Eva Wolfangel

I am thrilled that I will be giving a talk at this year's re:publica in Berlin! At the best of all conferences - a visit to Berlin on May 8 is definitely worth it. Title is:  The augmented human - A future where we share bodies and senses with machines?

In future we will not only collaborate with robots, but also share our bodies. "Augmented Human" is the keyword: the enhanced human being will be able to transfer his consciousness into robots or even let machines use his own body. The self will become relative: thanks to our technical enhancement we will be able to share our senses with others as well as transfer them to others and ultimately use other people's bodies as well. How will this future be? What will be good and what can go wrong?

In the future the question will not be: Man or machine. The motto will be: "together we are strong". The vision of human-robot collaboration has long since become obsolete: current developments in researchers' laboratories go far beyond that: the term "augmented human", which was presumably coined by Japanese researchers, unites all kinds of human enhancements. I met many of these pioneers in Japan and Germany in 2018 for a major research project and tried out what this future feels like. I enjoyed additional arms, I shared my senses with others to a point where the "me" was blurred and it was no longer fully clear who was who at all. And I let myself be remote controlled by other people who used my body as a tool as well as by a machine. And it sometimes felt like I was doing it all myself, even though I knew it wasn't like that.
All this sounds a bit like science fiction - but it's not. I played through exciting scenarios with the researchers and experienced how flexible we are when it comes to expansion: how quickly we get used to additional body parts and can use them intuitively, how well we integrate other people's senses into our own sensory cosmos and how flexibly we change perspectives.
This future enables us to reach places our biological body would never reach or to provide our body for an expert or physician when his or her help is needed exactly where our body happens to be. Of course, this future also raises questions such as: what does it do to our ego when the boundaries between us, our fellow human beings and robots become blurred? And what can go wrong? What about possible manipulations? And last but not least: Do we want to be remote controlled, even if it's for the good cause? How good does this cause have to be?