You Have Been Upgraded

The rules are unwritten. The implications are huge. Stop being normal.

In 2015 we were commissioned by the Contemporary Science team at the Science Museum in London to create an interactive, performance installation to explore the emerging field of “biotechnology” and “human enhancement”.

We created a large scale “expo” event, hosted by the fictional start-up company Unlimited Enhancement Technologies (UNET) at which museum visitors could meet  scientists at the forefront of the field, try out demos of the latest biotechnologies and ask questions about the impact of these advancements on the future of humanity.

The centerpiece of the Expo was a keynote presentation by UNET’s CEO Evelyn Musk who outlined her vision for a world in which scientists, artists, academics and entrepreneurs collaborated to create the most advanced prosthetics, brain implants and smart drugs to restore or improve physical functions and heighten or repair damaged cognitive function. UNET’s strapline is the deliberately provocative command to “Stop being normal”.

Over the course of 5 days, more than 4000 people visited the Expo at the Science Museum and took part in a conversation about the social, ethical, cultural, political implications of these emerging ideas and technologies. It was a huge success and led to it being recommissioned in 2018 by Manchester Science Festival.

This time we developed the format to include ‘on the sofa’ interviews with researchers, cyborgs and philosophers as well as commissioning a new Human+themed artwork from tattooist Rebecca de Cadorette that was completed live on the night. Read the detailed write up of the event from The Mancunion.

To coincide with the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics we intend to create an even bigger event with more scientists, research and emerging technologies on show – expanding Evelyn’s central keynote to an hour long, immersive experience and (in partnership with the companies and institutions showcasing them) create Virtual and Mixed Reality experiences of the technologies for audiences to try out.

The timing of the production is vitally linked to the themes we’re exploring. We believe that the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics will be surrounded by a fascinatingly complex, global conversation about what it is to be “normal”. The 2016 Olympics events were deeply controversial for the blanket banning of the Russian team for its use of drugs to enhance athletes’ performance, while the increasing prominence of the Paralympics and its “Superhuman” competitors has positively heightened a conversation around disability in general as well as the benefits (and fairness) of technology to restore and enhance physical functions. By 2020 those conversations will be exponentially developed again and we’re spending the time leading up to 2020 in a deep period of research with real world scientists, researchers, thought leaders and technologists to create the event and conversation on this subject at that time.

If you’re interested in working with us on this next version of You Have Been Upgraded, please contact Alice Massey, Executive Producer