Superhuman, a new exhibition at the Wellcome Collection in London, catalogues the history of synthetic human empowerment. From ivory dildos to telekinetic microchips, the show seems to jostle between historic sex show and cybernetic world’s fair. One piece in particular, the embedded chip of Kevin Warwick, challenges us to think of a future beyond language, while also conjuring an image of cyborg love that makes your heart swell.
In 1998, a British professor of cybernetics, Kevin Warwick, had a microchip embedded in his forearm. It’s a little grey lozenge less than an inch long, a diminutive object which nevertheless enabled Warwick to do extraordinary things, like open doors and turn lights on and off without touching them. Four years later, he had another chip implanted in his nervous system. So did his wife. They could then communicate sensations to one another without the laying on of hands.
The question remains: Does the romance of biotechnology and physical enhancement fundamentally alter what it means to be human? Does the superhuman render the human obsolete? Finally, what happens when a superhuman becomes a political animal? The exhibition is open and free until October 16.