Reconfiguring humanness? Technological promises and social change

This interdisciplinary research focuses on discourses and practices which drive the development of contemporary technologies, in particular those called "convergent technologies": nanotechnology, biotechnology, informatics and cognitive sciences (Nano-Bio-Info-Cogno, also named NBIC). It examines the "economy of promises" and utopias that go along with these technologies -in particular "anthropotechnology"- an ensemble of techniques for which the main objective is the modification of the human body: detecting and curing all kind of illnesses, repairing and replacing defective genes, controlling the ageing process, interfacing the human brain with the computer, controlling inner and outer environments of human beings. These are some of the promises developed in the context of convergence. They take over the prophecies that came along with the development of biotechnology or information and communication technology. The transhumanist movement announces that immortality is for tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow. This research questions the impact of those visions on our contemporary definition of humanness.

By confronting these discourses with research practices in laboratories, this research also aims at creating a space in which the views of social sciences and humanities can be articulated with the actual practices of biologists, engineers, physicists, physicians or computer scientists.

The future of human societies as it is envisioned by science fiction and forecasting constitutes another area of research to explore the relations between technological promises and social change.

This research is conducted in collaboration with Nanopublic, the UNIL-EPFL nanotechnology and society interdisciplinary platform