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Our friends at the Extreme Futurist Festival are looking for true tales of DIY Transhumanism to feature in a short film. Details follow:
This will be a 20 minute film focusing on the Transhumanist/Futurist/Biohacking underground. We are interested in hearing your stories and would like to screen this film at the next Extreme Futurist Festival.
Please send us clips of you discussing your views on this new emerging subculture. firstname.lastname@example.org
The Continuing Merger of Man & Machine:
The team behind the technology used a natural electrochemical gradient in cells within the inner ear of a guinea pig to power a wireless transmitter for up to five hours.
The technique could one day provide an autonomous power source for brain and cochlear implants, says Tina Stankovic, an auditory neuroscientist at Harvard University Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts.
The device works well for short durations but long-term use of the electrodes risks damaging the sensitive tissue inside the ear. The next step will be to make the electrodes even smaller, reducing their invasiveness.
Stankovic says that this is proof of concept that biological sources of energy exist that have not yet been fully considered. “A very futuristic view is that maybe we will be able to extract energy from individual cells using similar designs,” she says.
…for the first time, Giuseppone’s team has succeeded in synthesizing long polymer chains incorporating, via supramolecular bonds (1), thousands of nano-machines each capable of producing linear telescopic motion of around one nanometer. Under the influence of pH, their simultaneous movements allow the whole polymer chain to contract or extend over about 10 micrometers, thereby amplifying the movement by a factor of 10,000, along the same principles as those used by muscular tissues. Precise measurements of this experimental feat have been performed in collaboration with the team led by Eric Buhler, a physicist specialized in radiation scattering at the Laboratoire Matière et Systèmes Complexes (CNRS/Université Paris Diderot).
These results, obtained using a biomimetic approach, could lead to numerous applications for the design of artificial muscles, micro-robots or the development of new materials incorporating nano-machines endowed with novel multi-scale mechanical properties.
“When Africans left Africa and entered Neanderthal territory they had projectiles with greater killing reach,” explains Professor Curtis Marean, an expert in stone weapons who was instrumental in the research.
“These early moderns probably also had higher levels of pro-social (hyper-cooperative) behavior. These two traits were a knockout punch. Combine them, as modern humans did and still do, and no prey or competitor is safe,” he adds. “This probably laid the foundation for the expansion out of Africa of modern humans and the extinction of many prey as well as our sister species such as Neanderthals.”
Nyodyme Magnets give their users the ability to “sense” electromagnetic waves. The technology behind the Nyodyme Magnet is created from a beautiful gold and nickel-plated neodymium magnet that is placed within Imagina’s specially made glue that has magnetic iron filings mixed into it to enhance the vibrations.
A new type of camouflage makeup is able to protect wearers from skin burns. Scientists at the University of Southern Mississippi developed the makeup for use in combat situations, but the team plans on developing a transparent version for firefighters. The new material acts like sunblock, forming a barrier thinner than a sheet of paper that can protect skin from extreme heat for up to 15 seconds. After that time, the makeup itself may rise to a temperature where first-degree (mild) burns may occur, but the extra time should help soldiers to find shelter from any explosion. In some tests, the scientists found that the face paint shielded its test subjects for up to 60 seconds.
TECHNICOLOR ULTRA MALL (#TCUM) is a busted neon literary warning sign. Where cyberpunk failed, this must succeed. It alerts us to hyper-capitalism’s end state: the mega-mall as polis. Born to shop, in death do we become commerce itself (“you could usually get more for a dead person than you could pull from their pockets”). Hyper-mediated, people are alienated from their own body, unable to feel anything without the right chemical compound. Corporate colonisation of emotion and sensation.
This is what comes of the “old people afraid of the sky” future, as Bruce Sterling has described it, written before he even uttered the words. Outside may as well be the surface of the Moon (or better yet, Mars); there is only the Mall. The adult version of Nausicaä Valley of the Wind, but with gigantic, hermetically sealed machinery instead of mutant bugs. The malls feed on the garbage of the past, as the book itself mines the midden heaps of the collective refuse of the decadent twentieth century (that still lingers on like a dying fire-breathing dragon stumbling into a village, unaware it’s killing us all.) This is Demolition Man mutated and buried underground by the Umbrella Corporation. This is Plato’s three-souled corporate Republic with its Red (bronze-souled favella), Green (silver-souled bourgeoisie) and Blue (golden-souled ruling class) levels, and twice as sickening.
All written through the visible lens of lived experience. Less Neuromancer, more Metrophage; bringing the punk back into the cyber, like John Shirley and Richard Kadrey before him.
Marbled like Kobe beef with the fat of concepts killer enough to fill a series of grindhouse movies.. garnished with cosmetic grinds like dermal holograms and implants, with a hint of mind transfer and seasoned with gritty GITS‘esque posthumanity distributed into the meat… massaged in perfectly, and served raw.
Watch, or try the Long Read version.
From New Scientist:
Researchers at Autodesk, a software company in Toronto, Canada, checked to see whether the methods we currently use to interface with our gadgets work when the device is implanted in human tissue. The answer was a resounding “yes”.
A button, an LED and a touch sensor all functioned appropriately when embedded under the skin of a cadaver’s arm. The team was even able to communicate transcutaneously using a Bluetooth connection and charge the electronics wirelessly.
“That’s the bottom line,” says Christian Holz of the Autodesk team, who presented the work this week at the Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems in Austin, Texas. “Traditional user interfaces work through the skin.”
There are also clear benefits to implanted electronics. “The device is always there,” says Holz. “You cannot lose it.” And implants provide new interface methods. A gadget similar to a smartphone could provide a calendar alert by means of a gentle sub-skin vibration, for example.
And that creepy feeling? It is a common reaction now, but may lessen as people become familiar with the technology. The idea of using a machine to assist a human heart was once deemed unnatural, for example, but the insertion of a pacemaker is now a routine procedure.
“In general, the trend has been that people are more and more willing to incorporate bits of the machine world into themselves,” says Sherry Turkle, a sociologist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
“The perception [of this technology] 10 years ago would differ from today and from what we would get in 10 years’ time,” agrees Holz.
Turkle wants society to think seriously about the potential downsides of implanted electronics, including tracking. But she has also studied how people relate to their cellphones and notes that some talk about them as if they were cyborgs.
“People literally cannot be without this device,” Turkle says. “They don’t feel the same when they are not connected. We live with our phones as if they are part of our body.”
“The operation will change my life. I live 10 years with this hand and it cannot be (made) better. The only way is to cut this down and I get a new arm,” Milo told BBC News prior to his surgery at Vienna’s General Hospital.
Milo took the decision after using a hybrid hand fitted parallel to his dysfunctional hand with which he could experience controlling a prosthesis.
Such bionic hands, manufactured by the German prosthetics company Otto Bock, can pinch and grasp in response to signals from the brain that are picked up by two sensors placed over the skin above nerves in the forearm.
The STAR 1200 is a see-through AR-enabled binocular Video Eyewear that is expected to be used in a wide variety of industrial, commercial, defense and some consumer applications. Building from Vuzix’ award winning technology in AR-enabled video eyewear, the new display will allow users to view the real world scene while also viewing relevant computer generated information, graphics and alerts. The AR glasses will provide connectivity to VGA, component and composite video sources. The STAR 1200 comes with 6 degrees of freedom (DOF) motion tracking sensors and a built in camera for tracking and recognizing the real world. This allows 3D computer generated content to be locked in place when overlaid within the user’s real worldview.
“The heart produces around 1 or 1.5 watts of hydraulic power, and we want to take maybe one milliwatt,” Pfenniger explains. “A pacemaker only needs around 10 microwatts.” At the Microtechnologies in Medicine and Biology conference in Lucerne, Switzerland, earlier this month, Pfenniger presented results from a trial in which a tube is designed to mimic the internal thoracic artery, a millimeters-wide vessel that doctors sometimes cannibalize for surgery because it is redundant. The most efficient of the three off-the-shelf turbines he tested produced around 800 microwatts, which could run devices much more power hungry than today’s pacemakers
Via BoingBoing we have this piece on one of ABC’s programs, a “Look at the Freaks” story on the ‘sudden rising trend of Elf Ears‘, the new body-mod “fad.”‘ Blamed for this are Lord of the Rings and Avatar (and we’ll leave aside for now the separate issue of the rise of Na’vi as a hyper-real faith & freedom of religion). The story begins, as such fine pieces of journalism usually do, with a lighthearted quip:
Why would anybody want to do this?
So sayeth the gym-broadened, bottle-blonde’d, make-up wearing, probable result of plastic surgery, carefully constructed media personage. Oh, you meant why would they do stuff that isn’t socially accepted within the enforced/repeated framing of the Mainstream Media?
There’s an old quote I always like to bust out in situations like these, that I once read in a cartoon in a tattoo magazine:
Q. What’s the difference between a person with tattoos and a person without tattoos?
A. The person with tattoos doesn’t care if you don’t have any.
We’ve featured the work of Steve Haworth before, and the best thing about this story was that I immediately sought out a body-mod artist that visits my own shores on occasion, for friends seeking just such enhancements.
Now our old friend Ötzi the Iceman has tattoos, making this a most timeless, Human act. So what is the deal here? Are we in a new Victorian Age of Prudes?
Well, before I go any further, let me wedge in the recent contribution on this issue made by Lady Gaga: “‘I think promoting insecurity in the form of plastic surgery is infinitely more harmful than an artistic expression related to body modification”, continuing “I am an artist, and I have the ability and the free will to choose the way the world will envision me.” Speaking after appearing on the Jay Leno show thusly:
Honestly, I’m a bit disappointed that these Facial Horns are only cosmetic.. that she didn’t go all the way. Maybe she will soon? Maybe she won’t? Maybe it’s perfectly cool for her to play around with her own Identity?!
Indulge me while I wax lyrical for a bit, because there are some Things that need to be Said:
We are The Strange Children of Change.. the Wild, Beautiful Freaks that half frighten, half excite. . It falls on us to lead the way across these waves of radical change, calling back the way forward.
We come from all the cultures across the world and all ages. From many subcultures too; from SF Fandom, Science, Goth, Steampunk, Otherkin, Cyberpunk, Biopunk, Biohackers, etc
Radical Inclusiveness & Revolutionary Optimism are the Tools of our Trade.
We are friends to all. But remember, good friends call you on your bullshit and help you grow. They encourage you to realize your full potential and be a better (post)human.
Those within the Hierarchy see everything with binary vision: us/them, friend/foe, good/bad.. immediately judging for Fitness within it’s internal categories of Correctness.
We natives of the Network see with multiplicitous eyes. Not judging, but listening.. finding all the common ways we connect, sharing our stories, offering advice, hard won wisdom and invitations to explore new things based on our own past experience and knowledge.
The only thing we don’t tolerate is intolerance.
Where our fellow travelers are mocked. Where courageous explorers like Lepht Anonym are criticized and called “un-transhumanist” by the likes of Natasha Vita-Moore & other elements of the H+ society, we are saddened. This is the Transhumanism of the Hierarchy. Remember, it is the forces of Control that started this whole mess.
The answer isn’t to appear “more palatable to the mainstream” (the defense with which they mark such decrees), it’s to shatter the whole fiction of a Mainstream to begin with!
So much of Transhumanist literature and discussion reeks of body hatred, of a desire to leave the meat behind and live forever in electric dreams, in their idealized, distant Future. Maintaining their current existence purely through virtual avatars. Grinders challenge and extend their limits in the here-and-now, taking everything they can find from the realms of Diet, Psychology, Linguistics, Philosophy, Computer Science, Neuroscience, Engineering, Physical Fitness, Architecture, Industrial and Fashion Design, etc etc, to enhance, explore & express themselves however they choose.
Freedom to modify one’s body, and it’s cousin, cognitive liberties… are they harder to fight for when the previous victories of Freedom of Speech, Religion, Association and so on seem to be under threat at present by so many forces. I say no! We support them all. We demand the right of a person to live and act however they choose – so long as they don’t physically harm anyone or restrict anyone else from equally doing so.
These Cultural Norms we struggle against are forced on to us by the weight of history and the continued existence of a Society where Citizens still need permission to make choices. Where they are not trusted and must be nannied by the State. Where everything appears to exist purely to reinforce the Normal (a term who’s only true meaning is in Statistics); that Impossible Individual representing the complete average of the group. This impossibility makes everyone a Square Peg in a Round Hole.. forever trying to Fit In.
Which brings us to the First Corollary of There Is No They: There Is No Normal.
If necessary, think of it this way, from a purely economic rationalist, productive point of view: if everyone is free to express themselves however they choose, they’ll be happier, more motivated (and frankly, less likely to kill themselves), instead of spending so much energy squashing down their True Self. A richer Society could exist!
We need to Defend these Freedoms. All of them. To stand firmly and say these things are Correct. Let us evolve!
In the Industrial Age everything seemed to be measured with the Bell Curve, but now we are in the territory of Exponential Graphs, Asymmetry and Radical Multiplicity.
For now, let us look Forward! to a more rich, varied world. Let multi-humanism be the new multi-culturalism! Because it’s all hands on deck time, people.
(And that’s why I think Elf Ears and Facial Horns are cool.)
This short-film by Interdisciplinary Fashion Designer Nancy Tilbury and Visual Artists 125 Creative gives us a glimpse at what they think fashion in 2050 might look like:
Couture becomes a biological experience, gowns are assembled by gas and nano-electronic-particles, where tailoring and cosmetics are constructed by 3D liquid formations, including swallowable technologies exciting the mind, body and soul through physical expression. It is a time when couture will be cultured and farmed as fashion facets of human flesh. A Fashion Futures Film to provoke…
thanks for the tip-off Emily Crane!
In fact, check out this film of her work too:
One of a rare breed of scientists willing to volunteer their own bodies in the service of science, professor Warwick let British surgeons place a silicon chip with 100 spiked electrodes directly into his nervous system in March 2002.
Any excuse to post a pic of Kevin Warwick, but this is taken from TIME’s overview of the advances made via self-experimentation and how it’s continuing today amongst enthusiasts on the internet; My Body, My Laboratory:
For centuries, self-experimentation was an accepted form of science. Sir Isaac Newton almost burned his cornea because he could think of no other means of understanding visual hallucinations than staring at the sun. But in recent years, the academic institutions, grant agencies and journals that have codified the scientific method have come to view self-experimentation with suspicion, worrying that it leads to bias or misleading results. Nevertheless, the practice continues among a small number of professors and doctors who see it as the last chance to prove an underfunded theory, as an act of solidarity with other study subjects. Or simply as an avenue to fame.
Self-experimentation has also found new life on the Internet. So-called self-tracking has already made lay scientists of many of us as we buy the latest exercise device or nutritional supplement and then log into forums to compare our findings with other investigators. What the practice lacks in rigor, it makes up for in zeal, not to mention the sheer number of subjects running their mini-studies. Somewhere in there, real — if ad hoc — science might occur. “To me, [self-tracking] is the future of self-experimentation,” says Seth Roberts, a professor of psychology at Tsinghua University in China, whose work led to the quirky best-selling diet book The Shangri-La Diet. The practice will continue among “normal people who are simply intent on discovering what works for them.”
Denis Harscoat, co-organizer of the Quantified Self group in London, agrees. Workers are more productive if they complete regular, small tasks rather than an occasional large project; the same is true of do-it-yourself science, he says. At the meetings Harscoat convenes, members discuss everything from monitoring their blood pressure to which behaviors best facilitate writing a play. “You might think we are a bunch of data-crunching geeks,” he says, “but it’s good to track.”
And track the Quantified Selfers do, often aided by new products designed for them: Zeo headbands, said to monitor sleep phases; Nike plus, shoes with a distance, speed and time sensor embedded in them; Asthmapolis, which records the location, time and date of each breath so asthmatics can monitor their attacks. Every bit of data is shared in meetings so it can be considered in the aggregate.
Here’s an interesting piece of design fiction, via BLDGBLOG.
Dunne & Raby, commissioned by Design Indaba as part of Protofarm 2050 for the ICSID World Design Congress in Singapore, have come up with an interesting solution for our “need to produce 70% more food in the next 40 years”.
In short, turn more things into food.
So far we have not really embraced the power to modify ourselves. What if we could extract nutritional value from non-human foods using a combination of synthetic biology and new digestive devices inspired by digestive systems of other mammals, birds, fish and insects?
As such, a group of people take their fate into their own hands and start building DIY devices. They use synthetic biology to create “microbial stomach bacteria”, along with electronic and mechanical devices, to maximise the nutritional value of the urban environment, making-up for any shortcomings in the commercially available but increasingly limited diet. These people are the new urban foragers.
Foragers is about the contrast between bottom-up and top-down responses to a massive problem and the role played by technical and scientific knowledge. It builds on existing cultures currently working on the edges of society, who may initially appear extreme and specialist – guerrilla gardeners, garage biologists, freegan gleamers etc. By adapting and expanding these strategies, they become models to speculate on what might happen in the future
The video is as a crazy as the concept might seem. But is it so crazy it just might work?
Word up cutting-edge body-mod enthusiasts! Or should I say bleeding-edge? Either/or. For the long wait for implantable, “electronic tattoos” is nearly over.
Researchers in the US, China, Korea and Singapore have collaborated to develop flexible ultra-thin sheets of inorganic light emitting diodes (LEDs) and photodetectors for implantation under the skin for medical monitoring, activating photo-sensitive drugs, and other biomedical applications.
The PDMS substrate is flexible enough that the circuits can still function even if twisted or stretched by even as much as 75 percent. Rogers said most research has concentrated on organic LEDs (OLEDs), which are extremely sensitive to water and oxygen, but the flexible arrays are encapsulated in a thin layer of silicon rubber, which makes them waterproof and allows them to function well when implanted or completely immersed in biofluids. The design also eliminates the mechanical constraints normally imposed on such devices by the inflexible semiconductor wafers that support them.
Obviously, I’m filing the cosmetic uses for this under ‘other applications’. And, of course, early adopters beware! As cool as it will be to carve up your flesh and be the first at your local club to show this off, the tech will only improve from here. As always, I advise targetted leaps forwards with new technology. Unless you’re going for the future-retro-past look. Then, it’s perfect.
Just in time for Cyborg Month! (Well, every day is Cyborg Month around here, but you get the idea.) Recently, M1k3y and I had the chance to have a talk with our favourite Cyborg Anthropologist, Amber Case. We covered the history of cyborgs, the impact of her accident and subsequent surgeries, games, anthropology, the past present and future of CyborgCamp and a few other things.
You recently came close to what most people think of a Cyborg as a
result of your accident at SXSW, correct? How has recovery been, and
has actually having implants – of a fairly mundane but important kind
- refined your ideas regarding Cyborgs?
On March 17, 2010, I slipped on a slippery deck in Austin, Texas on the last day of the SXSW conference.
The image above is an X-ray of what the orthopedic surgeon put into my ankle. The surgery was originally supposed to take 45 minutes, but when they opened up the sides of my ankle, they realized that all the bones had splintered into tiny pieces. The surgery ended up taking 4 hours. A lot of hardware was required to stabilize the bones while they healed back into place.
When I woke up from the surgery I was on so much pain killer that I couldn’t think or speak straight. I realized, as I lay in bed for the next 2 weeks, sleeping 20 hours a day, that there is a very important piece of time that is lost in the digital world. This piece of time is the time of nothingness. Of being alone with thoughts. Today, a lot of the space between moments is often filled with mobile devices. If you’re waiting in line for something, chances are, you might pull out your phone to distract yourself. This instant fix of connectivity happens all the time, so much so that your brain becomes used to non-stop stimulus and craves it when information turns off.
I couldn’t use a computer for a month after my surgery. Except for a few tweets here and there, and some E-mail on my iPhone, the rest of the day was spent in silence. Instead of living one moment to the next, I used the time to understand and plan for long term things, not just short term things. In short, getting injured provided me with a break and a completely different view on the world. I highly suggest it.
Another thing I discovered was that moving around in a wheelchair is an amazing experience. It’s slower and puts things at a completely different eye-level than usual. I found myself noticing the world around me, not just the digital world. I also gained a greater appreciation of Twitter. Even though I could barely move, I was still connected. From the 18th-20th centuries, advances in transportation were concerned with the physical self. Planes, trains and automobiles became faster and more efficient. The computer age advanced the ability for one to transport the mental self. Geography is annihilated.
How does it feel to be the name – besides Donna Haraway – that most people think of when they hear “Cyborg Anthropologist?”
In the early 90′s Donna Haraway proposed what she termed a “cyborg anthropology” to study the relation between the machine and the human, and she adds that it should proceed by “provocatively” reconceiving “the border relations among specific humans, other organisms, and machines. But Haraway wasn’t the first to discuss Cyborg Anthropology. In fact, concepts of human and technological interaction have been seriously examined by anthropologists since 1942, with the initial focus being the use and effects of feedback. These discussions led to the Macy Conferences in the 1940′s and 50′s. These were no ordinary conferences. They were attended by academic and technological luminaries such as Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson, John von Neumann and Norbert Weiner, inventor of the field of Cybernetics.
Though Haraway’s “A Cyborg Manifesto” was published in 1991, it wasn’t until 1993 that the idea of a “Cyborg Anthropology” was formally proposed at the Annual Meetings of the American Anthropological Association (AAA) by Joeseph Dumit and Robbie Davis-Floyd. Robbie’s interests were in human reproduction, which is one of the first fields that the study of cyborg anthropology was seriously applied to. If you think about it, the modern birthing process is extremely cybernetic. There are all sorts of machines that allow a doctor see what a baby looks like inside the womb. If a baby has a difficult time being born, a Caesarean section can be preformed with minimal risk to the mother. If a baby is premature, it can be hooked up to an incubator, the equivalent of an external cybernetic womb.
I studied the anthropology of Internet marketing when I first left college. I knew that if I didn’t quickly make a career for myself, or be findable, I’d never survive. I wrote my thesis early and spent the last semester of college inventing courses for myself to take with titles like “Corporate Information and Power”. Then I went to conferences on marketing and business and met people. It was that networking that brought my degree to life, and it was the title cyborg anthropologist that made people stop and ask me what that meant, vs. simply being a marketer or consultant. I expected the field of Cyborg Anthropology to develop over time, and was surprised that there were not more cyborg anthropologists out there. Technically, anthropologist danah boyd’s research on teenagers and social networks falls into the field of cyborg anthropology. I’d also recommend the work of Sadie Plant (specifically her essay “On the Mobile”, and MIT’s Sherry Turkle, who wrote and edited dozens of books about humans and technology far before technology was ubiquitous as it is now.
Do you have any thoughts on on recreational cyborg-ery; the move of home gaming systems towards more physically interactive designs and the nascent field of AR gaming?
The Internet as Playground and factory is the best phrase I’ve found to describe what’s going on in the virtual and physical worlds. Foursquare makes it so that every venue in real life has a point value. Yelp makes it so that every place is an experience that can be reported on and shared. Facebook and Twitter turn everyday interactions into historical text.
But each moment of play is also a moment of work. Each additional review, each status update, and every Foursquare check-in is work. Because it is fun, there is no friction to contributing. But it is still work. The Facebook database is updated by millions of unpaid workers every day, voluntarily contributing their content in order to receive responses and content and the release of oxytocin that comes with a community’s response to their contribution. The more one contributes to Facebook, the more information Facebook has on human interests and behavior. And the more information Facebook has on human interests and behavior, the more advertiser on Facebook pay for access to demographic data.
Reality is boring. Waiting in line at the DMV suck. Real life takes time. Digital life is more instantaneous. In real life, the time and space between goals and accomplishments is often large. For some, it is physically impossible to achieve certain things, like purchasing a Ferrari or rising above middle management in their career path. Online gaming, especially sites like Farmville step in to take care of that void. Whereas one doesn’t have the money, time or room for a real garden, Farmville provides one without the back aching labor. All reality is replaced by small icons, and time is compressed so that goals and accomplishments are right next to one another. Everything has a point value and a reward. When real life takes so long to reward someone, online gaming is often a better and more enjoyable alternative.
In the future, hybrid reality, or life which is both a game and real, might blot out the mild dystopia that we all live in. Or it will make us more intolerable of the space between reality. And for those who spend a lot of time in reality, Foursquare is a good add-on for making the mundane exciting. To be crass, one might say that Foursquare is kind of like dogs pissing on fire hydrants and having other dogs come along and sniff them to see who’s been there. The dog with the most potent urine is mayor of the fire hydrant.
Some of the current hybrid reality games involve players getting +1 followers, and +1 likes. In an RPG, you might battle creatures with similar stats, or team with them. On Twitter, you might talk or argue with those who have similar stats. These stats are not new. They always existed in some form or another in real life. The Internet is not building these stats, but is making visible stats that people already have between each other. (See Paul Adam’s brilliant slides on this subject). The web also offers the opportunity for people in different geographies and times to connect with one another based on stats. In a reputation economy, one levels up or down after gaining or losing friends or followers. How much one levels up depends on the quality and actual connectedness of a friend or follower.
When I think of reality and mobile technology gaming I often think of the Tamagotchi. The Tamagotchi was one of the first major virtual pets to hit the market. Since its introduction in 1996, over 70 million Tamagotchis have been sold. The toy is simple. Children and teens feed, train and clean up after a virtual pet through a few buttons on the screen. In return, the pet grows older. Teens took to the toys in school and became obsessive about maintaining them. Why? The virtual pet on the device exhibited signs of life – it had needs, grew, and died. Each of these aspects caused toy owners to become mentally attached to them, responding to the stimulus with the correct series of button presses.
Real life relationships are complex. They must be maintained, or they fade away. The cell phone, like the Tamagotchi, is a virtual way to feed relationships. Friends may be fed by button presses, and looked after. A mobile phone cries, and it must be picked up and soothed back to sleep. When it runs out of battery power it must be fed. Because the mobile phone requires attention, it too resembles a living creature. Cell phones now live in our pockets and wake us up in the morning. They are our dashboards for interfacing with friends, family and appointments. They connect us to the database on which we now live.
I think one of the best people in this field is Jane McGonigal. I’d highly suggest watching her talk on “Saving the World Through Game Design” from the 2008 New Yorker conference. or reading the paper she wrote on “i love bees”, an excellent massive alternate reality game with thousands of participants. Another great resource in this field is Mary Flanigan. She studies games and wrote a wonderful book called Critical Play that combines a view of games from 3,000 years ago, modern use of games in Art movements, and digital games.
Do you see a lot of currently externalized technologies such as cell-phones and portable entertainment platforms becoming internalized in our lifetimes? For that matter what do you think the odds are of viable and substantial life extension in the near future?
One of the risks of internalizing technologies such as cell phones is that human bodies are prone to viruses, and software and hardware devices are just not good enough. They fail all of the time. They’re full of bugs. They’re full of security risks and faultly code. This is not the problem of code, but of the messy conditions in which much of the code that runs mainstream devices is created. Marketers, managers, investors, board members, programmers – those with bad documentation practices – those who leave in the middle of a project, changing protocols, communication between devices, software updates, legacy software, production practices, pricing, cutting corners – all of these things prevent implantable hardware from functioning as well as one might like it to. There’s also a problem with upgrading hardware once it is implanted. The decision to purchase a cell phone is already a difficult one. The decision to have an operation to implant something in your body something a quite a bit more involved than that.
Feed by M.T. Anderson is an adolescent fiction book that deals with a lot of these concepts, specifically issues of class status, consumption, and faulty electronics. The premise of the book is quite simple – everyone gets an implant when they are young that allows them to connect to the “Feed” (this book was written before the idea of the Facebook feed, and before the concept of Feeds in general). Those with less money have faultier feeds than others, and this is what I expect might happen when people begin getting implants. They’ll need to be updated every few years, or less. Even today, those who do not update their external prosthetic devices experience those devices turning against them. Hang on to an old computer or car for too long, and it’ll break. If you don’t have enough money to upgrade to the next technology, bad things happen.
I guess while we’re talking about advancing technologies, I’m contractually obligated to ask about your stance on the Technological Singularity – Where do you fall in regards to Extropianism or the Singularity?
I think the Singularity has happened already – but only three times. The first time was the Earthquake in Haiti. The second was Micheal Jackson’s death, and the third was the World Cup. It’s a snarky reply, but it’s the one I’ve been giving recently. Everyone was with technosocial access was connected in each of those situations, and everyone was following along. A more serious reply is not going to fit in this blog post, as I only barely touched it in my thesis on cell phones and technosocial sites of engagement.
What’s the quick summary of the CyborgCamp concept?
CyborgCamp is an unconference about the future of the relationship between humans and technology. We discuss topics such as social media, design, code, inventions, web 2.0, twitter, the future of communication, cyborg technology, anthropology, psychology, and philosophy. It’s a small conference that attracts around 120 participants, slightly less than Dunbar’s Number. The speakers and sponsors generally come from the local community. In 2008 we had Ward Cunningham, inventor of the first wiki. He gave a fascinating speech on Seeing that left the audience stunned. Ward does not think in the same way that anyone else thinks. His approach to problem solving is an incredible thing to watch.
In my experience with the “unconference” structure, sometimes themes develop organically from the participants – was there a particular theme that struck you as emerging from CyborgCamp Seattle?
CyborgCamp Seattle had varying themes and people from many different backgrounds giving speeches. My favorite one was an extremely in-depth speech on the history of cybernetics. The CEO of a security company demoed his upcoming TED talk on the use of shovels in developing countries, and I gave a talk on non-visual augmented reality with SMS and GPS. At one point, a number of us got into a passionate discussion on the effect of technology on education. That one was the most unexpected and organic, and it was fun to discuss.
Have previous CyborgCamps spawned projects or offshoots of their own?
Yes, the first CyborgCamp in Portland, Oregon and it helped a local videomaker get his business off the ground. There will be one in Brazil in the next year, and there was one in Seattle a few months ago.
CyborgCamp Seattle is now in your rear-view mirror, and with CyborgCamp Portland and Brazil coming up, are there any takeaways from Seattle that you think will inform the next Camps this year? Any thoughts on Camps further abroad than Brazil?
Each CyborgCamp takes on the unique flavor of the location in which it is planned. There is no way to predict what each one will be like before it occurs.
It’s been fantastic talking with you – is there anything you’d like to leave us with?
Thanks! It’s been a good time. If you’d like to learn more about Cyborg Anthropology, this site is slowly developing http://cyborganthropology.com/, as well as this webcast: http://cyborganthropology.com/O%27Reilly_Webcast. I’m also on Twitter at @caseorganic. There’s also a great project called 50 Posts about Cyborgs that people who like cyborgs will probably enjoy.