Robot vs body: a blurred line between technology and philosophy

By Carlo D’alesio
Artwork Diego Soprana

Week 50

My idea was to start this article with a dictionary definition of the word Robot… well, the Robot concept applied to an idea of a living organism, a body of some sort.
The thing is, after a brief search, none of the definitions I found seemed to capture the concept.
There’s an entire literary and artistic world that speaks of this very topic, the output is immense; hence the risk of being boring and repetitive in this feature.
My vision of ‘Robot/Body’ is a hazy expanse, with no specific colour, a blurred line between technology and philosophy. It is obscured mostly because of the fast-paced world we’re living in, associated with the fact that, as a simple enthusiast, my vision is wide but shallow.
Artificial intelligence, augmented prosthetics, partially manned devices, social identification, transhumanism theories, and free will: where to begin? How can one manage this complexity? In this field, we should also challenge the concept of complexity itself.
Sorite said in one of his ravings (read paradox): “One million sand grains is a sand heap. A heap of sand, minus one grain, is still a heap. The problem is the story ends with one grain still being a heap. So what exactly makes up a heap?”
Robots and their interactions with the body are pushing the boundaries of logic itself. You can read it here in this 2007 Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy entry “Paradoxes and Contemporary Logic” that “one might think that the development of logic and set theory in the 20th century has exorcized paradoxes […] This is not so: paradoxes have been discovered in several recent logical systems, especially systems related to computer science.”
Fascinating, but we’re going too far. Becoming closer to reality should be the next step.
But unfortunately, “reality” now means you can practice your own Neural Interface Surgery on a cockroach.


The open-platform of this experiment is called Roboroach and allows you to buy a kit for only $99,99 to convert a living organism into a robot.

The project itself is sporting controversy, but at least it aims to expand basic knowledge of neurotechnologies to a vast public. The most interesting fact is that 20 minutes after “disconnecting” the roach, it forgets everything and returns to its normal life, just as if nothing happened.
I’d like to interview a few Transhumanists, but unfortunately I don’t know any. Is a modified cockroach a Postroach? What would be the only “thing” that we retain in order to finally be Posthumans? Will our conscience become a commodity? Maybe, instead of reading this article, you should take a look at Francis Fukuyama’s “Our Posthuman Future: Consequences of the Biotechnology Revolution” which, for your information, came out in 2002!
Exponential Technologies in recent years have radically changed the rules of the game, and I mean primarily for us humans. Ranging from the 3RDI Project by Iraqi-American artist Wafaa Bilal, and the well-known works of Steve Mann, who has been messing about with cyborgs since the 80’s, to Biohackers implanting stuff under their skin, and magnetic fingers; today the planet is a petri dish for the rise of unprecedented ‘Robot/Body’ paradigms.
Last but not least, this is for those who have read everything so far, but were disappointed with the ambiguous philosophizing.

Go and satisfy your Terminator 1 wet dreams. After the Cheetah and BigDog Robots, one would have had to expect it. A few months ago, Boston Dynamics announced Atlas: The Agile Anthropomorphic Robot, intended for combat applications of course. Atlas is named after the mythical being who carried the whole world on his back; who will bring him down? And in case you’re wondering: no, he’s not here for Sarah Connor.

I hope this has helped you better understand the complexity of the ‘Robot/Body’ paradigm, or at least that the resources cited will help you commence your own investigation.

D’Alesio&Santoro is a lighting design firm based in Milano, Italy.
Business apart, they’re down with Geopolitics, Technologies and Evolution at large.