Call for Abstracts – alt.CHI 2020 Children in 2077: Designing children’s technologies in the age of transhumanism

Submission Deadline – December 2, 2019

With this call, we want to propose an opportunity to human-computer interaction (HCI) researchers from various fields to contribute with a speculative paper on “How to design and what stance to take when designing children’s artifacts in 2077 when transhumanist enhancement technologies are a major part of our lives?.” By drawing upon this question, we will curate a design fiction paper focusing on the potential research topics that might be of interest for the HCI field in 2077 (see the detailed motivation below).

 

Similar to the speculative research paper curated by Baumer [1], a selection of the submitted abstracts will be used to develop an alt.CHI paper. All types of approaches including proposals of utopian technologies, dystopian futures, critical reflections, cautionary tales, and progressive visions are welcome. Moreover, we expect to get submissions from diverse communities including, but not limited to design, user experience and usability, games & play, education, interaction design and children.

 

We acknowledge that speculating on transhumanist technologies that will affect children is controversial yet the peril requires consideration. Our aim here is, by using the power of design fiction, to portray a future that reveals the pitfalls and threats that might be caused by these technologies and possible speculative research visions that will touch on the issues related to ethics and values as well as cautionary calls for the required regulations. On the other hand, we are also curious in what circumstances these types of technologies can help improve the quality of the children’s lives. These inquiries also prompt to think what design research would focus on in terms of children’s artifacts in the age of transhumanist technologies. Our purpose is to encourage critical thinking on the topic, but also create speculative research ideas that can help us to understand how these technologies can help for an improved state of life. To be clear, this call does not aim at supporting to create transhumanist technology for children but questioning and critically evaluating a future state by both emphasizing the problematic sides and revealing the opportunities. Please see the detailed motivation below for possible questions that might encapsulate both aspects.

 

We ask authors to write their abstracts as if they were written in the year 2077 by using present tense. We expect abstracts to have the title of the paper, preferably an image (e.g., diagram, sketch, illustration) and affiliation of authors. Word limit for the abstracts is 150. The selection of the abstracts will depend on the diversity of the topics, provocative nature, their potential to raise discussion and also the space limit of the alt.chi submission guidelines. Authors of accepted abstracts will be added as co-authors to this alt.CHI submission.

Abstracts should be submitted via email to Oğuz ‘Oz’ Buruk (oguz.buruk@tuni.fi) with “[ALTCHI77]” in the subject line

 

P.S. Year 2077 is an attribution to the game Cyberpunk 2077 which depicts a fictional world in which the transhumanist technologies have an immense impact on humanity (we do not necessarily aim to adopt the dystopian future it depicts though and open to submissions that draws an optimistic futures too)

 

IMPORTANT DATES

Submission Deadline – December 2, 2019, 23:59 PT
Notification of Decision – December 6, 2019, 23:59 PT
Submission Prepared and Sent to Authors for Review – December 13, 2019, 23:59 PT
Revision Request Deadline by Authors – December 20, 2019, 23:59 PT
Submission to alt.CHI 2020 – January 3, 2020

 

Oğuzhan Özcan, Koç University, Design Lab
Oğuz ‘Oz’ Buruk, Gamification Group, Tampere University
Gökçe Elif Baykal, Aarhus University,·Information Studies
Tilbe Göksun, Koç University, Language and Cognition Lab.
Selcuk Acar, Buffalo State College, SUNY, The International Center for Studies in Creativity

 

MOTIVATION

What for and how will we design children’s technologies in the transhumanist age, and what stance will we take as designers?

 

Tranhumanist thinking envisions that a new node in human evolution will come with technological enhancements that will augment the body and mind of the future human beings [2]. As Bostrom argues, transhumans are expected to possess superior abilities in terms of physical, sensory, and cognitive skills as well as a longer lifespan and emotional state [3]. In a future where technology is blended into the human body, what will the children be like? In this call, we are interested in the five pillars of the envisioned transhumanist enhancements; 1) intellectual capacity, 2) bodily functionality, 3) sensory modalities, 4) emotional capabilities (mood, energy, and self-control) and 5) life-span [4] that will be possible results of today’s advancements in such technologies as brain-machine interfaces, bodily implants or genetic modification.

 

To give a contemporary example on the enhancement of intellectual capacity, if Brain-Machine Interaction (BMI) technologies envisioned by the claims of Elon Musk’s Neuralink [5] project come to be true, it is not hard to see a future where our brains will be implanted with chips to control the devices around us. Beyond that, it is also claimed that by reversing the process, it might be possible to download information from computers with NeuraLace technology [6]. We can envision that through these types of technologies, the information that would normally get 20 years to possess until graduating from the university, may be placed in our brains at once. In other words, we may face with scenarios in which a 7-year-old child may obtain all the information they would normally have at the age of 23. Furthermore, according to the design speculations of Eisenberg, genetic modification technologies may allow to orient children’s cognitive skills towards specific abilities (i.e., playing the piano) [7], which then result in virtuosos who outperforms the most prominent artists of today at a very young age. While it is possible to envision that the first generation of these children might be the frontiers of transhumans to carry it to futures beyond what we can imagine now in terms of art, technology, philosophy and science, we also need to acknowledge the substantial risks in terms of ethics and also for the social development of these children. For example, gifted children of today who perform considerably better than their peers in certain cognitive skills -almost in the level of adults-, faces behavioral disorders because of the incompatibilities between their cognitive versus socio-emotional development [8,9]. In a society, in which children are cognitively enhanced and oriented towards different abilities, this incompatibility will possibly go beyond what we have experienced so far. This is only one of the examples which can reflect the problematic cases that will emerge in case these technologies become prevalent.

 

Assuming that these advancements will be achieved and we will also face the consequences, some questions that we need to answer may include the following:  “What kind of individual and social structure do we have in 2077?”, “How do we even define children with the discrepancy between cognitive and physical development?”, “What is the problematic cases of transhumanist technology applied to children?”, “Should we have already stopped transhumanist technology to be used for children?”, “How does the parent and child interaction change?”, “How do the learning processes change?”, “What and who are the mediators of learning going to be?”, “What is acceptable transhumanist technology for children?”, “According to these hypothetical transformations, what might be the artifacts for this new generation of enhanced children?”, “How will education and educational technology be transformed?”, “What will be the ethical limits in HCI research and how the technology we develop will help for an ethically responsible science with children?” “How do we involve these children in the design of transhumanist technologies as stakeholders?”, “How will we ensure a transparent process, inclusive participation and openness in transhumanist technology design?” These are the questions which we think are of importance, yet many more can be generated and we are excited to read more from the contributing authors.

 

REFERENCES
  1. Baumer, E. P., Ahn, J., Bie, M., Bonsignore, E. M., Börütecene, A., Buruk, O. T., … & Guha, M. L. (2014, April). CHI 2039: speculative research visions. In CHI’14 Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 761-770). ACM.
  2. Garreau, J. (2006). Radical evolution: the promise and peril of enhancing our minds, our bodies–and what it means to be human. Broadway.
  3. Bostrom, N. (2008). Why I want to be a posthuman when I grow up. In Medical enhancement and posthumanity (pp. 107-136). Springer, Dordrecht.
  4. Bostrom, N. (2005). Transhumanist values. Journal of philosophical research, 30(Supplement), 3-14.
  5. Neuralink. (2019). Neuralink. Retrieved October 31, 2019, from https://www.neuralink.com
  6. Fourtané, S. (2018). Neuralink: How the Human Brain Will Download Directly from a Computer. Retrieved October 31, 2019, from https://interestingengineering.com/neuralink-how-the-human-brain-will-download-directly-from-a-computer
  7. Eisenberg, M. (2017, June). The binding of Fenrir: Children in an emerging age of transhumanist technology. In Proceedings of the 2017 Conference on Interaction Design and Children (pp. 328-333). ACM.
  8. Bickley, N. Z. (2002). The social and emotional adjustment of gifted children who experience asynchronous development and unique educational needs (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). University of Connecticut, Storrs.
  9. Silverman, L. K. (1997). The construct of asynchronous development. Peabody Journal of Education, 72, 36-58.

[Image credit: Darkart.cz]

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