science | September 29, 2013

The Future Of Being Human: David Eagleman, Jer Thorp in a new keynote

At Being Human 2013, a recent forward-thinking lecture series, Jer Thorp and David Eagleman delivered new keynotes speculating on the future of being human. The conference, which took place in San Francisco last month, focused on how our perception of the world will change in the future. And, how big data and other technological and medical innovations will affect the way we interact with our surroundings.

Eagleman kicked off his speech by explaining that every animal in the world (humans included) has "their own window on reality." Our perception of our environment, known as our "umwelt," is typically determined by the biological tools we're born with. Humans, for example, are not equipped to see x-rays or gamma rays or feel the shape of the magnetic field. Eagleman asks: "How are our technologies going to expand our umwelt, and therefore, the experience of being human?"

Above: Known for jumping into his work head-first, Eagleman demonstrates how a vest can be wired to help a deaf person hear again without invasive surgery.

"Our peripheral sensory organs are what we've come to the table with—but not necessarily what we have to stick with," he explains. He describes how we're moving into the MPH (Mr. Potato Head) model of evolution: Our eyes, ears, fingers, etc., essentially act like plug-and-play external devices that can be substituted to improve or enhance our view of the world. "The bottom line is that the human umwelt is on the move," he concludes. "We are now in a position as we move into the future of getting to chose our own plug-and-play devices." Imagine being able to see by transmitting electronic impulses through your tongue, or, embedding magnets into your fingertips that allow you to feel the pull of the magnetic field. There's so much happening in the world that we can't see, and Eagleman envisions a future where we can plug into new experiences and broaden our view of the our environment.

When Jer Thorp took to the stage, his intro was greeted with an uproar of applause. Thorp presented his talk on big data in a lighthearted tone, making jokes along the way. His takeaways still hit home, however. Thorp explained that data is helping us to better understand the world and our place within it.

Above: Jer Thorp presents his keynote speech at Being Human 2013.

"Data is more than a resource," Thorp says. Data allows us to see things and reveal patterns we had never been able to see before. "We're immersed in a system so complex we can hardly understand it," he adds. Visualizing data, humanizing it, and connecting to our lives will be truly beneficial in helping us to simplify and better understand our world.

To book David Eagleman or Jer Thorp as speakers for your next event, contact The Lavin Agency Speakers Bureau.