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 Medum.com 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.


Hacking your Enlightenment and other transhuman future titbits

Posted by on August 22nd, 2012
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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:


Telekinetic Boarding (sport of the futurepresent)

Posted by on February 22nd, 2012
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Read the how & the who at Engadget…


Kinect & Arduino hacked together to create navigation system for the blind

Posted by on March 20th, 2011

From Switched:

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Created by Michael Zöllner and Stephan Huber from the University of Konstanz, NAVI (or Navigational Aids for the Visually Impaired) allows the blind to easily navigate an environment and avoid obstacles with tactile feedback via a vibrating belt, and audio cues delivered over a Bluetooth headset. The Kinect is mounted on a helmet and feeds video and depth data to a laptop worn on the back. The laptop then triggers vibrations in the Arduino-controlled belt to alert the wearer to nearby obstacles, and announces directions and the location of obstructions over the Bluetooth ear-piece. The system can also read QR signs to alert the wearer of their location.

via @tcarmody


Sensebridge’s wearable sensory augmentation devices

Posted by on January 6th, 2011

Sensebridge (mentioned in the previous post) have two wearable project kits available:

For a demo of each, see this video:

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Shape-shifting bra made of NASA space foam is the latest thing in ‘biocosmeceuticals’

Posted by on November 26th, 2010

Foam used to cushion astronauts derriere is now being used in bras. Nick Gilbert interviews Dr Tim Nielsen, who explains the more practical uses:

“A derivation of the foam is used in the memory foam mattresses. It’s also used in the safety lining of racing car helmets, and so I realised it could have a lot of practical uses, and this softening and expansion could have a lot of benefits.”

Hang on. Softening and expanding? What exactly does this bra actually do?

“It can boost the cleavage when it detects a rise in body temperature,” Dr Nielsen said.
“Such as when a woman gets a little flushed when she gets excited. It can kind of do some of the flirting for you.”

Really?

“But it also has a lot of practical benefits.”

Phew.

“For example, if you’re exercising and it detects a rise in body temperature, it can expand to offer more support when you need it.”

The bra, according to Dr Nielsen, can also adapt to a woman’s changing shape and size, meaning you’re less likely to have to shop for another bra down the line.

From news.com.au


New Body Printable Organic Body Armor is Twice as Strong as Kevlar

Posted by on November 25th, 2010

From Inhabitat:

Sometimes inspiration comes from the strangest of places. Case in point: scientists have just created a new super strong material based on the plaque found in Alzheimer’s patients’ brains. The new substance isn’t exactly the same as the plaque that causes the tragic disease, but it has a very similar chemical structure that is then coated with an additional protective layer. The tiny spheres that result are microscopic and when put together, form a printable substance that is tougher than steel, twice as tough as Kevlar and the hardest microscopic organic substance on Earth.

Thanks to vertigojones for the tip!


Friday Flying

Posted by on October 8th, 2010

Jeb Corliss is a professional wingsuit pilot and BASE-jumper – so I think the following video pretty much speaks for itself.  I don’t know about you, but I needed an extra injection of wonder and awesome, today:

Jeb Corliss wing-suit demo from Jeb Corliss on Vimeo.


Brother AirScouter projects 16-inch screen right on your eyeball

Posted by on September 17th, 2010

From slashgear, a prototype Retinal Imaging Display:

The images projected directly onto your retina simulate a 16-inch screen viewed for about three feet away according to the maker. The tech came from the Brother printer tech for laser and ink jet printers. The AirScouter will be launched in Japan for industrial uses like overlaying manuals on machinery. That is pretty cool and I could see a market for this thing in the DIY realm for folks that like to fix things themselves. Nothing like step-by-step directions clipped to your eyeball.

Thanks and hat tip to @bindychild!


New App lets you use Mind-Reading headset to call your friends

Posted by on August 16th, 2010

Developers are finally coming out with the next wave in sweet apps, integrating Neurosky’s MindSet with smart phones.

From The Next Web:

ThinkContacts is designed to allow a “Motor disabled person to make a phone call to a desired contact by himself/herself”. Requiring a special headset to read users’ brainwaves, it uses brain activity to determine which of three contacts on the screen the user wants to call.

While the app is looking quite basic at present, the project’s wiki at Forum Nokia only opened six days ago meaning this is likely to be an early-stage project

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via Chris Arkenberg


DIY Wearable computer

Posted by on July 30th, 2010

What up Snow Crash? The gargoyles are here!

Wanting to have his to-do list and schedule permanently displayed, Martin Magnusson hacked together this wearable computer. More details thanks to WIRED:

For his wearable computer, Magnusson is using a pair of Myvu glasses that slide on like a pair of sunglasses but have a tiny video screen built into the lens.

A Beagleboard running Angstrom Linux and a Plexgear mini USB hub that drives the Bluetooth adapter and display forms the rest of this rather simple machine. Four 2700 mAh AA batteries are used to power the USB hub. Magnusson has used a foldable Nokia keyboard for input and is piping internet connectivity through Bluetooth tethering to an iPhone in his pocket.

via AnthroPunk


See Lunocet’s dolphin-like prosthetics in motion

Posted by on July 27th, 2010

We’ve mentioned Lunocet’s dolphin-like prosthetics for swimming before, but this is the first video I’ve seen of them in motion:

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They’re now saying “the tails – attachable to human feet for dolphin-kick swimming – help users attain speeds twice as fast as the swiftest Olympic swimmer.”

They sure look better than those jumping stilts. And free diving is fun.

via Warren Ellis


Scottevest’s Carry-On Coat

Posted by on July 6th, 2010

Don’t throw out your old leather trench-coat just yet, but check this out!  

From engadget:

carry on, jackets

via jzellis


Mini Generators Make Energy From Random Ambient Vibrations

Posted by on March 25th, 2010

Currently in the prototype stage, from medgadget.com:

Researchers at the University of Michigan have developed tiny generators that can produce enough electricity from random, ambient vibrations to power a wristwatch, pacemaker or wireless sensor. In humans, these vibrations could come from moving muscles or limbs. The generators have demonstrated that they can produce up to 500 microwatts from typical vibration amplitudes found on the human body. That’s more than enough energy to run a wristwatch, which needs between 1 and 10 microwatts, or a pacemaker, which needs between 10 and 50.


The Melonia Shoe: A world’s first? Wearable 3D printed footwear

Posted by on February 21st, 2010

Students of Stockholm’s two most prestigious design schools have collaborated to produce these awe-inspiring, full-wearable shoes, 3D printed in polyamid.

Naim Josefi and Souzan Youssouf, of Beckmans & Konstfack respectively, designed and modelled the shoes for Selective Laser Sintering (the one with all the powder and the lasers) and produced five pairs for Naim’s “Melonia” collection, shown during Stockholm Fashion Show earlier this month.

The concept for the shoes call for further exploration in ever-developing rapid prototyping processes. The pair envisage a world in which we could produce and recycle such objects in a closed loop.

Via www.core77.com


Companion Parrot by Tithi Kutchamuch

Posted by on February 19th, 2010

When Tithi Kutchamuch learned that her dog died a month before she was able to return to her parents’ home, she realized that she wished she could have taken her pet with her everywhere. From there, she developed the idea of a secret friend: jewellery that was part of a pet animal that stayed at home. The jewellery acts as the connection when you are out and completes the sculpture when you are safely home again. Parrot Companion Parrot is the largest piece in the collection and the closest to life size, in order that the connection be made stronger.

Link and words via mocoloco.com.


Conceptual (h)ear Piercing Jewelery

Posted by on February 10th, 2010

From core77.com:

The Deafinite Style is a concept from Munich-based Designaffairs STUDIO that turns a hearing aid into a piece of jewelry, provided you’re up for a bit of lobe stretching to get started. The main advantage they propose (aside from an instant hipster-grunge-punk look) is the opportunity to embed the TriMic System — a highly effective directional microphone system made from 3 individual microphones — into the plug, helping people who suffer from severe hearing loss.


Gear Ring

Posted by on February 1st, 2010

Core77 contributor Ben Hopson (he wrote the “Kinetic Design and the Animation of Products” piece last March) collaborated with entrepreneur Glen Liberman of Kinekt Design to design a series of kinetic jewelry pieces, and the Gear Ring is the first to be realized. Made from high quality matte stainless steel, this ring is currently available here in a limited number of sizes.

Link and video via core77.com.


China Fashion Week

Posted by on February 1st, 2010

Fashion designers recently went all out and put together a weird mix of creations for the China Fashion Week which was held in November 2009. A bi-annual event, the Fashion Week showcases the latest creations of prominent brand names as well as the works of the upcoming folk.

Link and photo via weirdasianews.com.


Rock Paper Scissors

Posted by on January 25th, 2010

Rock, paper scissors for the next generation:

This month’s issue of tee-magazine T-post is maybe the weirdest shirt I’ve ever seen. It looks normal (and pretty nice, actually) in real life, but when worn in front of a webcam hooked up to T-post’s special web app, a ghostly, green hand emerges from it and challenges you to a game of Rochambeau.

Via core77.com.