When the
Saints go Machine

UK, London / 2018
From Maël Hénaff

This project began with a fascination for the Transhumanism, a techno-optimistic community with the aim is to become a machine in order to enhance their senses or defeating death by migrating from the ‘meat machine’ to the ‘steal machine’ via cryonic and mind uploading technology. Although, Transhumanism it‘s also about having ‘faith’ on a superior entity, a divine algorithm.

This project endeavours to anticipate what is the meaning of being a machine, and how it can challenge the perception we have of sharing our body with an algorithm (AI).

In collaboration with David Wood, leader of the London Transhumanist party, I am creating the machine, the transhumanism believes in. During this journey, I have realised that being a machine is not just about moving in a new body or discovering new senses, but it’s also sharing our new body with an algorithm. Does our human body is becoming the vessel of an artificial entity?

To build this experience of my future-self inside a machine I began my experiment with this question: how a machine built by humans can script human being? This was the point of start of my making process to build the exoskeleton which controls my body. Indeed, the methodology used in this project is to think through a making process. I wanted to respond to this question: How the machine can restrict a human body in order to understand the meaning of adapting ourselves inside a new body. Through this experience, I challenged my prosthesis by adding a deeper layer on how I can become this machine. In fact, at the moment I finished to build the first prosthetic arm linked to an algorithm, I challenged myself on what means being a machine. It's not just about restricting the human body to anticipate the passage of the meat machine to the steel machine. But it's understanding that our body is embodied by an algorithm in a cohabitation relationship.

I became the machine at the moment I accepted that I was controlled by it and developed new senses, not because of the restriction of my movements but because of a second algorithmic brain which communicates with me. I established an empathetic relationship with this machine, where I am literally a vessel accepting the orders of an artificial entity. In this same methodology, I came back to the London transhumanist group to ask them what they think about the idea that we will not be the only master of a new body.

With this discussion, I wanted to engage the transhumanism community with my project, which they did by interpreting my thoughts and concept between them to understand why I was making those assumptions on their faith in technologies. Even if, I strive to think that this methodology was beneficial to justify the why and how of my project, I also found this difficult to give my opinion to a community which is built on the speculation of a future where technology is the solution to any problem.

To conclude on this project where I experienced what is being a machine, by contextualising a future where transhumanist thoughts are actually real solution/situations I am making a critic of the present context where assistant technology is a reality. I strive to think that it's not about reprimanding the overuse of assistant technologies but it is to state that we should behave with them with another perspective. My aim is to say that rather than humanising algorithm we should redefine the relationship we have with it.

I deliberately auto-persuade myself that I was a robot by being controlled by an algorithm which ordered where to go depending on environmental conditions. This machine is the transhumanism representation of what will be my future-self, but also the symbolic image of the almost religious faith we put in technologies to resolve human problems. "When the Saints Go Machine" project is knowing more about human being behaviour with technology through becoming and experiencing this technology.