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September 7, 2021, Brussels, Belgium

Angelo Vermeulen, Seeker
Angelo Vermeulen, Seeker

September 7, 2021, 7 pm

30-34 Quai des Charbonnages / Koolmijnenkaai, 1080 Brussels, Belgium

Panelists: Mark Coeckelbergh, Peter Friess (artist name PETERMFRIESS), Angelo Vermeulen

Moderator: Edith Doove

In 2021 LASER Talks Brussels organizes four talks. This is the 3rd talk in the series, discussing notions that are at the core of the work of the three panelists: Marc Coeckelberg, PETERMFRIESS and Angelo Vermeulen.

According to a recently updated manifesto from Humanity+, Transhumanism can be interpreted as an approach to extend human lifespan and to expand human capabilities and states. The Manifesto continues stating that Transhumanism is the world’s strongest advocacy for a positive future in changing the human condition of disease, poverty and prejudice toward health, well-being, and prosperity.

In contrast to advocacy for improving the human condition, today’s interest in Transhumanism is in the first place not driven by direct necessities, but rather by commercial interests around Big data, AI, neuroscience, and more generally by platform entrepreneurs. Improvement of living conditions, planetary challenges and salvation are promised for the future, based on a strong technology dependence and externalisation of senses and reasoning capabilities. Critics often see Transhumanism as posing threats to human values and dignity by evoking transgenerational modification of human biology, body/brain cloning and genetic engineering. And in our highly competitive social environment, which demands increasingly efficient behaviour, any kind of enhancement is prone to increase inequalities in terms of wealth and social status or treatment. It can also be questioned if Transhumanism is an objective in itself, and how it relates to the idea of supremacy of the Homo Sapiens compared with other live-forms.

On the positive side Transhumanism can be seen as interesting stimuli for reflecting on desirable futures in light of human activity on Earth, which is provoking serious issues for humanity itself, but as well for other species. And what if Transhumanism is not a mere extension of lifespan, but a re-consideration and re-evolution on what constitutes humanity, and even a ‘going-beyond’ the humanity idea? This could be seen as an invitation to reflect in transversal manner between science, art and other disciplines on new and experienceable scenarios, linked to non-human based creativity for the future of us.

The role of the arts could be to challenge human-centred only scenarios, to evoke though questions around Transhumanism, to explore alternative design methods and use scenarios for technologies using artistic practices, and to make future emotionally experiencable for a larger audience. Beyond existing settings and conventions, the collaboration between scientist, artists and even machines could help us to develop new ideas, representing another ‘perception’ of the world and future thinking.


Mark Coeckelbergh is Professor of Philosophy of Media and Technology at the Department of Philosophy of the University of Vienna and former President of the Society for Philosophy and Technology. He is the author of several books and has written many articles. He is best known for his work in philosophy of technology and ethics of robotics and artificial intelligence (AI), he has also published in the areas of moral philosophy and environmental philosophy.

Peter Friess (artist name PETERMFRIESS) has a background in self-organizing social systems (Ph.D.) and space technology. Besides his activities in ICT innovation, he is an interdisciplinary artist and researcher with a wide array of interests, in particular artificial intelligence, system theory, humanities, philosophy and ecology. His focus is on the connection of societal changes to emotional and aesthetic values, and the enablement of transdisciplinary processes. His work has been shown around the world at exhibitions and festivals.

Angelo Vermeulen is a space systems researcher, biologist and artist. In 2009 he co-founded SEADS (Space Ecologies Art and Designs), an international transdisciplinary collective of artists, scientists, engineers, and activists. Its goal is to reshape the future through critical inquiry and hands-on experimentation. Currently, he works at Delft University of Technology on advanced concepts for interstellar exploration. His work proposes a bio-inspired design approach to deal with the unpredictability inherent to interstellar travel.




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