The Many Posthuman Aspects of PacificRim

Posted by on October 22nd, 2013

Or: the candy-coated man/machine rescue mission.

Pacific Rim is many things. Many shiny, spectacular, immersive, self-aware, monster genre mashing, robot smashing, crowd pleasing, city destroying, heroic dancing things. But apart from its surface appeal, it’s also the delivery system for some incredibly out there, subversive, challenging ideas. This may just be my reading of it, and that’s fine. But I suspect Guillermo Del Toro is guilty of being a clever, clever human and knew exactly what he was doing with this blockbuster movie.

Allow me to explain my thinking here. This is not a review. It’s a “User Guide for Humans”, from barely opened, posthuman eyes. This is an analog mind-meld, I mean drift; an English language sequence as slow-boot brain update. Are you ready to accept Singularity?

Want some Candy?

Taken at face value, Pacific Rim is… completely absurd. And if that wasn’t immediately apparent from its premise, it’s clear by halfway through the film that’s it’s winking hard at you. And shouting at you with Idris Elba’s mandatory “the apocalypse is cancelled” speech at the climax, that amazing actor barely containing the joy on his face in getting to deliver an epic line like this. Pure man-child bliss… just the kind you might expect to find in a mech suit vs kaiju fightfest.

Now those of the Otaku-bent might want to do a detailed analysis of the origins and influences and details of Pacific Rim, and that’s exactly what this post on has done, if you want it.

I’m not anti-Otaku. Hell, I raced home as a kid to watch Robotech, and collected what Transformers I could afford. When I toured Japan in ’09 I stumbled onto the Mobile Suit Gundam arcade game and played it every day I was there. I clutched my pilot card when I walked into the preview screening of Pacific Rim, and wore the pirate Neon Genesis Evangelion tee I picked up in a store in Akihabara.

I have been absolutely psyched for this film, and its complement Elysium, all damn year.

What I am saying is there’s a lot more going on below the surface of Pacific Rim. Just don’t expect it to cohere into a logical whole.

Go Borg or Stay Human

First we have the “dance-dance pilot systems”. With its shiny video game aesthetics, and drama engine device, it is first and foremost pro-Borg; celebrating the union of more than one human conscious into a greater whole. There’s been a lot of Borg-hate going on since Google Glass dropped into the world, and I’m looking mostly at Stop the Cyborgs.

Mind you, I walked into this movie with my head having been resident inside in Ramez Naam’s Nexus’verse for a good month. One of the elements of that future world is human hate of anything group-mind (not unlike the linear future world of the Star Trek-verse’s Federation), following various terrorist attacks and cult fiascoes.  So to immediately recognise that there were Borg heroes, front and centre in this film was yet another joyful moment.

Then we have the Robo/Borgsexuality.

Posthuman Gender & Robosexuality

It’s fair to say there are fans going into this already fetishising being inside giant robots…

…which brings us to the giant confusion of posthuman gender. Because what does that even look like from a human perspective? Maybe it’s two buff guys in shiny suits merging through a shared childhood to form a union with a rocket punching, sock’em bot? Maybe it’s also some weird, ritualised staff fighting sequence that isn’t a romantic, courtship sequence… because that would make the two brothers incestuous and homoerotic and is anyone else getting uncomfortable thinking deeply about this?

Let’s cut to the heroic scientist “drifting” with a random chunk of giant alien brain… why on Earth would a Kaiju fanboy ever be turned on by humongous glial cells of extra-dimensional origin?

Chief prosecutor for the homoerotic subtext of jockeying flightsuits argument, thinly fictionalized Quentin Tarantino, explains:

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you want subversion on a massive level…


Those of us raised on Robotech also obsessively watched Top Gun as teens. Hell, my gaming nick was Maverick for much of my youth. So the reconciliation scene at the end of Pacific Rim, the begrudging acceptance of the owner of worst Aussie accent ever and our hero… totally recapitulates Top Gun.

And if you’re still not convinced, you haven’t been watching True Blood; same actor, explicitly homoerotic mind-meld:

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Message received collective unconscious!

Make what you will of the fact that I really hope we get to see the bulldog don a mech suit and borg it up with friendly, genetically engineered Kaiju in a sequel. Plot that on your human linear Kinsey scale!

Move over Seven of Nine, the new borg sexiness is definitely here.

Posthuman Battlesuits

Once you’ve accepted that, the “city as a battlesuit [Matt Jones guest post on io9]” is a not a stretch of the brain meats at all. The mech suit as embodiment of the merger of humanity and its infrastructure; the champion of the Anthropocene. Especially visible when you’ve got ships being used as baseball bats and “Gipsy Danger [using] shipping containers like brass knuckles”.

Each Jaegar is built to defend a city, but really, it’s manifesting its surrounds, even merging with them.

As Matt Jones quotes from a British architecture journal:

While Batman’s Gotham City and Superman’s Metropolis largely reflect the character of the superheroes who inhabit them (Gotham is grim, Metropolis shines)

And as he compares to a hero of The Authority:

“Hawksmoor defeats the giant, monstrous sentient city by wrapping himself in Tokyo to form a massive concrete battlesuit.”

Posthuman defense systems with local characteristics.

And while we’re stretching that long bow of your mind, let’s add that you can argue that its also a recapitulation of one Earth’s oldest tales: Marduk the City God vs the Serpent. The Jaegar as the city turned God-like, and if the Kaiju aren’t the contemporary incarnation of the “monster of primeval chaos”, than what is?

“It’s not Posthuman without going Post-State”

It’s not a posthuman tale without things going post-state. The foolish, political human types gripped by their illusions of control decide that building a giant wall trends much better in the polls, and it’s within that construction effort that we find our hero lurking at the film’s commencement. Kaijus walk right through megastructures dramatis (or thinly disguised metaphors at the political penchant for building barriers to keep out unwanted arrivals). Anyway… our pragmatic, military leader, Idris Elba (TV’s Luther), unencumbered by the requisite trope of giant wall of video-screened suits ordering him turns to… “extra-legal funding sources”, continuing the rescue mission by any means necessary.

In this case, dealing with a bizarre caricature of a bad guy with great shoes; the hybrid Spy Kids enemy / Bond Villain. (Ranking the film just above Contact on someone’s “Top 10: Projects funded by an absolute Bond Villain?” list)

But let’s not miss the metaphor of the real villains; the Kaiju themselves. Thomas Hobbes described the State as a Leviathan. And what better way to portray the entities that have really destroyed the climate of this planet for their own ends, what more apt depiction of rogue geoengineers than as giant monsters?! It’s definitely how the various manifestations of corporate-democratic empire looks to the rest of the world.

And this is the most subversive element of all snuck into the subconscious of the audience for a gigantic popcorn flick by a Mexican director. Perhaps no surprise then that the film did terribly in the US, but made serious bank globally.


Maybe it’ll take the US a decade or so to appreciate it, as critics are just now accepting Southland Tales, but when you’re watching Elysium wondering why augmented super soldiers are battling with swords and chainsaws over the rights of a breakaway civilisation to exist, remember that Ron Perlman probably said it best in the post-credits scene:

where is my other shoe? -^

When will it drop?

Disproving its antecedent film on things that lurk in the cracks of the earth, beneath the waves, The Abyss: “They want us to grow up a bit, and put away childish things. Of course, it’s just a suggestion.

With Del Toro it’s posthuman man-children dancing off to the rescue, and that’s just super by me.

tachyon rich data trails of transhuman theft

Posted by on April 12th, 2013

Triggered by yetAnotherMacTheftGoneViralForGreatFirstWorldJustice, agent @interdome‘s wired consciousness achieved resonance with his near-future-self, causing the creation of the following micro-time-leaked tweets:

BREAKING THE TABOO (This is your world on drugs)

Posted by on December 9th, 2012
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A one-hour look at the failure of the War on Drugs across the world.

Two noticeable omissions:

  1. How the Global Banking System has been propped up by cartel money.
  2. The success of ibogaine in curing opioid addiction.

But then when all drugs are bad, mmmmmkay, it kind of limits your solution space.

Can’t be emphasised enough how important reform in this area is, because as the world looks bleaker more people will turn to any available form of escapism. And as the world systems collapse, the New Barbarians, those transnational criminal organisations will be more than happy to be the ones standing the gap.

Because it couldn’t possibly be the intention of the US Gov to create a prison (aka slave) work force, could it?


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Joining the dots left as an exercise for the reader.

PLURALITY [short film]

Posted by on October 6th, 2012
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via @leashless | falkvinge

they call it “beaming”

Posted by on May 14th, 2012

From the BBC:

Beaming, of a kind, is no longer pure science fiction. It is the name of an international project funded by the European Commission to investigate how a person can visit a remote location via the internet and feel fully immersed in the new environment.

The visitor may be embodied as an avatar or a robot, interacting with real people.

Motion capture technology – such as the Microsoft Kinect games console – robots, 3D glasses and special haptic suits with body sensors can all be used to create a rich, realistic experience, that reproduces that holy grail – “presence”.

Project leader Mel Slater, professor of virtual environments at University College London (UCL), calls beaming augmented reality, rather than virtual reality. In beaming – unlike the virtual worlds of computer games and the Second Life website – the robot or avatar interacts with real people in a real place.

He and his team have beamed people from Barcelona to London, embodying them either as a robot, or as an avatar in a specially equipped “cave”. One avatar was able to rehearse a play with a real actor, the stage being represented by the cave’s walls – screens projecting 3D images.

…this also raises the possibility of new types of crime.

Could beaming increase the risk of sexual harassment or even virtual rape? That is one of many ethical questions that the beaming project is considering, along with the technical challenges.

Law researcher Ray Purdy says you might get a new type of cyber crime, where lovers have consensual sexual contact via beaming and a hacker hijacks the man’s avatar to have virtual sex with the woman.

It raises all sorts of problems that courts and lawmakers may need to resolve. How could a court prove that that amounted to molestation or rape? The human who hacks into an avatar could easily live in another country, under different laws.

The electronic evidence might be insufficient for prosecution. Crimes taking place remotely might sometimes leave digital trails, but they do not leave forensic evidence, which is often vital to secure rape convictions, Purdy says.

“Clearly, laws might have to adapt to the fact that certain crimes can be committed at a distance, via the use of beamed technologies,” he says.

Sexual penetration by a robot part is another possibility. Current law may not go far enough to cover that, Purdy says. And what if a robot injured you with an over-zealous handshake? Or if an avatar made a sexually explicit gesture amounting to sexual harassment?

He argues that using a robot maliciously would be similar in law to using a gun – responsibility lies with the controller. “While it is the gun that fires the bullet, it is the person in control of the gun that commits the act – not the gun itself.”

The Kinect technology, capturing an individual’s gestures, is potentially a powerful tool in the hands of an identity thief, argues Prof Jeremy Bailenson, founder of the Virtual Human Interaction Lab at Stanford University, California.

“A hacker can steal my very essence, really capture all of my nuances, then build a competing avatar, a copy of me,” he told the BBC. “The courts haven’t even begun to think about that.”

Prof Patrick Haggard, a neuroscientist at UCL who has been examining ethical issues thrown up by beaming, says there is a risk that such a virtual culture could reinforce body image prejudices.

But equally an avatar could form part of a therapy, he says, for example to show an obese person how he or she might look after losing weight.

As beaming develops, one of the biggest questions for philosophers may be defining where a person actually is – just as it is key for lawyers to determine in which jurisdiction an avatar’s crime is committed.

Even now people are often physically in one place but immersed in a virtual world online.

Avatars challenge the human bond between identity and a physical body.

“My body may be here in London but my life may be in a virtual apartment in New York,” says Haggard. “So where am I really?”

Click through for more, including a video demonstration of the tech.

How the network is bringing down the Murdoch Empire and rocking the status quo

Posted by on July 10th, 2011

This. This is what is happening in the UK right now. Radical destabilisation of the existing order, the status quo, through the pure power of the truth.

Murdoch: the network defeats the hierarchy:

The Murdoch empire fractured, a Conservative prime minister attracting bets on his resignation, the Metropolitan Police on the edge of yet another existential crisis and the political establishment in disarray.

A network of subversives would have counted that a spectacular result to achieve in a decade, let alone in a single week. But it was not subversives that achieved it – the wounds are self-inflicted.

As the News of the World scandal gathered momentum it became clear, by midnight on Thursday, that this was not just the latest of a series of institutional crises – the banks, MPs expenses – but the biggest. For this one goes to the heart of the way this country has been run, under both parties, for decades.

It is like a nightmare scripted by Noam Chomsky and Slavoj Zizek: key parts of the political machinery of Britain are wavering.

In economics journalism, we have learned to study what the Financial Times writer Gillian Tett calls “the social silence”: the subject that everybody at high-class cocktail parties wants to avoid.

After Lehman Brothers collapsed, we realised that the unasked question had been the most important: “on whose books do the increasingly toxic debts of the housing market stand?” The answer was “in the shadow banking system”, but we only knew it existed when it collapsed.

The political equivalent of that question is the one everybody has been asking journalists and politicians this weekend: why do all politicians kow-tow to Mr Murdoch; what is it that makes them incapable of seeing the moral hazards of the relationship?

Nobody outside the Murdoch circle knows the full answer, but I suspect it is quite prosaic: like the Wizard of Oz, Mr Murdoch’s power derived from the irrational fright politicians took from his occasional naked displays of it. The Kinnock “light bulb” headline was probably the signal moment. He was powerful because people believed he had the power, and that editors like Mrs Brooks and Mr Coulson probably had a file on everybody bigger than MI5′s, and so you should never, ever, cross them.

Now there is a school of social theory that has a name for a system in which press barons, police officers and elected politicians operate a mutual back-scratching club: it is termed “the manufacturing of consent”.

Pioneered by Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky, the theory states that essentially the mass media is a propaganda machine; that the advertising model makes large corporate advertisers into “unofficial regulators”; that the media live in fear of politicians; that truly objective journalism is impossible because it is unprofitable (and plagued by “flak” generated within the legal system by resistant corporate power).

At one level, this week’s events might be seen as a vindication of the theory: News International has admitted paying police officers; and politicians are admitting they have all played the game of influence (“We’ve all been in this together” said Cameron, disarmingly). The journalists are baring their breasts and examining their consciences. The whole web of influence has been uncovered.

Finally, the political influence that was supposed to stop the system crumbling, itself has crumbled. We are told Tony Blair pleaded with Gordon Brown to call off Tom Watson MP from his crusade over the original hacking allegations. It did not work.

Tom Baldwin, Ed Miliband’s spin-doctor purposely selected from the Murdoch empire to hone Labour’s message in the direction of Wapping, warned Labour “not to conflate phone-hacking and BSkyB”. Mr Miliband’s Bloomberg speech on Friday contradicted that approach.

One part of the Chomsky doctrine has been proven by exception. He stated that newspapers that told the truth could not make money. The Guardian, whose veteran reporter Nick Davies led the investigation, is indeed burning money and may run out of it in three years’ time.

But a combination of the Guardian, Twitter and the public-service broadcasters, including Sky News, proved stronger than the power and influence of Rupert Murdoch, and for now the rest of Fleet Street has joined in the kicking.

(It should be said here that the Daily Telegraph’s role in the exposure of the MPs expenses scandal laid the groundwork for this moment. The Telegraph proved you can attack major sections of the political elite, who had assumed impunity, and win.)

Now three institutions stand weakened: Mr Murdoch is facing the collapse of his BSkyB bid; a Conservative Party, cut adrift from him, faces a moment of internal re-appraisal; and in the cappuccino joints around New Scotland Yard there is apprehension over whether the Met can survive another systemic kicking so soon after the MacPherson report.

Of all these institutions, it is the one with least resilience among the mass of people that stands in greatest danger. The Conservative Party has branches, summer fetes, jumble sales and social roots going back centuries; the Met is, tonight, dressed in its stab vests and fuelled by stale McDonalds, dealing with traumatized victims of urban mayhem on housing estates few politicians would dare to visit after dark.

But Rupert Murdoch’s resilience relies on the few handpicked lieutenants and family members holed up in London and New York. It is a classic “Weberian hierarchy” – a command structure stronger vertically than horizontally.

Six months ago, in the context of Tunisia and Egypt, I wrote that the social media networks had made “all propaganda instantly flammable”. It was an understatement: complex and multifaceted media empires that do much more than propaganda, and which command the respect and loyalty of millions of readers are now also flammable.

Where all this leaves Noam Chomsky’s theory I will rely on the inevitable wave of comments from its supporters to flesh out.

But the most important fact is: not for the first time in 2011, the network has defeated the hierarchy.

via Mark Pesce

Inside Job (How they stole your future)

Posted by on May 26th, 2011

Inside Job is an award winning documentary about the origins and actors in the ongoing Global Financial Crisis. If I had paid attention to the Oscars this year I might have heard of it sooner, it won the award for Best Documentary Feature. Instead, it was by lurking on #spanishrevolution that I found out about this, and you’ll note this video has Spanish subtitles. But the film is in English; narrated by Matt Damon, even.

This is the story of financial deregulation and the eventual resultant crisis. Begun by Reagan, but it’s important to note, allowed to become ‘too big to fail’ under the Clinton administration. And in no way reformed by the Obama administration.

How the new Global Elite‘s ranks have become swollen with the wealthy executives of Goldman Sachs, Lehman Bros and so on. This film, unsurprisingly, reveals these people to be morally bankrupt, completely divorced from reality. Having no care for society, while the western governments, purely for ideological reasons, abandoned their duty to watch over the interests of their citizens.

Preserving the status quo has come at the expense of employment.. especially for the world’s youth. This is why ‘First World’ infrastructure is in such poor repair. The same ideology adopted by politicians instructing them to pay for only bare minimum maintenance; a culture of short-term gain, ignorant of long-term consequence.

This is how one of the systems of the world was broken and a better future stolen. Observe these people and the faults in, and the corruption of, governance that allowed this to occur, that we might never have (another) a repeat of it. Dare to dream that one day soon they might all be called to account for it too.

Bruce Sterling’s SXSW speech – excerpt 2

Posted by on March 24th, 2011

Continuing my transcription of Bruce Sterling’s excellent SXSW closing speech. Here are excerpts 2 and a bit:

[Discussion of Craig Venter's visit to SXSW, Drew Endy's work with igen and how it's funded by Exxon Mobil's 600 million donation brings us to..]

He [Drew Endy] makes no bones about global warming. He went to great pains to point that out, that his techniques may in fact suck carbon out of the air and, you know, avert or at least delay a colossal calamity.. that Exxon Mobil has just spent three decades lying to us about it, all the time. These guys are the personification of corporate evil in the world today.. Exxon Mobil, I mean if anybody’s board of directors belongs in prison for Crimes against Humanity, it’s these guys. They didn’t force us to put a tiger in our tank. But the tiger they unleashed with these emissions ate Brisbane this year. They’re not the only malefactors, they’re just the best politically connected and he’s making them pay weregild for that.

It’s an allegiance between these malefactors and this visionary. Now the blood of drowned and parched and starving people is gonna be on the hands of those guys in that organization and their fellow travelers on K Street and around Washington, DC. It’s just a fact, nobody can say it out loud. Here,  yeah. In every area where they control the means of expression, hell no.

Just look at HB Gary, if you want an example of the kind of guys… You’re hackers, OK, you don’t care about this, but I bet you care plenty about Wikileaks and Anonymous… These guys are sitting there with heaps of sock-puppets attacking free expression for their corporate masters, and denying global warming by the way, because that’s what pays these cyberwar mercanaries.

Now, if we had it together, the population would give the guy [Endy] 600 million dollars. We’d be in the streets demanding that he be funded… we’d watch him like a rockstar, everywhere he went. We’d know about his girlfriend, his boyfriend, whatever. We’d just be on top of this, because we had it together as a society to recognise our best interests and carry it out politically.

If Texans understood this, they’d be in the street for wind power right now. Oil’s at $325 a barrel and two nuclear power plants just caught fire. And people do freaking nothing about it! You could go out there and make your relatives in West Texas rich over this; Texas has fantastic wind power. Nobody gets out of their seat to do a damn thing about it. Where is the popular pressure for this? Why aren’t social-networks abuzz with this?

Why don’t you take to the streets and paralyse Austin, Madison, Wisconsin-style? ‘Cause that’s your sister city and they’re coming for you, ladies and gentleman. They’re coming for you, get ready!

I was in this place, it happened to be Google’s corporate headquarters, their lobby headquarters in Washington, watching people.. exquisitely well informed, brilliantly educated, Washington mandarins. People from industry and government, as if there’s a difference any more. And they were discussing, you know, the potential implications of this thing. Their air of utter helplessness and detachment was shocking to me. I mean, really, 15 year old kids from Cairo could have kicked these guys to the curb.. they could’ve taken their lunch money. That’s how ineffectual they were. And god help them if that building caught fire; they would issue a whitepaper.. before the exacuation. So, that’s pretty bad..

Policing Genes

Posted by on January 21st, 2011

The honey bee, pollinator and drug insect:

The genetics of the plants in your garden could become a police matter. Pharmaceutical companies are experimenting with genetically engineering plants to produce useful and valuable drugs. However, the techniques employed to insert genes into plants are within reach of the amateur… and the criminal. Policing Genes speculates that, like other technologies, genetic engineering will also find a use outside the law, with innocent-looking garden plants being modified to produce narcotics and unlicensed pharmaceuticals

Via Next Nature.

Mexican city becomes test-bed for next-gen surveillance tech

Posted by on August 19th, 2010

As Fast Company report Leon, Mexico is about to become the test-bed for a Future; but it might not be the Future you’re looking for:

Biometrics R&D firm Global Rainmakers Inc. (GRI) announced today that it is rolling out its iris scanning technology to create what it calls “the most secure city in the world.” In a partnership with Leon — one of the largest cities in Mexico, with a population of more than a million — GRI will fill the city with eye-scanners. That will help law enforcement revolutionize the way we live — not to mention marketers.

“In the future, whether it’s entering your home, opening your car, entering your workspace, getting a pharmacy prescription refilled, or having your medical records pulled up, everything will come off that unique key that is your iris,” says Jeff Carter, CDO of Global Rainmakers. Before coming to GRI, Carter headed a think tank partnership between Bank of America, Harvard, and MIT. “Every person, place, and thing on this planet will be connected [to the iris system] within the next 10 years,” he says.

Leon is the first step. To implement the system, the city is creating a database of irises. Criminals will automatically be enrolled, their irises scanned once convicted. Law-abiding citizens will have the option to opt-in.

When these residents catch a train or bus, or take out money from an ATM, they will scan their irises, rather than swiping a metro or bank card. Police officers will monitor these scans and track the movements of watch-listed individuals. “Fraud, which is a $50 billion problem, will be completely eradicated,” says Carter.

This video, taken from GRI’s website, shows how the system works:

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Touching on the rather obvious privacy issues, Fast Company write:

For such a Big Brother-esque system, why would any law-abiding resident ever volunteer to scan their irises into a public database, and sacrifice their privacy? GRI hopes that the immediate value the system creates will alleviate any concern. “There’s a lot of convenience to this–you’ll have nothing to carry except your eyes,” says Carter, claiming that consumers will no longer be carded at bars and liquor stores. And he has a warning for those thinking of opting out: “When you get masses of people opting-in, opting out does not help. Opting out actually puts more of a flag on you than just being part of the system. We believe everyone will opt-in.

When I asked Carter whether he felt the film was intended as a dystopian view of the future of privacy, he pointed out that much of our private life is already tracked by telecoms and banks, not to mention Facebook. “The banks already know more about what we do in our daily life–they know what we eat, where we go, what we purchase–our deepest secrets,” he says. “We’re not talking about anything different here–just a system that’s good for all of us.”

So there you have it. Facebook and all those loyalty cards are now being used as a precedent to create a complete panopticon.

via Gizmodo | thanks for the tip-off Cat Vincent!

TED Talks: Steven Pinker on the myth of violence

Posted by on July 8th, 2010

Lurker SneakyLil left a link to this in our comments:

I have only read Pinker‘s How The Mind Works, but I believe most of his work to be well worth checking out.

What I would like to pick up and extend on are his comments on how ‘cosmopolitanism’ and Peter Singer‘s ‘expanding circle’ have helped erode our feafulness of the Unknown Other, through reading about and understanding cultures and people we don’t see in the world around us. As my friend David Forbes says, There Is No They.

Our increasing connectedness, and ease of making new connections, is the great benefit of technologies such as Twitter. I daily read the stories of people on every continent on this planet and above it (thanks to tweets coming in from the residents of the ISS).

I would also point to people’s further awareness of their place of ‘privilege’ through tagging their tweets #firstworldproblems. I know it can seem a tad trite at times, and it’s often just a way for people to feel better about bitching about their iPods or Macs. But then think back to your classic literature and remember just how insular and self obsessed some of these great works seem now; completely obsessed with Upper Class Problems. Yes, I’m looking at you Jane Austen and Oscar Wilde!

So tweet away and tag them guilt free.. but do try to ever expand your circle, there’s enough inward facing collectives out there today (fuck you Glenn Beck!), let’s shake things up and dare to join hands across timezones and yes, even generational limits (I dare to believe not all Boomers are evil!).

First human ‘infected’ with computer virus

Posted by on May 27th, 2010
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via 80% of the humans I follow on Twitter.

Facial recognition phone application

Posted by on March 3rd, 2010

Swedish software developer, The Astonishing Tribe, is testing a iPhone application called Reconiizr that will enable the user to find names and numbers of complete strangers.

The user simply has to take a picture of a person and hit the ‘Recognize’ button.

The photo is then compared to shots on social networking sites including Facebook and Twitter before personal information, which can include phone numbers, addresses and email addresses, is sent to the user.

The app works on phones with a camera of five or more megapixel resolution


Jumping off the Burj

Posted by on January 15th, 2010

So last week the Burj Khalifa in Dubai was opened, the latest building to be qualified as the world’s tallest. It cost something like 1.5 billion dollars to construct and is basically a vertical city. In fact:

A firm of Chicago architects have designed it so that those who so wish will never have to leave, or even descend below the 108th floor.

That level is the top floor of residential apartments. For work, you can go to the offices upstairs – anywhere up to the 160th floor. To eat, you can visit the restaurant on the 122nd and to exercise, you can use the gym on the 123rd, about 440 metres up. The gym has both an indoor and, unnervingly, an outdoor swimming pool.

To prevent the high-flying yet enclosed life from becoming dull, the tower’s developers have a solution – at least for the young. The Burj intends to host the world’s highest nightclub, 20 floors higher still than the gym.

Back in May, 2008 two men snuck in and base jumped off it. This is their story:

P.S – not sure if you suffer from vertigo? Check out the view from the very top.

Julian Savulescu says “Genetically enhance humanity or face extinction”

Posted by on November 15th, 2009

In this provocatively titled lecture, from the very aptly named Festival of Dangerous Ideas , Julian Savulescu, Uehiro Professor of Practical Ethics at the University of Oxford and Head of the Melbourne–Oxford Stem Cell Collaboration:

…examines the nature of human beings as products of evolution, in particular their limited altruism, limited co-operative instincts and limited ability to take account of the future consequences of actions. He argues that humans’ biology and psychology are unfit for the kind of society we live in and we must either alter our political institutions, severely restrain our technology or change our nature. Or face annihilation by our own design.

Which is a nice way of saying he makes a strong case for meddling in the genes of our children, and more importantly, can now identify just which ones to tweak.

This is nugenics kids, and it’s shit scary.

(OK, it would be slightly less creepy if he wasn’t wearing his suit jacket like a cape)

Watch on and be afraid;  sooner or later a Government somewhere is going to try this!

The QnA starts mid-way through the second video and is particularly good, in that most of the questions you will have are actually asked by the audience.

thanks to my buddy The Dingo Strategy for the tip-off!


Protecting Your Virtual Privacy: A Closer Look At Digital And Internet Security

Posted by on November 4th, 2009

A gentle reminder that the social sites you frequent on the net shouldn’t be your only concern for data mining:

Dr. Michael Birnhack of TAU’s Faculty of Law and Prof. Niva Elkin-Koren from the University of Haifa recently completed a comprehensive study on information privacy laws in Israel and found compelling reasons for lawmakers everywhere to take notice. “Our research from Israel can serve as a case study of the shortcomings of a comprehensive data protection program,” says Dr. Birnhack.

“It’s not just sites like Facebook and Twitter that should cause concern,” he continues. “It’s all the trivial things that are collected about us that we’re not protected against.”
A health insurance provider doesn’t need to see your medical records to understand the state of your family’s health. It can learn just as much by looking at your grocery bill. “If you use a discount card at a supermarket, information on your purchases is added to a database. If you shop for halal or kosher products, your religion can be inferred, and the purchases of fatty or gluten-free foods can provide an indicator of your family’s overall health.”

Federal legislation in the U.S. regulates for some 15 different kinds of specific data sets, such as health data and credit histories, but not for information collected by club and discount cards or by commercial Web sites. And it’s more difficult to write a law to secure confidentiality in those areas, says Dr. Birnhack.

“Unless there are specific laws in place, this personal digital information is up for grabs. It can be bought and sold between governments and private companies, which can then conduct data mining and analysis on it and sell the results to third parties,” he explains.

Like Europe, Canada has a universal informational privacy policy, but U.S. data collection and dissemination regulation is more limited. Justice system lawyers are currently debating the issue of informational privacy, and Dr. Birnhack suggests that they look to Canada’s law as a good way to protect privacy. “Canada has the best data protection regime in the world,” he says. “It’s very powerful.”


Biotech Company Sued for Accidentally Growing Extra Bones In People’s Bodies

Posted by on November 4th, 2009

An illegal surgical mashup:

A company called Stryker Biotech was in court last week defending a bone-growth product it sold for years, despite reports that it would “drift” in the body, causing bones to grow in random locations.

To boost sales of a product called OP-1 Implant with a bone-setting filler called Calstrux. The mixture was not approved by the FDA, and in fact OP-1 was only supposed to be used on a rare bone disease, not on people who simply needed to have their bones knit together fast. Surgeons were urged by Stryker to shape the OP-1/Calstrux paste into a “tootsie roll” or “vienna sausage” shape and implant it. Unfortunately, the substance often broke down and drifted through patients’ bodies. Bids of sprouting bone that looked like “oatmeal” or “white sesame seeds” would appear far from the site of injury where the substance had been implanted.

The product has excellent application possibilities, too bad about the drift issue. Link via

Original Artist Sued by Imitator

Posted by on October 26th, 2009

John T. Unger, creator of Artisanal Firebowls, is being sued in federal court by an imitator who wants to continue to make knockoffs of Ungers’ original art.

I need your help. My original art has been copied by a manufacturer who is now suing me in federal court to overturn my existing copyrights and continue making knockoffs. I have a strong case, a great lawyer and believe that if I can continue to defend myself, the case will be resolved in my favor. If I run out of funds before we reach trial, a default judgment would be issued against me and could put me out of business. I don’t believe my opponent can win this case in court and I don’t believe he really intends to try. I believe his goal is to use strong-arm litigation tactics to force me to keep spending money or risk losing my copyrights — not by true adjudication, but by default if he is able to outspend me.

Note, since the knockoff company initiated the lawsuit first, the default judgment will be entered in the knockoff company’s favor. Fighting in court takes time, but most importantly, money. Lawyers are expensive. He’s already spent 50K out of pocket so far, but attempts to settle have been unsuccessful.

Seeking a judicial ruling in federal court will cost more than any artist or small business can afford on it’s own, but attempts at settlement have been unsuccessful. I am holding a fundraising sale of my artwork to finance a defense in court. If you can contribute to the fund or share this story with others to help raise awareness, it would mean the world to me.

Money aside, this is an important judicial situation for artists, as the US Copyright Office approved Ungers’ designs as sculptural artwork and awarded him certificates of copyright as the originator of these designs. The law can not and should not be eroded further, but few artists have the money to defend their rights in court. This is a chance to do so now. Please spread the word!

Link via Warren Ellis, via twitter.

Quote of the Day

Posted by on September 2nd, 2009

Brain thoughts:

Perhaps most perplexing is the question of legal responsibility. If someone wearing a neural prosthesis were to punch someone, who is to blame? The action may have been deliberate, in which case the patient is to blame, or the chip may have been malfunctioning and the responsibility would lie with the manufacturer. Discovering where the truth lay would be no easy task. The law has had trouble catching up with the self-parking car, never mind an electronically controlled limb gone wild.

From the article Bionic brain chips could overcome paralysis, via newscientist. com.

Illegal stem-cell clinic raided in Budapest

Posted by on August 5th, 2009

From New Scientist:

Stem cell tourism – patients paying for treatment at illegal “guerrilla” clinics – continues to be a lucrative racket. Police in Hungary last week arrested four individuals they suspect of running an illegal stem cell treatment clinic in Budapest.

Reuters reported the police saying that the treatments were unproven, based on stem cells taken from embryos or aborted fetuses, and cost as much as $25,000 per person.

Gabor Bucsek, leading the police investigation, was quoted as saying that the arrests were “on suspicion of a banned use of the human body”.

More details here.

via BoingBoing