Our Techonomy 2015 conference has the theme "Rehumanizing Society." (Image via Shutterstock)
Our Techonomy 2015 conference has the theme “Rehumanizing Society.” (Image via Shutterstock)

It’s been a busy couple of weeks as we continue to fine-tune the program for September’s Techonomy Detroit.
If you’re in Detroit September 15 you should stop by—we’ll be interviewing Mark Bertolini, the refreshing, bead wearing, yogi-like CEO of Aetna (here’s an interview we did with him at Techonomy 2013). We’ll also be interviewing Carl Bass, the wood carving, boat- and furniture-making CEO of Autodesk (here’s him onstage at TE14). Tiana Epps-Johnson, Executive Director of The Center for Technology and Civic Life, will present on “Civic Tech and the New Digital Divide,” longtime tech entrepreneur and thinker Peter Hirshberg will present on “A Maker City Is a Jazz City,” and “Edge” theorist John Hagel will talk about how companies and cities are successfully “Learning from Movements.” There’s a lot more; check out details, including all confirmed speakers and sessions, here.
Our Techonomy 2015 conference in November has the theme “Rehumanizing Society,” and in my research for the program I’ve been discovering a lot around the intersection of art, tech, bio, and design … with all the accompanying questions, reflections, and contemplation on culture, society, and the world that you expect from the creative minds working on these projects. These artists are giving me ideas for next spring’s Techonomy Bio as well.
I first came across Dutch designer Iris van Herpen’s work in a boutique on the Lower East Side, where I saw a clutch that was “grown” using magnetic fields. This designer visits the European Organization for Nuclear Research; collaborates with MIT Media Lab professors; experiments with bio-fabricated materials, 3D printing, synthetic silks, and shape-shifting textiles; and creates collections with titles like Hacking Infinity Magnetic Motion (inspired apparently by the Large Hadron Collider at CERN), and Biopiracy. Her work is stunning, combining tech with fashion, sculpture, art, architecture, nature, and more.
Heather Dewey-Hagborg is a biohacker and artist based in Chicago, where she teaches at the School of the Art Institute. Her work has reconstructed the faces of strangers from DNA obtained from cigarette butts and chewing gum (Stranger Visions), and her BioGen FuturesB company/art project is the “future of genetic privacy.” At one of Paola Antonelli’s MoMA R&D salons, The Way of the Algorithm, she gave a great talk, questioning the assumption of neutrality in algorithms (something we’ll be covering at TE15, with a session we’re calling Gods in Boxes).
Lynn Hershman Leeson’s work looks at the relationship between humans and tech. Among other things, she explores surveillance, privacy, identity, and AI. Her recent work looks at the developments in biotech and the impact of genetic engineering on human life. Her interactive, installation The Infinity Engine (2015) includes interviews with researchers, scientists, and other experts (including Techonomist Andrew Hessel). The Infinity Engine Lab, by the way, was made possible by a Kickstarter campaign (32 backers, $15,022).
And last but not least, there’s Stelarc. An Australian transhumanist performance artist, he’s into body architecture and augmentation, enhancing his body both physically and technically. Just think of robotics, flesh-hook suspension, and other body modifications, and you’ll get an accurate image. His body is his medium; his work explores how to “design the body to match its machines.” Speaking of the Internet of Things, in his Ear on Arm project, he’s attached an extra (Internet enabled) ear to his arm. Here’s a recent interview with him.
Maybe one day we’ll convince them to come to Techonomy!