What is a machine? What is life? These questions, and the categories that they reference, are oppositional. The perceived distinction of what we have historically called “the mechanical” and “the biological” is increasingly fuzzy.

Inventing and evolving life in virtual worlds, brain implants that represent and then verbalize human cognition, programmable synthetic life forms, and xenobots (“strange robots” composed of frog cells) are emerging phenomena that suggest we are on the cusp of a radical redefinition of biological embodiment. Future Humans aims to help conjure and comprehend this moment. If fully realized, such phenomena will dismantle “the human” as the dominant exemplar of consciousness, embodiment, intelligence, and agency — and even demand a new philosophy of life itself.

Embodiment event
Embodiment event

Embodiment explores how these concepts are transforming in the age of distributed ecologies of intelligence agents: that is, entities that are increasingly blurring boundaries of biologies and machines. We approach such agents and consider what life will become at the intersection of scientific research, philosophical inquiry, and creative perspectives.

Embodiment event

Through computer simulation, billions of years of evolution can occur before our eyes, allowing us to explore alternative histories of life.

Sam Kriegman, Assistant Professor of computer science, chemical and biological engineering, and mechanical engineering at Northwestern University

Across 2023 and 2024 Future Humans hosted a series of convenings in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Los Angeles, California. Esteemed scientists, philosophers, artists, and technologists joined the inaugural meeting in Cambridge, which included a salon at American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a tour of Ginkgo Bioworks Laboratory, and a Transhumanist Cephalopod Evolution Workshop. The concluding session combined lively discussion and debate across a series of panels and a day-long writing workshop hosted at the Bradbury building, as well as a visit to the Shimojo Psychophysics Laboratory at CalTech. A series of original writings, lecture films, and behind-the-scenes footage of tours at these groundbreaking labs is forthcoming in Fall 2024.