Do you ever wonder how it is to live as a goat? Thomas Thwaites is curious about that too. In his quest to find an answer for it, currently, Thwaites is investigating how it feels like to be a goat.
For his study, he had prosthetics made for his arms and legs so he could walk or crawl comfortably on all fours. Twaites watched as a goat was cut open to know more about the animal. He even considered using actual gut bacteria found in goats to digest the grass he will consume by creating an artificial rumen. He also consulted a behavioral expert on goats.
The most surprising of this investigation is that Thwaites arranged to live as a goat on a goat farm in the Swiss Alps. He will live among actual grazing goats for a few days.
In an interview, Thwaites said, “I was able to keep up for maybe a kilometer or so on this migration down the side of this kind of rocky mountain, and then they just left me in the dust. So I spent the rest of the day trying to catch up to them. And eventually, I found them again, and it was quite nice, in the actual soft grassy pasture bit. But actually heading down the mountain was petrifying. Because if I fell, I didn’t have any hands to stop me from hitting a rock.”
The England-based conceptual engineer’s past projects included rationalization on the future of genetic engineering and a hypothetical god-as-a-service called Nebo. Thwaites’s latest endeavor is similar for it studies how humans develop themselves in the future.
Thwaites interest lies on technology, science, and future research.
Thwaites believes that not all men want to evolve into super intelligent beings. Some people might prefer to devolve.
“Posthumanism, transhumanism technology and stuff, is about allowing humans to achieve their desires in a way. And I guess [some people’s] desires aren’t necessarily to become super intelligent,” Thwaites reasoned in the interview.
He also wrote, “To be a nonhuman animal? So much calmer and simpler!”
The engineer wanted to explore and experience how it is to live free from the “existential terror” (worries and frustrations) of everyday life. He wanted to experience it as true or authentic as possible with the technology today.
“And then the biomedical charity the Wellcome Trust said, ‘Go on then,’ and gave me a small arts award,” he wrote.
In September 2014, Thwaites found a goatherd kind enough to allow the engineer to live among his herd. Thwaites set a goal to cross the Swiss Alps as a goat. He quickly found out how hard it was to accomplish his goal. Living as a goat, navigating the region’s rocky and sloping terrain was far from easy.
He had little time to get used to the prosthetic that put a lot of weight into his arms when travelling downhill. The region was also too cold and rainy to safely sleep with the goats, so he and his team had to set up camp each night. Thwaites also had a work to do to convince the goats that the funny-looking man with prosthetic and helmet was one of them.
Recalling his experience, he said, “I found myself at nearly the highest point on the hill of the whole herd of goats, and there was this moment where I looked and noticed that all the other goats had stopped chewing and were looking at me. I hadn’t been scared at all before, but I suddenly became aware of their quite sharp and pointed horns.”
“A particular goat that I’d been hanging out with a lot seemed to have defused the situation,” he laughed. “I might just be making human stories in my brain, but that’s what it seemed to me.”
Someone agreed with Thwaites. A farmer, whose goat herd was grazing with the engineer, thought that the goats had accepted him as one of their own. All in all, Thwaites traveled with goats for three days and spent another three days as a solitary goat.
“I think it’s a bit of an ongoing thing, because it seems so tantalizingly close to be able to gallop and be free and just eat grass,” Thwaites stated. “I’m not sure how close I’ll get in reality, but in my mind, my fantasy, I’m just one prototype away.”
Thwaites will exhibit the photos and other materials from his endeavor at the London’s Studio 1.1 Gallery on September 3 to 17. He also has a book that will be released this spring. The Princeton Architectural Press will publish the book that is tentatively titled GoatMan: How I Took a Holiday from Being Human.
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