In Defense of the Retail Simulacra

Posted by on December 10th, 2011

Recently, retail clothing chain H&M has caught a great deal of flack for using computer generated bodies in their online catalog. And while there is something to be said for looking critically at the introduction of computer-generated “perfection” into an industry already psychotically obsessed with unattainable standards of physical beauty, Coilhouse’s Nadya Lev has some relevant re-contextualization to share:

Also, this foray into the uncanny valley brings us one step closer to the age of the idoru. With teenage pop idol Aimi Eguchi, whose face is a composite of six different singers, and vocaloids (singing synthesizers) such as pigtailed holographic superstar, we’re almost there — in The Future.  And even though H&M’s online catalogue conforms to the same beauty standard as any other big fashion retailer, this technology actually has potential to subvert the paradigm altogether.

See the rest over at Coilhouse.

[See also: Building a Better Pop Star, and Building a Better Pop Star II]


Elf Ears, Facial Horns & Complete Freedom of Expression

Posted by on April 19th, 2011

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.

In conclusion, as catt avery tweeted recently, “the evolutionary strength of the human social colony is most certainly its diversity of expression.”

(And that’s why I think Elf Ears and Facial Horns are cool.)


Lady Gaga launches new Polaroid devices at CES

Posted by on January 8th, 2011

Welcome to 2011, it’s only going to get weirder.

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(Spy glasses to chic cyberpunk-as-fuck sunglasses with one slick marketing trick. From nerd toy to designer wear.. etc etc. What’s next?)


Building a Better Pop Star II

Posted by on December 28th, 2010

A little while ago, I was describing virtual pop star, Hatsune Miku, as a “prosthetic identity“.

Now, thanks to Kinect hackers in Japan, you could slide even further into her virtual identity if you wanted.


Building a Better Pop Star

Posted by on November 18th, 2010


Buzludzha Monument

Posted by on November 18th, 2010

Pix from Atlas Obscura via Richard Kadrey.

Moar awesome Bulgarian monuments over on io9.


Space, Alien life, environmentalism and our posthuman future

Posted by on August 7th, 2010

The UK’s Astronomer Royal, Baron Martin Rees, recently gave a fascinating lecture as part of the Seminars of Long-term Thinking series, put on by the Long Now Foundation.

From Stewart Brand’s summation of the speech:

“We are the nuclear waste of stellar fusion,” Rees noted, the ash from long-dead stars all over the galaxy exchanging their gases in a complex ecology, and the galaxies show a mega-structure of density contrasts generated by gravity. Poised midway in scale between atoms and stars, biological life appears to be the peak of complexity in the universe—a flea is more complicated than a star.

Since we don’t know how our own life emerged and haven’t discovered any elsewhere, we still have no idea whether life is common in the universe or if we are unique. We can be certain that we are not the culmination of life forms here, because we are less than halfway through the Sun’s lifespan. In the six billion years to come, there are likely to be creatures as far beyond humans as we are beyond microbes, and science as far beyond our present understanding as quantum theory is remote to a chimpanzee.

Now that we are stewards of this planet, we are responsible for maintaining life’s possibilities in this cosmic neighborhood.

It’s over an hour and half long, but it’s riveting stuff. Grab the link and (if you’re in the Northern Hemisphere) sit outside, stare at the stars and listen. Or just hit play here:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Bonus Content!

For your patience you get a treat – A Glorious Dawn, an auto-tuned mash-up of Carl Sagan’s work, featuring Stephen Hawking:

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Second, a profile of Elon Musk and his desire to retire to Mars.

Lastly, Charlie Stross has been having fun dissecting various aspects of space colonization; from working out the size of an independent off-world colony, to critiquing the much worn ‘space as another Wild Frontier’ myth.


Your Jetpack (Cannibal Futures)

Posted by on April 7th, 2010

So on our “Ask us anything” formspring.me account, someone asked the inevitable question: “Where’s my fucking jetpack?”

So where is your fucking Jetpack, anyway?

HERE’S YOUR FUCKING JETPACK.  There, boom, a commercially available Jetpack.  You strap it on, it flies and you don’t even need a license in most countries.  All you need is a little bit of disposable income and wham:  Jetpack.  What?  You can’t afford it?   Well what did you expect; that when jetpacks came around that they’d be free?  I live in a country where free flu shots are considered a government conspiracy and you expect someone to strap a communist subsidized rocket up your ass and tell you to go to town?  I don’t fucking think so.

What are you looking for in a jetpack, anyway?  I mean, sure they’re cool and all – who didn’t hide in their rooms and gently bring themselves off while watching the Rocketeer?  But what do your really want – flight?  Well there are other ways to fly then strapping a giant engine to your back.

Oh yeah, speaking of flight, here’s your flying car, too:

It’s called a “helicopter”.  Yes, you need a special license and metric shit-tonnes of money to own and operate one making it prohibitively expensive and unrealistic for many reasons – but hey, don’t feel bad - NINETY-ODD PERCENT OF THE HUMAN SPECIES feels the same way about cars.   To break that down into more manageable numbers, if the world was a colony of 1000 people, by some accounts only 70 lucky bastards would own cars.  Everyone else?  Hoofing it, biking it, using public transportation or being stuck in a geographic area the size of a postage stamp by environmental factors.

So does the fact you can’t afford a flying car make you sad?  Congratulations!  Now you’ve woken up on the same side of the bed as the rest of the human race.

Okay.  Fair enough, you don’t mean flying car in a loose sort of way that could include a helicopter.  You want an honest-to-God Nick Fury agent of S.H.I.E.L.D “where we’re going we don’t need roads” Delorian with rockets strapped to its ass.

What is it with you people wanting to strap rockets to everything’s ass, anyway?  Remind me never to look at your porn collection.    (Well, I mean… if it has tastefully done ass-rockets, send it on.)

Flying cars are neat, too.  But let me direct your attention to this window.  Look out there… now assuming you’re in a part of the world where car ownership is the norm, then you’re looking at a place where there need to be laws in place to stop people from doing stupid shit while operating several tonnes of dangerous machinery at high speeds.  It is somehow not common sense to not down a beer, smoke a joint, text your boyfriend, pierce your nipples and skullfuck a Peruvian trout when driving a two-ton death machine.

But people who weren’t gifted with a basic survival instinct aren’t the only downer about motor vehicles.   You see, the people making cars are under no pressure to make safe cars.  Do you really want the same companies that have to be sued, threatened and cajoled by private citizens and governments to not make cars that blow up when hit by a stiff breeze to be the ones responsible for shooting you and your car into the sky?   That bit from Fight Club, about auto companies weighing the liability for death vs defects in their vehicles?  That’s a true story.

So where is your flying car?  Perhaps it is waiting somewhere behind the car that is not responsible for approximately 2% of all the death in the world, annually?  (For ex.  1.4 million worldwide in 2004.)   How in the hell is anyone supposed to level up to super awesome flying cars when we can’t even get cars-that-don’t-kill-people-all-the-fucking-time down?

Okay, that’s enough yelling; the shouty old man routine gets old – fast.

But that said, the “where’s my fucking jetpack” meme pisses me the fuck off.

First of all, why the obsession over a future made in the 1910-1930′s?  Flying cars and jetpacks were the fantasy fetish objects of a different time.  Not a simpler time, because the phrase “simpler time” is like “military intelligence” – it’s a contradiction – we only think times were simpler thanks to temporal and cultural distancing.   Still, is that your future?  Really?  Or is your grandparents’ future?  The Jetpack future is a future born of the past.  It is a future created by people who lived in a world that had never seen the artificial suns rise over Japan, had not seen the realities of our space program, and probably couldn’t conceive of a black man in the White House or Celebrity Big Brother.

If you’re really serious about wanting the Jetpack future – and I know some of you are…

Hell, you’re listening to a man who once blew up a poster of Thomas Edison with homemade explosives while screaming “Nikola Tesla thou art revenged” at the top of his lungs and running naked through the woods.  Which is to say… I have my own hang ups about stolen futures.

If you’re serious about the Jetpack future, then don’t stop at “this is not my future” – make it your future.  Claim that vision of now that circumstances and small minds have denied you and find other like minded people and build it.

When Steampunk came back, you had people who looked at the future-of-a-different-past in some works of fiction and then started to make it real.  Not just with cute costumes and at conventions, but with building their own machines, starting real community and carving out a niche where that future made of cogs and springs and the rushing of superheated air has weight and takes up space and becomes real.  Now you’ve got people getting into D.I.Y. and sustainability and reclaiming urban spaces thanks to a subculture that in the beginning, just really liked some sci-fi books and had an unhealthy fixation with top hats.

Here’s the thing; if you stop at “this is not my future” and go no further, then someone else will make their version of the future and I can almost guarantee you’re not going to like it.   I can guarantee this because you already don’t like it.  We’re living in the future of men who saw people as commodities and human lives as disposable sources of income.  It’s not some grand conspiracy, it’s just people who have a vision of the future where the top 2% get richer and the rest of the world… well… you want to be in that 2%, right?  And the only way that is going to happen is if you buy into their future and not into the steam-sustainability-and-goggles future, the Ayahuasca-and-shamanism future, the Russian-feminist-ninja future or the Japanese-post-gender-newtype future.

We don’t have nice things because we let other people take them away from us.  We have these futures that seem alien to us because we let them happen.  I’m including you, me and 99% of all the humans and mutants I have ever met in that “we”, too.    We are the reason there are no jetpacks or flying cars or universal distribution of water and food.  ”We have met the enemy,” as a great man once said, “and he is us”. We contribute to a future that has no place for us in so many ways:  inaction, being convinced that we don’t have voices that count, being convinced that the only choices we have are the choices we can buy, despair, alienation… the list goes on and on.   We let the beautiful, amazing, weird, fucked-up futures we hold next to our hearts die stillborn in the face of futures so alien to most of us that they might as well be dread Cthulhu sleeping beneath the waves.

It doesn’t have to be that way, though.  If you want the jetpack future?  Find the other people who want it and make it.   If you see the people around you stand mute while the dreams of human accomplishment are ground into the dirt and they instead run over each other to embrace steaming mediocrity and you don’t think that’s a fair trade? Say something.  Contrary to slick movie quotes, the Devil never even bothered to pretend he didn’t exist – instead he made so many of us believe the lie that our voices and actions don’t matter.

Fuck the Devil.  Put on your tophat and latex gimp suit or Rocketeer jacket and carve out that future – Jetpacks and all if that’s what floats your boat – and don’t let me or anyone else get in your way.

At least we do have the alien dancing girls.


Here’s Your F&$*ing Jetpack

Posted by on March 13th, 2010

According to Alex Eichler over at io9, the New Zealand-based Martin Aircraft Company is officially producing the world’s first commercial Jetpack.  As an ultralight aircraft you don’t even need a license to fly it in the United States.  For only 90 grand you can zoom around at 60 miles an hour and get yourself about a mile high with nothing but a jet strapped to your ass.  (Provided you and your ass, as a package, weigh between 140 and 240 pounds.)


Spike Jonze’s “I’m Here”

Posted by on January 22nd, 2010

An indie short film starring robots and funded by a vodka company?  The future-present hasn’t gotten weird enough for me yet.  (Please, give Chris Cunningham some of that money too!)

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New hacker hang out in Seattle

Posted by on October 12th, 2009

Best new grinder hangout?

This Thursday, Oct 15, Metrix Create: Space will open its doors in Seattle (at 623A Broadway East). It’s hackerspace meets an indie coffee house. They’ll have tools and equipment for building projects, 3D fabbing machines, classes on various types of high-tech makery, coffee and snacks. They even have a fending machine that’ll dispense Sun Chips, M&Ms, Clif Bars, and Arduinos, breadboards, jumper wires, etc. How cool.

Via makezine.com.


Angels are the new UFOs T-Shirt

Posted by on August 18th, 2009

A small grinder logo on the left front chest, large warning sign on the back. You know you want one. They are going to be available later this week, from Avatar Press.


QRC Destination Unkown

Posted by on August 10th, 2009

Found in the secret Doktor Sleepless community (you are a member, right?):

Whomever scans the QRC code and gets a web address, please put it in the comments so all our readers can follow where it leads. Thanks!


The Blob Heater

Posted by on August 7th, 2009

From yankodesign.com:

Sang-Jang Lee is a dear old friend of YD and we have seen him give us some really great designs in the past. His current offering, the Blob Heater is a quite an eccentric personalized heating system. Kinda meant for a broken-hearted who craves for the body warmth of a partner. Something that Carrie Bradshaw would shy away from! Calling it a “hybrid between furniture and electric appliance”, this spandex covered blob measures 240” x 25” x 25” and is auditioning for the role of an alien.


Future Fetus

Posted by on May 17th, 2009

Image from imgfave.com.


How biotech will drive our evolution

Posted by on May 7th, 2009

Interesting talk given by Gregory Stock:

“We are seizing control of our evolutionary future. We are using technology to jam evolution into fast forward, and it is not at all clear where it is gonna take us.”

“We are taking the sand at our feet, the silicone at our feet, and are breathing a level of complexity into it, that may even surpass us.”

“What is we could unravel aging? Begin to retard the process or even revert it? It would change absolutely everything and it is obvious to everyone that if we can do this we absolutely will do this, whatever the consequences are.”

“Modifying our emotions: Ritalin, Viagra, etc. These are just absolutely baby steps.”

“Who would want to pass on to their children the archaic enhancement modules that they got 25 years ago from their parents? It’s a joke! Of course they wouldn’t want to do that! They would want the new release!”

“Now not everything that can be done, should be done. And it won’t be done. But when something is feasible in thousands of laboratories around the world, which is going to be the case with these new technologies. When there are large numbers of people that see them as beneficial, which is already the case. And when they are almost impossible to police, it is not a matter of if this is gonna happen. It is when, and where and how it is gonna happen.”

“Humanity is going to go down this path… because we are human.”

“The lines are going to blur, between therapy and enhancement. Between treatment and prevention and between need and desire.”

“We should not kid ourselves and think we are going to reach a consensus about these things. That is not going to happen. They touch us too deeply and they depend too much upon history, upon philosophy, upon culture, upon politics. And some people are going to see this a an abomination, as the worst thing, as awful. And other people are going to say: This is great, this is the flowering of human endeavor.”

Link, video and quotes from talk via nextnature.net.


Sound Advice

Posted by on April 9th, 2009


Doktor Sleepless #12

Posted by on April 7th, 2009


- image via Avatar Press flickr stream

Out this week!


Wilson and McKenna on Preparing for the Singularity

Posted by on March 31st, 2009

This is a clip from the 1999 documentary TechnoCalyps featuring the late Robert Anton Wilson and Terence McKenna.  It’s a little dated, but touches on other interpertations of the Singularity outside of the Vinge/Kurzweil AI-induced Singularity.

And personally, I can’t ever get enough McKenna.

(Link Via Phase II)


Japan’s HRP-4C “fashion” model robot

Posted by on March 16th, 2009

From PinkTentacle:

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With 30 motors in her body, the 158-centimeter (62-in) tall, 43-kilogram (95-lb) HRP-4C can walk around and strike a range of poses.

The black-haired robot also has 8 motors in her face, allowing her to wow the crowds with expressions of simple emotions like anger and surprise.

Really? This is the state-of-art?!

Well, more accurately, it’s the best realization yet of Japan’s obsession with creating a ‘living doll’.

I look at this video and all I can think of is Stross’s Saturn’s Children (oh hai Big Slow!) .

I’m sure there’s a few augmented Roomba’s that would like to show this robot what the state-of-the-art really looks like.