Earlier this year I went to an event in Austin, Texas, billed as a sneak preview of the evolution of our species. The #Bdyhax Conference, which took place in a downtown exhibition complex, promised a front-row insight into the coming “singularity” – that nirvana foretold by science fiction in which biology and technology would fuse and revolutionise human capability and experience.
The headline acts of the conference were mostly body hackers – DIY experimenters who, in their basements and garages, seek to enhance their own flesh and blood with biometric implants and cognitive enablers. These brave pioneers were extending their senses, overcoming the physical limitation, Dan-Daring themselves and the rest of us into the future.
At least that was the idea. The reality of the convention was a little more mundane. It was overpriced and sparsely attended. Disparate and awkward groups of the pierced and the tattooed wandered between lectures about the ethics of body augmentation, and budget demonstrations of virtual worlds, past stalls flogging various kinds of neurotropic snake oil or enthusing over the transforming possibilities of magnets and LED lights inserted under the skin.