Life

We are agents of our own evolution

October 12, 2018

We are agents of our own evolution

Design, fiction, reality, art, and technology all fit together to create a space where our ideas can come to life and accomplish goals that can better the quality of living.

Miriam Simun spoke to students and faculty at SF State on Oct. 3 to talk about her projects and her obsession with becoming a cephalopod. Simun is an interdisciplinary artist who focuses on the intersection of ecology, technology, and the body. Her work deals with drawings, videos, scents, performance, and sculpture.

“I started this program called training transhuman: I want to become a cephalopod,” said Simun. “It’s a training program for the future of the human body and it’s based on the model of the cephalopods, so training transhuman is seeking to enhance human sensitivities and capacities.”

According to Simun’s research, becoming a cephalopod is a trans-humanist way for using most of the octopus as a model series for the future of humans. This project is towards co-evolution. The research into this project came from genetic modification and earthly genotypes to find a way to “improve” human capabilities.

“Cephalopods are just a group of animals that include octopus, squid, cuttlefish,” Simun said. “Part of this work is really an awareness that we are agents of our own evolution.”

According to her website, there are three main attributes when becoming a cephalopod. The first is to practice camouflage and to be ready to be a shape-shifter. One always has to be aware of one’s hyper-local environment. The second attribute is distributed intelligence because cephalopods have a differently neurobiological structure than humans.

“Technology is decreasing our ability to do this a little bit as we become hyper-individualized,” said Simun. “So, how do you train people to be more open to entering into that state to be able to function and then be able to safely and readily come out of that state?”

Simun ponders how two humans can share a single intention, work together to become sensitive and to adapt to that experience. This training program would help people have embodied knowledge (the third attribute) to understand the world, which can happen through touch and sensing their environment, just like an octopus.

“There was a series of exercises that are physical in nature but pretty deeply phycological,” said Simun. “It trains you in different abilities, experiences, sensory experiments in order to prepare you for the future.”

Simun has four ideas that center her work and most of the topics she has interest in.

Simun mentioned whose knowledge people are talking about and how there are many different sets of knowledge and authority. The next idea was about models and she questions what myths are based on the models we create as we build the world. Bodies are an important idea that involves the human body and how we can learn from it.

“Asking the question about ‘whose future’ — I think the future is something that’s talked a lot about — but ‘whose future?’ is a question that’s really important to me,” Simun said. “Innovation is something I’m super interested in and how we determine what innovation is.”