An ever-expanding cast of costumed characters gathered in Pease Park on April 29, 2017 to celebrate Eeyore’s Birthday for the 54th time. Here’s a look at the people I met:
Deep Eddy Pool, the oldest concrete swimming pool in Texas, celebrated its 100th Birthday on May 21, 2016. Festivities hosted by the Friends of Deep Eddy included synchronized swimming by the H2Ho’s, music from the Melancholy Ramblers and Ruby Dee and the Snakehandlers, and official proclamations presented Austin City Council Member Sheri Gallo and Texas State Representative Elliott Naishtat. Most importantly everyone was treated to free swimming in the clear, cold water provided by Deep Eddy Pool.
Celebrants gathered in Pease Park to cheer Eeyore with a birthday party. Begun in 1963 by UT English students, Austinites have turned out in costume every year since. Sponsored now by the Friends of the Forest Foundation, Eeyores benefits a number of local charities and features May Poles, drum circles, egg tosses, and beer and food. Performing bands this year included the Uranium Savages and Flounders Without Eyes.
by Anna Hanks
Late on Sunday afternoon, during the second day of the BodyHacking Con event at the Austin Convention Center, I saw a Susan Butler getting an RFID chip from Dangerous Things implanted under her skin at the edge of the trade show. The skin on her hand was prepped, the area was examined and a hypodermic needle was used to insert the chip.
A large group of people was clustered behind her, most seemingly waiting their turn to get the same chip implanted under their skins for free, as usually that same chip installation started at around $60, plus the labor involved in the procedure. With that chip they would be able to unlock door, or perhaps do a variety of other things, depending on how they programmed the chip.
Near the chip implant booth, there were two adults wearing prosthetic arms. A woman had a translucent arm while the man had a metal-looking an arm lit with a bright blue lights that wouldn’t look out of place in a science fiction movie.
On that same expo show floor, my husband had just spent time assembling an LED bow tie (for really alternative black-tie) someone was relaxing in a hypobaric chamber and people were helping assemble plastic robotic hands.
Other people on the trade show floor had stopped by the booth that allowed them to experience what it is like to be colorblind, and had tried the consumer grade glasses that allow the colorblind to see colors, as you can see in this video.
At the same time, just a few floors above in the Convention Center, a panel discussing “Cyborg Pride and Identity” was underway, where Quinn Norton, Neil Harbisson and Rich MacKinnon were delving into the issues around cyborg rights and transhumanism.
The most distinctive panelist on the that three-person panel was Neil Harbisson, who had an electronic eye implanted in his skull to correct his severe congenital colorblindness. You can hear his story and see an example of how he hears colors in this Ted talk.
In many ways BodyHacking Con explored and redefined the margins of human augmentation and what you can do with your own body. The even even featured a demonstration of a brain computer interface a.k.a. an “Open BCI” where a man wearing a helmet controlled a laptop mostly via his brain waves.
More importantly, several people at this event people were open to discussing what these changes to the human organism means for society going forward.
The event explored many facets of the body hacking community. On one end this included everything from the DIY labs of the Grinder community where people have gotten magnets implanted in their fingers and there was talk of Elizabeth Parrish experimenting on her own DNA at BioViva.
On the more western-medicine end of the event, there was a talk from Paul Abramson, M.D.,who has a high -touch San Francisco medical practice that has started using the drug Ketamine to treat chronic pain and depression to people who are willing to pay for out -of- network services to treat their problems.
It’s a whole new world of what you can do with the human body these days.
“We’ll see you next year at the World’s First International Cyborg Pride Parade” quipped panelist Rich MacKinnon at the end of the panel on Cyborg Pride.
BODYHACKING. Although a body hacking conference may sound like a serial killer convention, the term is now being used to describe all ways a human body can be customized, modified, and improved. Simply put, bodyhacking involves making adjustments to the way we live, work, or sleep to improve our well-being. In fact, you may be using many bodyhacking techniques in your daily life without even knowing.
Proponents of bodyhacking believe that it’s a means for people to reach their physical and mental goals. They see bodyhacking as a parallel to computer hacking. While computer hackers make changes to software and circuit boards to improve a machine’s performance; bodyhackers seek physical, intellectual, or emotional tweaks to improve themselves. Broadly stated, the field of bodyhacking includes the pierced and tattooed cyclist you seeing riding through East Austin, as well as your glasses-wearing, fitbit-bearing neighbor. In addition, your hearing-impaired grandfather, health-food eating roommate, braces-laiden teenager, and your meditation coach are also all practicing bodyhackers. Common bodyhacking techniques that you might use include Lasik surgery, the use of prosthetics, thyroid medication, surgical implants, hair dyeing, tongue splitting, and even the taking of daily nutritional supplements.
If bodyhacking interests you, a rare opportunity to learn more about this new field will soon be available. On February 19th through 21st 2016, Trammell Ventures is producing BodyHacking Con, or BDYHAX, a bodyhacking and biohacking convention at the Austin Convention Center. The conference strives to bring together the many different groups now practicing bodyhacking — bodybuilders, meditators, tattoo enthusiasts, and tech folk — to expand horizons, create connections, and encourage the exploration of new frontiers.
BDYHAX will be a two-day conference featuring exhibitors, speakers, and parties. The free expo floor hosts exhibitors showing off wares, services, and hacks. Of special note are the digital freedom group, EFF Texas; the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS); aerial performances of Sky Candy; expanding perception technology by Neosensory; EnChroma glasses for people with red/green color blindness; floatation therapy by the Zero Gravity Institute; open-source human-computer interface technologies of OpenBCI; biohacking products by Dangerous Things; brain food by Natural Stacks and Axon Labs; microbiome sequencing services by uBiome; and the Cyberpunk Alley (for those tired of relegating the gritty reality of science fiction to books and movies). The Singularity Quest promises to turn a trip through the convention floor into a game by gathering missing clues.
BDYHAX’s speakers include Neil Harbisson, David Webster, and Dr. Rita Paradiso. Neil Harrison, who wrote the popular TED talk “I Listen to Color,” will speak about his experience in having an antenna osseointegrated in his skull so that he have hear and identify colors. Engineer, David Webster, will discuss how his design formula — person + machine + soul + energy — helped him create a Balanced Body pilates machine, a light-and-motion sculpture, a needle-free vaccine system, and a device that enables some paralyzed people to walk. Dr. Rita Paradiso will describe her work with molecular electronics, biosensors, and biomaterials.
The conference also is sponsoring parties including an Interactive Wearables Concert held at the Vulcan Gas Company on Friday night, and a Wormhole party, also at the Vulcan, with special lights, sounds and DJs. DJs for the parties include Elite Force and the Guild. If you have a fitness tracker device like FitBit, the Interactive Wearables Concert will feature a biometrics display onto projection maps.
As part of the conference, the e-Nable group plans on constructing 100 3-D printed prosthetic hands and arms which will be donated to needy children. The Thought Emporium’s nanorobot/nanoparticle projects will also be featured at this year’s convention. This special technology may revolutionize health care with its ability to carry and release molecular cargo in the human body.
BodyHacking Con 2016 runs February 19 through 21 at the Austin Convention Center. Registration is available onsite or on the BDYHAX site. We are excited to check out this strange place where yoga poses are matched with science fiction and look forward to getting a glimpse of what the future has in store for us.