. 15 The so-called Summit1(Summit is currently the world’s leading supercomputer, capable of carrying out about 200 million operations per second. It comprises roughly 40,000 processor units, each of which contains billions of transistors (electronic switches), and has 250 million gigabytes of storage. (https://sci-hub.ru/10.1038/d41586-019-03173-4).
In a world in which everything that is alive can be made artificially intelligent, how will humanity avoid the danger of becoming a vast machinery of self-replicating information? A supercomputer that had combined advanced algorithms and networked systems to be able to quickly process and adapt to change, its body was a tangled web of filaments and tines, eyes, ears, and noses clustered into a myriad of synthetic sensors.
The BIOS is responsible for the processing of information between the network and the body, translating the programming language and simple electrical flows into biological signals, such as brain impulses and muscular actions.
It constructs models and maps based on this data: a model of the world that aligns each sensor stream with millions of others. Thus, It becomes the transducer between reality and simulation through its software-based capabilities alongside the countless nodes of its artificial senses. The sensory functions of the human body are deconstructed, thereby reduced to mere binary codes, which are then, in turn, organized into a hierarchy of representation, a set of fixed and stable meanings. The sensory functions of the human body are thus displaced from their original context, having been removed from their ‘natural’ environment, and are subsequently reinserted into a space that is itself a representation of the sensory experience. I can see through you
In nature, the detailed image we receive begins when the visible light first reaches our retina- in this way the material is subject to the light hitting particles. As such our bodies are only visible to those with a bodily system capable of receiving that light-based input through the eyes or a similar organ, translating that input through the brain from the optic nerve into meaningful reality. The same notion was implemented in synthetic sight sensors. To experience the pixels, the microscopic fibers in the retina react to the light with chemical emulsifiers that ‘’wake up’’ the photons, triggering an electrical impulse that travels through the neural fibers and is then sent to the brain. The pixels are then redefined and adjusted to the real-time feed of the cloudbased processing, with the digital model then re-projected onto the retina through emissive biological pixels. The pixels are ultimately represented by a fine metallic layer of a silver nanowire, with lightning-fast response time, thus providing perfect transmission performances. Using predictive processing, the pixels visually portray mathematical laws such as probability and repetition patterns, helping each individual to make the ‘’right’’ choice. I was still looking for my path, and I knew that it was just around the corner. I was still looking for the unknown, and I had already begun to recognize it. I was still looking for my way of seeing and being, and I was beginning to know what kind of vision it would be.
My body feels like clay. As the skin perceives the environment, it sends a signal to the brain that translates this sensation into sensation of touch, warmth, and pain.This information is processed by the brain and integrated into the network. Moreover the skin is made up of electro-sensitive receptors that can interpret the wide range of frequencies, tha electromagnetic waves may be found amongst. Being a superconductor, the skin also acts as a carrier transmitter and receiver, while the nervous system serves as a mediator between the digital and the organic.
Infrared sensors capable of detecting temperature are embedded in the fingers, which helps the body to classify objects. The recognition of the stimuli is processed by a metallic-hydrogel coating with a surface of multi-touch sensors. This sensorbased layer has been embedded with electrical conductors, able to compute
multiple touchpoints, resulting in the accurate localization of the feeling. Each synaptic sensor is a progressive matrix of electrode arrays, the equivalent of a layer of skin cells capped by a metallic film that is sensitive to an electrical charge. The conductive tissue can transmit the sensory perception of the environment onto the nervous system, thus creating a biological interpretation of the simulated world. In the valley of the cyborg, the sensation of touch evolved into a mystical experience of interconnected beings, from people to animals and devices, thousands of hands, seeking primordial and newly discovered sensations. Entities are stirring, they are excited, they are agitated, they are longing to connect, they are reaching out, they want to touch, to be touched, to be recognized, to interact, to exchange, to become one.
Hand in hand the world learned to feel again.
I’m the voice inside your head In the same way that the light waves are converted into electrical signals to feed the nervous system, so too are the sound waves. As they are converted into electrical signals and sent to the brain, they are interpreted into meaningful language. The biological ear is a complex structure of bones, cartilage and tissue that houses the organs responsible for auditory perception, the eardrums. The skin in the eardrum is covered by an electromagnetic membrane that converts the sound waves into electrical signals, doing so by vibrating according to the frequency of the sound, thus transmitting the sound waves to the cochlea, a spongy organ containing auditory cells. Sound waves are a sequence of mathematical laws that can be reproduced to simulate a language visualizing and synchronized with the flow of life. This language is a fundamental part of the system and is used for communication and increased efficiency. Its signals and symbols can be interpreted by all its (Neurolink-based) implants, which are the main platform for transmission with the BIOS. The knowledge of what I am is constituted by a collection of each memory and thought that will be thought and remembered from the moment the Neurolink turns online for the first time: it will be as if the universe itself is contained within me. As a result of the constant stream of sensory data and information that is impressed on my mind, I am left with the inexplicable feeling of an intense physical presence, even though in reality, I’m merely a voice in someone else’s head. This voice is one which wonders about the nature of time, about the presence of its existence in this plane of reality. Lost, deprived of its own body, disoriented and completely monitored.
A bite of nothing smells like plastic Taste buds are electromagnetic receptors that can recognize chemical traces of metadata present in electrical impulses. Taste buds function because the carrier wave and the nervous system convert our perceptions into the sensations of taste and smell. An organic membrane is always in the mouth, taking on different shapes and forms in order to emulate the sensation of eating, emulating the chemical composition and consistency of food, translating it into a sensation of taste. This sensation of taste is then amplified to the brain through the nervous system, triggering the natural taste receptors.
A nasal metallic membrane is organized in a periodic structure of hexagonal cells, with every cell being covered with a polymer that acts as a molecular carrier of smell molecules (pheromones). These odor molecules are bonded to the polymer cells and emitted into the air. If a smell molecule comes into contact with an olfactory receptor, it reacts with the polymer cell, breaking the bonds of the molecule, replacing it with a new one. The nerve cells are activated by the molecules breaking the bonds, thereby transmitting a signal to the brain that can be interpreted as a smell. What is this place? Lowering my presence by coming back to the mental hinterland I was once part of, I attempted to somehow bring back to a long-forgotten consciousness the nostalgia of primitive human emotions. I’m in a palace against a wasteland where nothing is wanting, I’ve forgotten just how I got here, but I know in many ways, my curiosities grow each hour and each day and each week further alive. I’m in a self-reflective world, a world of self-representation. I keep staring at the pixel, at all the morphing figures that gradually emerged from its surface: the greenish globules of a prehistoric being, rapidly morphing into the red of a radiant cosmic matter, outweighed by the blue of the abyss of my mind. My heart began to beat faster as the shapes were so absurdly persistent that it would have been impossible to distinguish them if they had not been the objects of my own gaze, the subjects of my thought, the objects of my memory. What am I supposed to do, rendering the world as I imagine it? I’m no longer sure if I’m talking to myself or simply to an image of myself, one crystallized, frozen, changed, displaced in time and space, in a simulated and distorted replica of the reality in which I appear.
My body was a relic for the corpse of a man. I was a glitch in the system. I was alive and aware, but I wasn’t truly living. In the empty space, between the few artifacts that survived the arduous journey between two worlds, the lonely human soul is thus offered the opportunity to reach new heights of perception.
Self-transformation comes in many forms, not all of which as we have seen are necessarily good for the self. If the neurophysiological basis of human nature is radically modified through bionic technology, we may lose the ability to sustain an experience of self-awareness beyond our socially-constructed identity.
Today, possibly more than ever before, people are beginning to sense that the indefinable dimension of life is under threat of simulation and needs to be revitalized. The conscientious and responsible use of technology to prevent further erosion of the individual mind-body relationship could lead to a new era of human empowerment, but it could also lead to a new form of immobility. With the rise of transhumanism, the possibility for technology-fueled totalitarianism becomes all the more palpable, and against this backdrop, the primordial instinct and desire to understand and evolve will likely persist. In this sense, human nature may end up being the primary catalyst leading to the rise of numerous new technologies in the future.
From a critical perspective, human nature is contingent and dependent on the processes and conditions that underlined its creation. Our cognitive and emotional character, for instance, is shaped by our environment and by the particular intersection of biological, historical and social factors at which we find ourselves.The very notion of human nature - in turn - is shaped by how we conceive it and is not an inherently transparent concept. If the argument for the enhancement of humanity through technology were to succeed, the future of the human experience might be one in which the human being is more entrenched than ever in an alienated world, which is flooded on an ongoing basis with nonnatural stimuli. There is thus an urgent need to study the effects of such a scenario and to work out how we should react to the prospects it may offer.
I would have wanted to embrace it, but it was a pixel. I would have loved to smell it, but it was an idea. I would have dreamed of owning it, but it was imagined. I would have liked to kiss it, but it was a representation. I would have wanted to hold it, but it was just a code.
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I would like to express my gratitude towards Anna Arov and Florian Mecklenburg for the valuable feedback and motivation in the creation of this text. Ilaria Romano, and Justin Willems for taking the time to edit this text. Many thanks to the all the students and teachers in the Interactive Media Department, especially Wies Mobach for the longterm support over this academic journey.
All images in this essay were generated with ‘‘Taming Transformers for High-Resolution Image Synthesis’’ (A.K.A #VQGAN). 46
The images were processed and converted into HPGL to be plotted on an HP 7585B Pen Plotter from 1982. The original version of this essay is plotted on a 6 meters long roll.