For the vast majority of us, it is necessary to use our key to open our front door. For Russ Foxx, he simply has to wave the back of his hand. The 36-year-old Vancouver resident has the ability to perform such an action due to a small transponder that he surgically implanted underneath his skin on his left hand.
Russ Foxx is a self-proclaimed transhumanist, fascinated with the ways in which we can push the limitations of our human anatomy. His extreme lifestyle began at the age of five when he first got his ears pierced and developed an obsession with his own bodily enhancement. By the time he was 18, he had over 50 piercings and now, at the age of 36, works as a full-time modifications’ artist at his shop, Harbourside Tattoo & Co. in Vancouver. He says that as he grew older, he gradually became more fascinated with the functional modifications he could make to enhance his natural abilities.
Russ definitely stands out in a crowd. He has over 100 medications, many of which include surgically implanted NFC chips beneath his skin that allow him to share electronic data, unlock doors, or even start his motorcycle. He even keeps his personal business records in an NFC chip in his own hand, which he can use to scan onto any Apple or Android smartphone.
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Russ Foxx claims that human evolution has been ripe with attempts to enhance the limitations of our basic capabilities- consider prosthetics or hearing aids. While Russ is aware that his brand of transhumanism is by no means mainstream, he believes that there is a growing interest in the technological betterment of our physical capabilities.
Russ’ fascination with technological enhancement of his human functionality should not be surprising in a society that is keen on developing artificial intelligence that can read our minds, not mentioning the millions of people who spend most of their day obsessing over a supercomputer that can fit in your hand (smartphone).
Body implants such as the transponders on the back of his hand were one of the topics at a conference held on Saturday in Pittsburgh where a “body hacking” convention occurred to put on display the latest developments in “human augmentation”.
However, not everyone shares Foxx’s enthusiasm for the transhumanist movement. Many have claimed it raises ethical concerns in terms of applicative risk and others have been keen to point its potential to increase social inequality.
This is what bothers me about ‘transhumanism’. The rich will have the enhancements and the poor will not. Two-tier humanity – a really backwards step. #mscedc
— MaryJane Bennett (@MaryJaneBennet2) September 20, 2018
Sociologist Nicholas Dévédec, an assistant prof at the HEC business school in Montreal, is a pointed critic on the subject. He claims transhumanism is a capitalist resource made for a society obsessed with individualism. Instead, he implores us to question the social norms that create the desire for such physical enhancements.
“In a society with a cult of high performance, the liberty to say no (to technology) becomes difficult”, said Dévédec. Those who refuse to conform to such societal norms, he says, risk being ostracized and disadvantaged by wider society if they cannot keep up with artificially-induced standards of human performance.
Even bioethicist Anna Wexler, a post-doctorate student at the University of Pennsylvania who spoke at the “body hacking” conference in Pittsburgh, expressed possible concern over transhumanist enhancement technology. While she claims transhumanists “have the right to use their body as they see fit”, she has reservations about the buying and selling of transhumanist advancement devices in the free market.