Rich MacKinnon was selected to represent BorgFest at TEDMED 2014 in San Francisco. The application also received a scholarship to attend. Here are the questions (as he recalls them) and answers from the application.
[I tend to save written responses for online forms to safeguard against accidental loss of work. Unfortunately, I didn’t save the exact language of the questions from the application –rcm]
Tell us about your organization
Freeing our minds, then freeing our bodies.
Celebrate and support those with prosthetics, orthotics, implants, transplants, augmentations, performance enhancements, body mod, quantified selves, wearable tech, and more!
Borg Fest is a celebration for an intentional community of people interested in human augmentation and enhancement. Many of the participants will themselves have been augmented as a result of accident, injury, war, congenital defect, illness, or disease. Others may have been augmented for personal, professional, artistic, stylistic, philosophical, political, or religious reasons. Many of the participants are industry and academic leaders in the fields that provide products and services to this community. Amidst the celebration, key conversations will occur, critical contacts made, relationships formed, ideas crystalized, companies started, concepts demonstrated, and people helped.
We are the embodiment of the sum total of our knowledge and experience. We want to be the fastest, smartest, most adaptable that we can be. And we understand that this realization can be frightening, even threatening, to some and presents ethical challenges that question the very nature of what it means to be human.
How is your project unique?
I’m all about the culture induced by the fantastic changes brought about the rapid technological achievements in health and life sciences. When we provide a prosthetic, for instance, we are no longer replacing lost capability, we are catalyzing a remade identity which may be more empowered than it was before. The story is no longer just about the bionic leg, but the dance. Culture provides us with the context for understanding why these advances are necessary (or not).
Why are you applying for a scholarship?
Borgfest is a venture boot-strapped out of my own pocket. We are currently developing the sponsor pitches, the success of which will determine the scope of the first festival tentatively scheduled for Oct 2014. As a result, my own funds are pretty much dedicated to getting the first sponsor checks in our bank account. Once that’s done, I’ll have a budget to spend on relevant expenses such as TEDMED registration. In the mean time, I could use your help enabling me to both focus on bootstrapping Borg Fest and also being able to afford TEDMED.
How will you contribute to TEDMED?
You get me. You don’t know me yet. But you get my brain, passion, and enthusiasm loaded into a CULTURE PRIMACY perspective as the best way to mainstream the acceptance of the technological interventions in the human body, and consequently, human identity. We do it through pride, celebration, inspiration, music, games, competition, film, and TV. This leads to needs, ideas, solutions, capital, products, services, and lives improved through this virtuous circle of collaboration. If we do it wrong and ignore the culture, we get fear, distrust, jealousy, prejudice, marginalization, segregation, and social upheaval.
What is your role in your organization?
Evangelize, Capitalize, Create, Convene, Converse, Conspire, Inspire, Collaborate, Repeat. I’m creating the world’s premier CULTURAL event for cyborgs focusing on the identity, social, and political issues arising from technological interventions in our rapidly changing human bodies. This is a pride festival celebrating our accomplishments in improving the quality of lives through augmentation, enhancement, body modification, and wearable technology.
What do you expect to get out of attending TEDMED?
I want to meet the people who are actively pushing against the boundaries of human augmentation and enhancement whether through prosthetics/orthotics, augmentics, or pharma. I want to introduce them to and encourage them to collaborate with the fantastic people I’ve met who wouldn’t necessarily come or be able to come to TEDMED and are working on synergistic projects and performances.