On 3rd October, a team of archaeologists from Egypt’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities prised open a sealed sarcophagus to the delight of a gathering crowd. The slumbering mummy had been resting peacefully for some 2,600 years alongside 59 other sarcophagi. All were pulled out of the dark in the Saqqara necropolis, an ancient graveyard south of Cairo.

These mummies are thought to be priests, government officials, and individuals from the upper echelons of Egyptian society. It’s a sight we’re so used to that we don’t even question it. But what does this unearthing millennia later mean for the bodies…

Image for post
Image for post
Find more of my work over at: https://www.instagram.com/laurenellis_art/

As a species we are entranced with stories about near-misses. We love nothing more than hearing about someone who narrowly skirted past disaster. When their subtle, nothing choices or a chance encounter rips them from the jaws of calamity. They miss the boat that later hits an iceberg. Or the plane takes off without them, only for all aboard to perish.

In my own inconsequential brush up with the Grim Reaper, I was sixteen and walking down Devils’ Tower Road in Gibraltar and I slowed my pace to untangle my headphones. I was suddenly startled by the roar of an…

We make our way across the feria. Pushing through the pools of people collecting at the edges of the fairground attractions, I feel excited and impatient for what’s to come. Everything is loud and lovely. A cacophony of sound and smells descend, and this usually designated carpark is transformed into an illuminous mass I suspect you may be able to see from space. Raffle tickets crinkle under foot as the tombola blares out his wares and treasures and urges you to step right up.

I love the feria. I have been coming here since I was a child. It is…

Consciousness. That unanswerable conundrum that taps incessantly on the inside of our skulls. Scientists, spiritual leaders and philosophers have been grappling over this metaphysical mystery since we, well… developed enough self-awareness to argue over the nature of it. And it isn’t just we Homo Sapiens who have long been preoccupied with life, death and our place in the universe. Archaeologists have found ritualistic Neanderthal burials and the first flower ever laid on a grave in remembrance was put there by those same cousins we like to call stupid.

So, what does constitute a consciousness? It is a sum of synapses…

TW: suicide

It is a thing of beauty to be of service. To show up when someone is at their most vulnerable. You approach a stranger lying in the middle of the pavement surrounded by their own vomit. You begin by making jokes. You ask them how the view is from down there. They stare straight back.

“What are you doing on the floor then?” Still a jovial hint lingering on your tongue.

Eyes behind glasses respond calmly with a matter-of-fact calamity: “My mum killed herself.”

You begin to talk more seriously now. They become someone you soothe and tell…

I find myself standing in front of Stephansdom, Vienna’s crowning cathedral. I am eagerly waiting for the clock to strike half one so I can make the slow descent into the catacombs.

Stephansdom doesn’t feel like a normal cathedral. Neither a celebration of god or of life, it feels more like a grim promise. A dutiful reminder. Skulls and slices of Memento Mori are scattered across its surface. A skull lingers above the clock. I read somewhere that this cathedral is under constant construction. They also say the devil once appeared within in. …

Image for post
Image for post
Life and Death, Gustav Klimt

Could artificial intelligence ever be an artist? Could a computer act as a curator?

These are questions that have been bubbling in my mind for months now. But the more I dissect, the more emerge — because, what is art? Who is an artist? When and are we able to classify ourselves as one? And who decides what work is worthy of entering the notoriously old and mostly white canon?

AI’s tendrils are slowly creeping into every aspect of our lives. While most of us are okay with it claiming factory jobs and menial roles, there is something about art…

When I think of my future it has always been clear. I suppose I am an among the few who’s raison d’etre rang out their chest like a promise. A heavy, burning promise. I’ve always known that someday, somehow, I would be a writer.

Now, this dream has taken many guises. For the longest time, I wanted to be a war correspondent. There was something very raw and real and necessary about it. I romanticised the hell of its reality: I saw purpose, I saw truth. I overlooked the broken bodies. I ignored the torn limbs.

In my personal statement…

Humans have long craved cautionary tales, but the reality of artificial intelligence isn’t one of them

Image for post
Image for post
Photo: Alex Knight/Unsplash

Every era needs a bogeyman. ​A villain waiting in the shadows to snatch away our children and defile our way of life. Throughout human history, we’ve fought demons, dragons, monsters, and each other. We have been telling stories about these struggles for over 70,000 years.

Today, instead of witches and magic, our ancient fears are focused on artificial intelligence and its supposedly inevitable march toward world domination.

Storytelling Shapes Experience

The stories we tell, and even the language we use, are important. They capture the way we see ourselves, each other, and the wider world. With them as lenses, we interpret our experiences…

From the Holy Grail and the fountains of youth, to anti-wrinkle creams screaming from every device, humans have always lusted after immortality. But how far away are we actually from it? Does technology like artificial intelligence spell a chance for us to live on after death — and if given the chance, would we take it?

Image for post
Image for post
de Champaigne, Philippe Vanité (1660s)

Artificial humans

Pete Trainor, applied artificial intelligence designer, technologist and mental health campaigner, used his slot at Interact London (a UX, design and AI conference I attended last week) to share the story of his friend James. James suffered from epidermolysis bullosa, a genetic…

Lauren Ellis

Writer, artist and occasional poet. Lover of philosophy, folklore, history + curiosities. UX writer by day. Writing a book about death by night.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store