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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. email@example.com
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.
It was a hand that was operated by multiple catches and springs, which simulated the joints of a biological hand. When he showed his design to colleagues it was such a sensation that they worked up a prototype, and in 1551, a movable prosthesis was worn into battle by a French army captain. The Captain claimed it worked so well that he was able to grip and release the reigns of his horse.
Particularly fascinating interview with Jeffery A. Martin here, not just for his research into the Enlightened, but for his eventual synthesis towards a speculative life for the newly near-immortal.
Other transhuman future titbits from around the web of late:
When confronted with random materials, the robot would make a number of intelligently-selected exploratory movements (like rubs, wiggles and pokes) before identifying the material. It got the answer right 95 percent of the time.
Via WIRED UK we learn of the great work from the University of Southern California’s Viterbi School of Engineering.
The robot was equipped with a new type of tactile sensor built to mimic the human fingertip. It also used a newly designed algorithm to make decisions about how to explore the outside world by imitating human strategies. Capable of other human sensations, the sensor can also tell where and in which direction forces are applied to the fingertip and even the thermal properties of an object being touched.
Like the human finger, the group’s BioTac® sensor has a soft, flexible skin over a liquid filling. The skin even has fingerprints on its surface, greatly enhancing its sensitivity to vibration. As the finger slides over a textured surface, the skin vibrates in characteristic ways. These vibrations are detected by a hydrophone inside the bone-like core of the finger. The human finger uses similar vibrations to identify textures, but the robot finger is even more sensitive.
Let’s get this TED Talk out of the way first: Juan Enriquez: Will our kids be a different species?
Next, as we remind ourselves, anything that can be done to a rat…
The new study, which appears in Science today, takes a different approach. Instead of trying to repair the main information superhighway from the brain to the body, Grégoire Courtine, of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, and colleagues focused on alternative routes. Most spinal injuries in people do not sever the spinal cord completely, explains Courtine. To approximate this situation in rats, his team made two surgical cuts in the spinal cord, severing all of the direct connections from the brain, but leaving some tissue intact in between the cuts. Then they had the rodents begin a rehab regime intended to bypass the fractured freeway, as it were, by pushing more traffic onto neural back roads and building more of them.
This regime, which began about a week after the rats were injured, lasted about 30 minutes a day. During each session, the researchers injected the animals with a cocktail of drugs to improve the function of rats’ neural circuits in the part of the spinal cord involved in leg movements, and they stimulated this area with electrodes. With its spinal cord thus primed for action, a rat was fitted into a harness attached to a robotic device that supported its weight and allowed it to walk forward on its hind legs to the extent that it was able. At first, the rats could not move their legs at all, let alone walk.
But after 2 or 3 weeks, the rodents began taking steps toward a piece of food after a gentle nudge from the robot. By 5 or 6 weeks, they were able to initiate movement on their own and walk to get the food. And after a few additional weeks of intensified rehab, they were able to walk up rat-sized stairs and climb over a small barrier placed in their path. Rats that did not undergo rehab, in contrast, showed no improvement at all. Rats suspended over a moving treadmill that elicited reflex-like stepping movement, did not improve either, suggesting that full recovery depends on making intentional movements, not just any movement.
What does every Mutant teen want? Mutant kicks:
Rayfish, a custom footwear company, is marketing leather sneakers that come in every color from shimmering gold to neon green, in patterns that mimick giraffes, zebras, leopard, and lady bugs. And they claim that these designs are grown directly on the hides of custom-engineered stingrays.
And again via our good, good acquaintances at io9:
Susan Dominus has penned a remarkable piece for the New York Times about Krista and Tatiana Hogan, the 4-year old conjoined twin girls from British Columbia who are attached at the head. Scans show that the two girls have brains that are interconnected by a never-seen-before “thalamic bridge,” an indication that they might share conscious thoughts. And if their early behavior is any indication, this may very likely be the case.
Finally, our friend Chris Arkenberg tells us to ‘ware the body net hackers. That’s right, #transhumanproblems:
Security concerns for the nascent field of wireless implants are certainly welcomed but the event stands more broadly as a glowing sign of the times. The relentless ubiquitizing of computation is working its way into our bodies. As has been noted elsewhere [pdf] the path of finance and innovation for these waves of emerging technology typically follows the military-medical-consumer pipeline, walking down the line of survivability from being blown up by an Afghani IED, past spastic hearts and hungry cells, into urban navigation and caffeine acquisition. And maybe transdermal metabolic sleeves for networked jogging or ward implants for not-so-bad convicts squeezed out of overcrowded prison farms and remotely monitored for geofencing violations or the odd spike in muscular adrenergics. The military has the money to develop the tech and treat its soldiers, who are summarily discharged into hospitals that facilitate the transfer of technology into the private sector. Point being, if you’re starting to save up for that cybernetic occipital mat implant, you’d be most well-served to enlist the ready hand of McAfee Security to guard your mind meats from the shady legions of digital malcontents. Standard fees, of course, do apply.
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.”
After participating in a DECA conference in Salt Lake City with several classmates last week, Savannah, who is a type one diabetic and wears an insulin pump 24 hours a day, says she ran into TSA agents who were not prepared to deal with her medical situation. “I went up to the lady and I said, I am a type one diabetic. I wear an insulin pump. I showed her the pump. I said, what do you want me to do? I usually do a pat down – what would you recommend?”
Savannah then showed agents a doctor’s note explaining that the sensitive insulin pump should not go through the body scanner. She says she was told to go through it anyway. “When someone in a position of authority tells you it is – you think that its right. So, I said, Are you sure I can go through with the pump? It’s not going to hurt the pump? And she said no, no you’re fine.”
The 16-year-old walked into the scanner with some serious reservations “My life is pretty much in their hands when I go through a body scan with my insulin pump on.” She was right to be worried. She says the pump stopped working correctly. “Coming off an insulin pump is rough. You never know what is going to happen when you are not on the insulin pump.”
This “video of last year’s cyborg dance intervention at the Tijuana border crossing” comes via Chris N. Brown:
Maybe it’s a real angel with fake wings – LIFE
Using videogame controllers, an Android phone and custom-built wings, a Dutch engineer named Jarno Smeets has achieved birdlike flight.
According to Smeets’ calculations, he needed approximately 2,000 Watts of continuous power to support his roughly 180-pound frame and 40-pound wing pack. His arms could only really provide 5 percent of that, so the rest would have to come from motors. His arms and pecs would basically serve to guide the device and to flap the wings.
He built his electronic, wireless wing set out of Wii controllers, accelerometers harvested from an HTC Wildfire Android phone and Turnigy motors.
When he landed after the 60-second flight, he said, “At one moment you see the ground moving away, and then suddenly you’re free, a really intense feeling of freedom. The true feeling of flying. A [bleep] magical moment. The best feeling I have felt in my life.”
Well, only if you’re brave enough.
(Interesting to see wing-less angels being part of the plot of The River too)
UPDATE – as was suspected by many, this was a hoax. This doesn’t mean Wing Culture isn’t a fascinating opposition to Drone Culture.
The progressive development of man is vitally dependent on invention. It is the most important product of his creative brain.
~ Tesla (via @NikolaTeslaBot)
Viral video of the year goes to:
Meanwhile in the DANGERZONE… err, WIRED’s Dangerroom, fusing man and machine:
The body’s own nerves are arguably the biggest barrier towards turning the dream of lifelike replacements into a reality. Peripheral nerves, severed by amputation, can no longer transmit or receive any of the myriad sensory signals we rely on every day. Trying to fuse them with robot limbs, to create a direct neural-prosthetic interface, is no easy task.
“We think the interface problem is key to enabling the neuro-prosthetic concept,” Dr. Shawn Dirk, one of the researchers behind the finding, tells Danger Room. “And solving that is how we’re going to give amputees their bodies back.”
Dirk, alongside colleagues at Sandia National Laboratories, the University of New Mexico and the MD Anderson Cancer Center, set out to develop a synthetic substance that could act as a scaffold — that is, an artificial structure that can support tissue growth — successfully merging severed nerves with robotic limbs.
Of course, researchers have already made plenty of efforts to directly integrate nerves and prosthetics. But, according to Dirk, they typically “didn’t use technology that was compatible with nerve fibers,” which are tightly bundled and flexible. “Nerves need to grow and move around; they’re not going to integrate well with a stiff interface.”
Yes, the material comprising the scaffold had to be flexible and fluid, but it also needed to be extremely conductive. Nerve signals are highly localized, and also very, very subtle. An effective neural-prosthetic interface would need to transmit thousands of different signals per second to mimic the behavior of a real limb and its relationship to the brain and body.
To create that ideal interface, Dirk and his colleagues developed their own biocompatible polymers, meant to mimic the properties of nerve tissue. The material is also porous, so that nerves can extend through it, and lined with electrodes, to vastly enhance conductivity.
“There was a very limited inflammatory response,” Dirk says. “That’s important, because we’re looking for an interface that won’t be rejected by the body. We want something that can last years, decades, and hopefully entire lifetimes.”
The finding marks a huge, huge improvement over previous research efforts. Even Darpa, the Pentagon’s far-out research arm and a leader in prosthetic science, couldn’t seem to figure out a direct neural-prosthetic interface that was adequately sensitive and had a lifespan longer than a few months. In 2010, the agency asked for new research proposals that’d solve both those problems.
And while new prototype prosthetics have some incredible abilities, none of them include a direct interface. In fact, they’ve been designed to avoid one altogether. One Pentagon-funded project used “targeted muscle reinnervation surgery” to develop prosthetics that transmit signals from a bundle of nerves in the chest. Another, led by Johns Hopkins scientists, uses brain-implanted micro-arrays to transmit cues to an artificial limb.
A direct neural-prosthetic interface still remains years away. But if this polymer holds up in subsequent tests, it’ll mean prosthetics far more lifelike than even the most impressive artificial limbs currently in development. Most importantly, in the words of Darpa, prosthetics hooked right into the nervous system “would incorporate the [artificial] limb into the sense-of-self.”
But wait, perhaps I can interest you in immortality? Meet Brooke:
“Brooke is a miracle,” says her father, Howard Greenberg. “Brooke is a mystery,” says Lawrence Pakula, her pediatrician. “Brooke is an opportunity,” says Richard Walker, a geneticist with the University of South Florida College of Medicine. They all mean the girl from Reisterstown, a small town in the US state of Maryland, who may hold the answer to a human mystery. At issue is nothing less than immortality: Brooke Greenberg apparently isn’t aging.
She has no hormonal problems, and her chromosomes seem normal. But her development is proceeding “extremely slowly,” says Walker. If scientists can figure out what is causing the disorder, it might be possible to unlock the mysteries of aging itself. “Then we’ve got the golden ring,” says Walker.
He hopes to simply eliminate age-related diseases like cancer, dementia and diabetes. People who no longer age will no longer get sick, he reasons. But he also thinks eternal life is conceivable. “Biological immortality is possible,” says Walker. “If you don’t get hit by a car or by lightning, you could live at least 1,000 years.”
And we can’t talk about the New Gods without mentioning CHRONICLE (aka #newgodsproblems). Talkback anyone?
For those who came in late…
Cyborg Anthropology is a way of understanding how we live as technosocially connected citizens in the modern era. Our cell phones, cars and laptops have turned us into cyborgs. What does it mean to extend the body into hyperspace? What are the implications to privacy, information and the formation of identity? Now that we have a second self, how do we protect it?
This text covers various subjects such as time and space compression, hyperlinked memories, panic architecture, mobile technology, interface evaporation and how technology is changing the way we live.
I just bought mine, perhaps this is why you should cash that cheque from the Chemical Bank your nan put in your holiday card?
Some tasty news lately for aspirant cyborgs. Let’s take a look:
…researchers trained the monkeys, Mango and Tangerine, to play a video game using a joystick to move the virtual arm and capture three identical targets. Each target was associated with a different vibration of the joystick.
Multiple electrodes were implanted in the brains of the monkeys and connected to the computer screen. The joystick was removed and motor signals from the monkey’s brains then controlled the arm.
At the same time, signals from the virtual fingers as they touched the targets were transmitted directly back into the brain.
The monkeys had to search for a target with a specific texture to gain a reward of fruit juice. It only took four attempts for one of the monkeys to figure out how to make the system work.
According to Prof Nicolelis, the system has now been developed so the monkeys can control the arm wirelessly.
“We have an interface for 600 channels of brain signal transmission, so we can transmit 600 channels of brain activity wirelessly as if you had 600 cell phones broadcasting this activity.
“For patients this will be very important because there will be no cables whatsoever connecting the patient to any equipment.”
The scientists say that this work represents a major step on the road to developing robotic exoskeletons – wearable technology would allow patients afflicted by paralysis to regain some movement.
…if all goes well, we may well see a brand new full-body suit at CES 2012 in January, so stay tuned.
…according to Professor Jack Gallant—UC Berkeley neuroscientist and coauthor of the research published today in the journal Current Biology—”this is a major leap toward reconstructing internal imagery. We are opening a window into the movies in our minds.”
Indeed, it’s mindblowing. I’m simultaneously excited and terrified. This is how it works:
They used three different subjects for the experiments—incidentally, they were part of the research team because it requires being inside a functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging system for hours at a time. The subjects were exposed to two different groups of Hollywood movie trailers as the fMRI system recorded the brain’s blood flow through their brains’ visual cortex.
The readings were fed into a computer program in which they were divided into three-dimensional pixels units called voxels (volumetric pixels). This process effectively decodes the brain signals generated by moving pictures, connecting the shape and motion information from the movies to specific brain actions. As the sessions progressed, the computer learned more and more about how the visual activity presented on the screen corresponded to the brain activity.
After recording this information, another group of clips was used to reconstruct the videos shown to the subjects. The computer analyzed 18 million seconds of random YouTube video, building a database of potential brain activity for each clip. From all these videos, the software picked the one hundred clips that caused a brain activity more similar to the ones the subject watched, combining them into one final movie. Although the resulting video is low resolution and blurry, it clearly matched the actual clips watched by the subjects.
Think about those 18 million seconds of random videos as a painter’s color palette. A painter sees a red rose in real life and tries to reproduce the color using the different kinds of reds available in his palette, combining them to match what he’s seeing. The software is the painter and the 18 million seconds of random video is its color palette. It analyzes how the brain reacts to certain stimuli, compares it to the brain reactions to the 18-million-second palette, and picks what more closely matches those brain reactions. Then it combines the clips into a new one that duplicates what the subject was seeing. Notice that the 18 million seconds of motion video are not what the subject is seeing. They are random bits used just to compose the brain image.
Given a big enough database of video material and enough computing power, the system would be able to re-create any images in your brain.
Right now, of course, our digital lives are so bloated they’re basically imponderable. Many of us generate massive amounts of personal data every day — phonecam pictures, text messages, status updates, and so on. By default, all of us are becoming lifeloggers. But we almost never go back and look at this stuff, because it’s too hard to parse.
Memory engineers are solving that problem by creating services that reformat that data in witty, often artistic ways. 4SquareAnd7YearsAgo was coinvented this past winter by New York programmer Jonathan Wegener, who had a clever intuition: One year is a potent anniversary that makes us care about a specific moment in our past. After developing the Foursquare service, his team went on to craft PastPosts, which does the same thing with Facebook activity, and it has amassed tens of thousands of users in just a few months.
“There are so many trails we leave through the world,” Wegener says. “I wanted to make them interesting to you again.”
Lastly, some older things that slipped through the cracks:
A quick tutorial on how to extract serial data from the $80 Mattel Mindflex (mindflexgames.com)
The tattoo developed by Clark’s team contains 120-nanometer-wide polymer nanodroplets consisting of a fluorescent dye, specialized sensor molecules designed to bind to specific chemicals, and a charge-neutralizing molecule.
Once in the skin, the sensor molecules attract their target because they have the opposite charge. Once the target chemical is taken up, the sensor is forced to release ions in order to maintain an overall neutral charge, and this changes the fluorescence of the tattoo when it is hit by light. The more target molecules there are in the patient’s body, the more the molecules will bind to the sensors, and the more the fluorescence changes.
The original reader was a large boxlike device. One of Clark’s graduate students, Matt Dubach, improved upon that by making a modified iPhone case that allows any iPhone to read the tattoos.
Here’s how it works: a case that slips over the iPhone contains a nine-volt battery, a filter that fits over the iPhone’s camera, and an array of three LEDs that produce light in the visible part of the spectrum. This light causes the tattoos to fluoresce. A light-filtering lens is then placed over the iPhone’s camera. This filters out the light released by the LEDs, but not the light emitted by the tattoo. The device is pressed to the skin to prevent outside light from interfering.
Dubach and Clark hope to create an iPhone app that would easily measure and record sodium levels. At the moment, the iPhone simply takes images of the fluorescence, which the researchers then export to a computer for analysis. They also hope to get the reader to draw power from the iPhone itself, rather than from a battery.
Clark is working to expand her technology from glucose and sodium to include a wide range of potential targets. “Let’s say you have medication with a very narrow therapeutic range,” she says. Today, “you have to try it [a dosage] and see what happens.” She says her nanosensors, in contrast, could let people monitor the level of a given drug in their blood in real time, allowing for much more accurate dosing.
The researchers hope to soon be able to measure dissolved gases, such as nitrogen and oxygen, in the blood as a way of checking respiration and lung function. The more things they can track, the more applications will emerge, says Clark