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Warning [SPOILERS]: if you care about the plots of Nikita, Iron Man 3, The Bourne Legacy… stop now, go watch ‘em all then come back. Hi!
Philosophy so physical makes for a very handsome tribe.
And it’s a good reason to take a whip-around look at the world of pop culture as serious business, and re-examine the state of the #transhumanfuturepresent.
First we have the latest season of the spy soap, Nikita. Referring in-show to its “spy fi” plot elements, the absolute transhuman drama of cyborg hand upgrades and cutting edge transplant dramatic problems. Don’t bring a possibly evil hand to a knife fight or something.
The settings of Iron Man 3 and The Bourne Legacy are both unquestionably transhuman. Neither film is a journey of a character to science-fictional state (see recent highlights: Limitless, Chronicle), but rather their starting condition.
(We can wedge Hanna in here too, though it’s more properly a genetically engineered super-solider girl coming of age fairy tale, innit).
In Iron Man 3, Tony Stark (1.0) not only has upgraded-girlfriend-dramas (well, Red She-Hulk solutions) but the plot driver is a conflict between two competing paths of self-directed human evolution: man/machine co-evolution and direct genetic hacking (hopefully not precluding the eventual arrival of Zeke Stane (Tony Stark 2.0) onto the big screen, that plot having been mined from The Five Nightmares arc of The Invincible Iron Man).
Speaking about playing Aldritch Killan, Guy Pearce mentions that Extremis also upgrades the subject to become one of the beautiful people:
In The Bourne Legacy, our hero, who totally isn’t being chased by the mutant wolves of The Grey as it opens, is the latest iteration of the super-soldierspy program. His motivation is to hold onto his upgraded self, lest he reverts back to being the guy from The Lawnmower Man, or something.
Once you’ve gone transhuman…
Back in Canada, and actually set-in-Canada Canadian drama Continuum, which apart from featuring an absolutely bad-ass tech suit rather a lot like Deus Ex: Human Revolution‘s (itself a bridge between its low-grade #peakcyberpunkfuture and today, a cyborg hand reaching back to the present), combines transhuman future cop trapped in the present drama, with standard procedural drama, and excellent sociopolitical critique. Honestly, the first show on TV that I wish I was writing for ([blink]%HIRE ME%[/blink]).
Plus in the actual RL, we have Google Glass, already getting surpassed by the Meta. Pioneers like Steve Mann and Neil Harbigesen. Sports stories speculating on specific upgrades already being outdated… and other things I’m sure I’ve missed. So tell me!
and while we’re talking, let’s discuss the anti-posthuman agenda of Star Trek, most recently seen in Into the Darkness:
Litmus test: who is the real villain in X-Men: First Class?
And we leave you with the trailer for Elysium, grinder revenge pr0n if ever there was one:
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?