Neurology Central

The transdisciplinary experience of building a new relationship between humans and technology: an interview with Nicholas Zingale

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This is a headshot image of Nicholas Zingale.Nicholas Zingale is an Associate Professor in Public Administration at Cleveland State University (OH, USA) and a Visiting Professor in Computer Science and Engineering at Case Western Reserve University (OH, USA). His most recent work is at the intersection of humans and technology, in which he is interested in the human–tech experience from a phenomenological perspective. Nicholas is currently working on a book around this, which is preliminarily titled, ‘Democratizing Experience – Life in a Technological Age’. His book focuses on this human–tech experience and explores what it means to the future of life (i.e., why the latest technological innovations in human–machine fusions and artificial intelligence are unique and transformative).

In this interview, Nicholas speaks to us about his discussion at SfN Neuroscience (19–23 October 2019, Chicago, IL, USA) on the transdisciplinary experience of building a new relationship between humans and technology. We were also interested in finding out more about the challenges of building these kinds of relationship and what could be done to overcome them.


1.Can you provide us with a brief overview of your discussion surrounding the transdisciplinary experience of building a new relationship between humans and technology?

What if we could be anywhere, doing anything, at just about any time and perhaps even as anything? What would it mean to humanity to transcend our bounded conditions and situational constraints? How might it change the way we interact with each other and the world around? The prospect of technologically augmented experiences, particularly when paired with deep learning and artificial intelligence, are already shaping our world and experiences. So how do we begin the work today – on a future we might not know, understand or can predict very well?

These are big questions, but it might help to begin by thinking in terms of what experiences might constitute the future of life. For example – what might the future of work look like if we can avatar into the shop and bring a robot to life to produce goods? What might this mean to the future of learning and education when we can learn by doing in virtual labs or attend any course at any time? What about our own ability to make and maintain relationships and deal with multiple realities? Or being able to shrink ourselves down and travel around in human blood vessels and see the body from the inside out? Space travel, social issues, national security, public safety, and governance and what kind of societal-changing prospects exist in terms of travel, politics and media. The imaginative prospects of a neuro-digitally infused world are virtually endless.

This means that thinking about human–tech as a transformative process means also thinking in terms of experiential symbiosis between humans and multi-perspectives. When we begin to understand and assign new meaning to things beyond our pre-existing thoughts and experiences, we are engaging in transdisciplinary hermeneutics. Transdisciplinary hermeneutics is not just a process, but rather a shift in sensibility that comes from leaving yourself and going visiting – living in someone else’s or something else’s exoskeleton. Technology can help us move beyond imagining doing this to actually doing this in mind and body with full immersion and sensation.

2.What are some of the challenges associated with forming these relationships between humans and technology?

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