Praba Pilar

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In April 2011, The Reverend of Nano Bio Info Cogno blessed the opening of the Multispecies Salon in New York City. Her church proclaimed the liturgy driving emergent technologies – nanotechnology, biotechnology, information technology and cognitive neuroscience – forward into an imagined new millenium. Bringing fantastical prophecy and an outrageous sermon to Manhattan, she ministered to the masses of Fifth Avenue and led scholars in sing-along hymns at the CUNY Graduate Center.

She celebrated human biological enhancement and brain-computer interfaces by heralding the coming Singularity. Proselytizing on Fifth Avenue, she invited wary bystanders to imagine the ultimate techno communion: “Upload your consciousness into the computing cloud and leave your meat body behind! Come join the only true religion left on the face of the Earth. People of New York, be saved!” By forcing uneasy encounters with the messianic promises of technology and science the Reverend generated critical feelings of ambivalence.

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The Reverend of Nano Bio Info Cogno is a persona of Praba Pilar, a Colombian performance artist. Pilar has an ambivalent relationship to modern medicine. Her own life was saved by a biotechnological miracle in the shape of an experimental drug called Rebetron, which reduced the levels of a lethal virus to undetectable levels in her blood. Her older sister, also participated in an experimental drug trial for the treatment of Crohn’s disease. However the doses were too high for her sister and she died during the trial. Like many who have participated in pharmaceutical clinical trials, Praba Pilar served as an experimental subject so that patients-in-waiting might become consumers-in-waiting. Her personal salvation fueled speculations by entrepreneurs who hoped to make money by marketing a new miracle cure.

In the messianic space emerging at the intersection of biological sciences and economic enterprises, the Reverend of Nano Bio Info amplifies and distorts the spectacular claims of modern prophets, exposing pervasive illusions about the potential of technology to bring about salvation.

See also: Life In The Age Of Biotechnology

Further Reading

Kirksey, Eben et al. (2014) “Life In The Age Of Biotechnology” in The Multispecies Salon, Durham: Duke University Press, pp. 186-188.

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a companion to the book