Subtle Technologies 2013

In 2013, Subtle Technologies will be holding its 16th Annual Festival in Toronto.

Our symposium, performances, workshops, screenings, exhibitions and networking sessions provide a forum to explore ideas and pose questions at the intersection of art, science and technology. Subtle Technologies is known internationally for presenting artists and scientists whose work is at the leading edge of their respective disciplines and creating a space for dialogue that will lead to future discussions and collaborations.

Our 2013 festival takes place on June 8th and 9th at various venues throughout Toronto. In 2013 we will be exploring the theme of Immortality. Through history, concepts of immortality have had an important place in virtually all spiritual and philosophical traditions. As we have with past festival themes, we will be exploring this year’s theme from a broad perspective bridging art, science and society. We encourage and welcome submissions that explore ideas of immortality that arise from outside the Western framework. There are a number of areas related to immortality that we would like to probe during this year’s festival.

The average life expectancy continues to climb in many parts of the world and there are those who believe we can and should push this threshold ever higher. While many see physical life extension as the route to immortality, there are others who believe immortality can be achieved by merely preserving an individual’s consciousness, through either biological or digital means. If consciousness could be digitally represented, could a person “live” forever in a virtual world? We want to look at the science behind life extension as well as the numerous philosophical, ethical, practical and social questions that arise. These sciences include the realms of cyborgs, life extension through pharmacological means, cryogenic preservation and ideas surrounding the collection of an individua’s connectome – the complete mapping and re-creation of a brain’s electrical structure.

There are many online sites that act as digital memorials of deceased individuals. Facebook, for example, has created a special setting for memorializing deceased Facebook users, while protecting sensitive information to prevent identity fraud. People continue to send messages as if the deceased was still alive. What role does our online digital identity play in immortalizing us? How can we envision avatars in online worlds such as Second Life bringing us closer to a form of immortality?

Scientists now have the knowledge to design new lifeforms through techniques in synthetic biology. What questions arise, now that creating life (once believed to be the role of immortal beings) is in the hands of modern science?

It has been said that creating art immortalizes the artist. While many paintings, drawings, musical scores and works of literature have lasted through centuries, how will the digital artist be remembered as technology advances and digital platforms change? We see the question of preservation as an important topic in our discussion of immortality. If we can’t achieve individual immortality, how do we achieve it collectively? We would like to look at projects by artists and scientists that seek to archive art, history, society and experiences through constructing time capsules, objects, techniques and technologies that withstand the destructive powers of time and the environment.

Immortality can also be explored through abstract ideas of time and modern physics. There are a number of contemporary physicists who theorize that time as we experience it is an illusion. If so, how do we define immortality with these new understandings of time since extending our time on earth is seen as a key component of immortality? Alternative concepts of time can be found not only in contemporary physics but also in ancient cultures and traditions outside of the euro-centric perspectives of science. Some theories of modern cosmology and physics present us with the idea that we may be living in a world that is not “real” but merely a simulation. How do we frame these theories in terms of immortality?

At our 2013 festival we hope to examine the science behind the above questions as well as artists’ interpretations and responses to notions of immortality.

Possible areas to be explored in this year’s Festival from either an artistic or scientific approach include:

  • Art and Immortality
  • Avatars
  • Bioethics
  • Bioart
  • Consciousness
  • Cryonics
  • Digital Immortality
  • Genomics
  • Life Extension
  • Longevity Science
  • Mind Uploading
  • Nanotechnology
  • Neuroscience
  • Pharmacology
  • Philosophy
  • Physics
  • Rejuvenation
  • Robotics
  • Science and Society
  • Singularity
  • Spiritual Immortality
  • Synthetic Biology
  • Transhumanism
  • Virtual Worlds

These topics are only suggested ones for inclusion in the festival. Other relevant enquiries within the realm of art, science and technology that explore our theme of immortality are welcome.

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