Post-humanism sounded scary to me at first. The idea that humans will turn into cyborgs: half machine-half animal; the idea that humans will merge with technology to the point of becoming unrecognizable – something other than the soft, fuzzy artist/poet/lovers that we once were.
But there’s a nicer version of post-humanism.
Medical and information technology are enhancing our bodies and our minds in many ways. A hip replacement; a vaccine against polio; the prompt answer to a factual question by Siri or Google using a hand-held device; the ability to project your expressive body language to a loved one on the other side of the planet. These are enhancements to human potential.
The conversation on post-humanism, in my opinion, should not be centered on “if”, but “how”. Technology is a fact of our species. Fish swim. Birds fly, and humans make technology. And if that technology makes us smarter and more creative, then in a sense one might say that it makes us more human.
Augmented reality is defined as the overlay of visual (or audible) information over a view of the real, physical world. While virtual reality replaces the real world with a simulated one, augmented reality modifies, or enhances one’s perception of the real world.
Augmented reality is on the rise in gaming and education research. It’s quite exciting, and I think it’s inevitable that it will become a normal part of our future.
As educators, artists, and engineers, it is our job to make sure that augmented reality makes us more human, not more machine. It’s a theme that comes up for me all the time, and it is also very relevant as so many people find themselves sucked into computer-mediated social networks or virtual reality games that are hyperreal and addictive.
Fantasy and escape are still valid, important parts of our human nature. But perhaps it’s time to look at how gaming and computer simulation can bring us back into closer connection with each other and with the natural world.
This is one of the goals of Wiggle Planet, which features free-range animated characters that are being designed to bound from augmented books and games into the world – and back again. This cross-reality nature is enabled by dynamic data in the cloud (currently in development) that makes them exist both in our imaginations as well as in real-world locations where they can be found, like a rare mushroom or hummingbird.
Our Kickstarter Campaign gave us an initial boost for the creation of a book that will bring these characters (wiglets) to life in the context of a nonverbal story about nature, finding your place in it, and how we (post-humans) can be a part of a more connected world – in harmony with nature.
We are a visual species. Any technology that enhances our visual experience of the world and allows us to “see” a deeper reality, is a great advancement, as I see it. For this reason, I believe that augmented reality can be a wonderful addition to our post-human future.