Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Brave New World Here we Come: Manufacturing the Perfect Cat

Allerca | The Hypo-Allergenic Cat:
"The ALLERCA research and development teams comprise some of the leading specialists in animal genetic engineering. The team's expertise places ALLERCA in a unique position to produce the world's first hypoallergenic cat.

A glycoprotein, Fel d 1, secreted by the sebaceous glands, is the major cat allergen. This allergen is found in the fur, pelt, saliva, serum, urine, mucous, salivary glands, and hair roots of the cat.

Using patented genetic technology, the ALLERCA team will focus on the particular gene that produces the Fel d 1 glycoprotein. Using a technique known as 'gene silencing', the process reduces the gene’s ability to produce the protein.

Other genetic methods may produce allergen-fee cats, but these procedures rely on nuclear transfer (cloning) and may result in associated known risks prevalent in cloned animals. The gene silencing method adopted by ALLERCA is regarded as the most effective method of producing healthy hypoallergenic animals and is considered harmless to the cat."

Animal genes in tomatoes

The Scientist :: Animal genes help tomatoes
The expression of worm ced-9 and human bcl-xL in tomato plants helps the plants become both resistant to a lethal disease caused by cucumber mosaic virus in combination with a parasitic RNA molecule, and tolerant to cold.

Computer Scientists Studying the Social Effects of Ad-Hoc Mobile Networks

TheFeature :: Cyborg Swarms and Wearable Communities:
"We believe that fully embodied 'human moments' are essential for community building. While Virtual Communities on the Internet have led to a separation of physical place and social space, our work is an attempt to reunite the two. At first approximation, we define a Wearable Community as a social network created by or maintained through the use of wearable computing devices. A collection of wearable computer users becomes a Wearable Community when enough people use their wearable computers to form webs of personal relationships."

This Must be the Official Week of Cyborg Brains: Brain in a Dish Wants to Be a Pilot

"A University of Florida scientist has grown a living “brain” that can fly a simulated plane, giving scientists a novel way to observe how brain cells function as a network.

The "brain" -- a collection of 25,000 living neurons, or nerve cells, taken from a rat’s brain and cultured inside a glass dish -- gives scientists a unique real-time window into the brain at the cellular level. By watching the brain cells interact, scientists hope to understand what causes neural disorders such as epilepsy and to determine noninvasive ways to intervene.

As living computers, they may someday be used to fly small unmanned airplanes or handle tasks that are dangerous for humans, such as search-and-rescue missions or bomb damage assessments."

Cyborgs Will Damage their Brains & Live to Tell About It

Article: Brain prosthesis passes live tissue test | New Scientist:
"The world’s first brain prosthesis has passed the first stages of live testing.

The microchip, designed to model a part of the brain called the hippocampus, has been used successfully to replace a neural circuit in slices of rat brain tissue kept alive in a dish. The prosthesis will soon be ready for testing in animals.

The device could ultimately be used to replace damaged brain tissue which may have been destroyed in an accident, during a stroke, or by neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease. It is the first attempt to replace central brain regions dealing with cognitive functions such as learning or speech."

Cyborg Monkeys

Wired News: Advent of the Robotic Monkeys:
"If a monkey is hungry but has his arms pinned, there's not much he can do about it. Unless that monkey can control a nearby robotic arm with his brain....

If mastered, the technology could be used to help spinal cord injuries, amputees or stroke victims. ...The prosthetic limb, the size of a child's arm, has working shoulder and elbow joints and is equipped with a simple gripper to grasp and hold food. The monkey's arms are restrained at its sides and as the monkey thinks about bringing the food to his mouth, electrodes in the monkey's brain intercept the neuronal firings that are taking place in the motor cortex, a region of the brain responsible for voluntary movement."

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

I guess I could just turn Spell Check off

I warn you now, this might not be related but I thought it might spark something for someone else, or for me.

I was working on some homework and as usual I started to get frustrated with all of the stupid red lines that littered my paper. It made me think of the usual rant about spell check ruining my spelling. But this time one word caught my attention: "internet". Yes, poor old red-underlined internet. Why does spell check want me to capitalize "internet"? I have always thought of "internet" as being similar to the work "milk", or "refrigerator" (yes I haven't eaten supper yet). Is internet a proper noun, a brand name and I was just unaware of this? But I guess that would make sense because you don't really here of different brands of internet, just different brand companies selling access to it.

Secretly I wish there was a Microsoft conspiracy here, but unfortunately I suspect one of you is going to tell me that "Internet" is a brand name.

How to Make a Cyborg in Poser and Photoshop

Digit Online - Features - People of the future
The key to a good cyborg is layers.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Upcoming Film

"One day, I had this image of a sleepless, intensely private individual trapped in his own personal hell," recalls screenwriter Scott Kosar (Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Amityville Horror). "Meanwhile, there is an area in my neighborhood that I always found poetically desolate - an industrial park lined by railroad tracks. Passing a machine shop, I looked inside and saw workers laboring at their tasks like extensions of their machines. I had to wonder what stories were cooking behind all that protective headgear and those greasy coveralls. Suddenly these two ideas collided and left me with a question: do machinists have existential crises?"

In theatres October 22, 2004.

See full information here:

Interesting idea, a character study of a machinist who is (presumably) going crazy due to the psychological implications of his work.

Monday, October 18, 2004

NY Times: Review of Digital People: From Bionic Humans to Androids

The New York Times: Premium Archive (may require annoying registration process - use if you want to avoid this dorky practice of gathering mis-information):

This review from last May of Perkowitz's book Digital People begins with the second most common fallacious argument in critiques of contemporary science and technology The first, discussed elsewhere on this blog, is a reference to some literary monster or monstrous technology - Frankenstein being a favourite. The second is to suggest that scientists or engineers, as analytical as they are, are less human, less sensitive, considerably more "mechanical" than the writer him- or herself is:

"A ROBOTICIST friend was perplexed. For the benefit of children living in apartments in which pets are prohibited, he built robot puppies that ''do everything a dog does.'' Yet, somehow, kids in focus groups shunned the robo-pups. ''Perhaps,'' I offered, ''it's because they are not alive.'' He considered this for a moment. ''No, that wouldn't be it,'' he said.

I find it maddening to talk to roboticists. One must avoid nuance, figurative speech and, above all, humor. Their limited awareness is their downfall and their strength. The biologist makes no distinction between human and nonhuman life-forms. The roboticist takes this a step further, refusing to distinguish between living and nonliving objects. An object is the sum of its behaviors. Duplicate the behavior of a person and your robot is human. Out of this obtuse worldview come simplicity and the singleness of purpose required to build metal-and-silicon men."

Westinghouse's first workable robot comes back to life

Elektro comes home:

"The Mansfield Memorial Museum is proud to announce a public display of ELEKTRO, the amazing mechanical man. This will be the first exhibit of ELEKTRO’s story since his untimely retirement and mysterious disappearance in 1960. The exhibit will open to the public on September 7 and continue until November 20.

Built in 1937/38 at the Westinghouse appliance plant in Mansfield, Ohio, ELEKTRO made his sensational debut at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York City. He returned to New York in 1940 with his new companion, SPARKO, a mechanical dog. Standing over 7 feet tall and weighing in at 300 pounds, ELEKTRO thrilled thousands of people with his ability to walk, talk, raise and lower his arms, turn his head and move his mouth as he spoke. At the peak of his popularity, he had a vocabulary of over 700 words and a vast repertoire of one-liners. ELEKTRO and his operators performed a 20-minute show every hour during the Fair’s two-summer run."

Elektro toured North America after WWII, was used as a static display in an amusement park for a few years, appeared in a couple of movies, and then was disconnected from his controls and stored. A few years later, his head was given to a local resident who'd been an engineer at Westinghouse, and his body was sold for scrap (but fortunately survived to be reunited with the head by Jack Weeks).

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Cyborg Names

This is a great money making scheme... maybe we could all get matching cyborg uniforms, or coffee mugs, with our cyborg names on them...

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Cybernetic Sharks, steered by remote control / News / Boston Globe / Health / Science / Biologist tries to steer a shark, nose first:
Funded by - who else - DARPA, Jelle Atema is working on creating a cyborg shark.
"Jelle Atema wants to understand a shark's brain well enough to take it over -- to get it to obey commands to smell and sense what's going on in the water around it.

'I want to sit here in my office, call up Charlie Shark out in Hawaii, and say, "Go follow that wake,"' said Atema, who splits his time between Boston University and the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole. Ultimately, he said, a shark could help the military by surveying hard-to-reach areas for dangerous chemicals or other hazards."

...Yeah, and maybe just eat a few US enemies, illegal aliens, whatever. I see an updated version of Jaws in the making...

DARPA Defense Sciences Office - Biological Input/Output Systems

DARPA Defense Sciences Office - Biological Input/Output Systems:
"Programmable Sensory Neuron
California Institute of Technology
Principal Investigator: Dr. Paul W. Sternberg

The major goal of this project is to develop C. elegans as a test bed for engineering robust components of biological circuits. C. elegans is ideally suited for such in vivo engineering as the anatomy and development of all its cells are known, and it has a transparent body. Thus, a single cell embedded in the whole animal can be treated much as individual E. coli or yeast cells are treated. With this ability, Caltech plans to engineer genetic circuits in a pair of sensory neurons of C. elegans that can respond to specific molecules in a novel and significant way, for example, by producing green fluorescent protein (GFP). New methods and tools will be developed in this endeavor, such as innovative design principles and robust components and modules for programming individual neurons. These tools can be applied towards future efforts in multicellular genetic engineering."

The Sternberg Lab at Caltech site that DARPA links to is startlingly uninformative, with a warm-fuzzy photo of schoolchildren on the home page, and a happy photo of a worm sculpture on the research page. Sternberg's page includes links to his other research pages, at Caltech Biology and at HHMI.

There's one wee paragraph about the DARPA research on C. elegans circuitry on the HHMI page:
"We have started to adapt bacterial and yeast proteins for use in C. elegans and to construct circuits to help analyze and alter development and behavior (supported by a grant from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency)."

How very vague and mysterious this all is! What might "future efforts in multicellular genetic engineering" and biological circuits to "alter development and behavior" entail? Inducing production of fluorescent proteins in worms is one thing, but I wonder what might be the envisioned "human combat performance" technology to come out of this?

Friday, October 15, 2004

FDA approves computer chip for humans

MSNBC - FDA approves computer chip for humans:
"Medical milestone or privacy invasion? A tiny computer chip approved Wednesday for implantation in a patient’s arm can speed vital information about a patient’s medical history to doctors and hospitals. But critics warn that it could open new ways to imperil the confidentiality of medical records.

The Food and Drug Administration said Wednesday that Applied Digital Solutions of Delray Beach, Fla., could market the VeriChip, an implantable computer chip about the size of a grain of rice, for medical purposes."

Promethean Ambitions: Book Review by Peter Dear

American Scientist Online - Art versus Nature :
Promethean Ambitions: Alchemy and the Quest to Perfect Nature. William R. Newman. xvi + 333 pp. University of Chicago Press, 2004.

Review by Peter Dear, Science and Technology Studies and History, Cornell University:

"Perhaps most pertinent to the overall theme of Newman's book, alchemy challenged the boundary between art and nature most spectacularly with the idea of the homunculus, a 'little man' generated artificially in a glass vessel by the knowing alchemist. Newman shows that related stories date from late antiquity and came into the Latin West via Arabic sources. But it was the German physician and mystic Paracelsus who in the 16th century definitively created the idea of the homunculus as a feature of species-creating alchemy, which now transcended the making of gold.

Paracelsus, like earlier writers, including Aristotle, thought that male semen was the central ingredient for generating offspring; the mother only contributed the matter from which the young were made. So, he theorized, the alchemist should be able to cultivate human semen in a flask, keeping it warm and providing it with appropriate nutrients as it developed into a person. This rather disturbing proposal became widely known in Europe and was given a fair degree of credence in the 17th century. But the theological problems with artificially made human life were immediately obvious: Where would the creature's soul come from, and could God be obliged to provide one on demand? Designer babies have never been unproblematic."

DMT The Spirit Molecule

Okay, so I am putting myself out on a limb here by admitting I have a vested interest in this- but I swear it is just because of my background in Anthropology. Although the study of DMT has seemingly nothing to do with monstrous machines, it is particularily relevant to the notion of Cartesian Dualism we have looked at in The Ghost in the Shell, and will look at again in The Matrix.
My first encounter with DMT happened in grade 12, when a rather experimental friend of mine obtained some over the internet. LITERALLY 4 months later he was shipped to the USA, to a psychiatric hospital because of severe delusions: he believed he had, and could again, communicate with God. Since that time I had assumed that DMT was a rather potent halucinogen, not entirely unlike acid or PCP or something not to be tampered with- I failed to note the significance in his supposed communication with God.
Then a few years later in an Anthropology class entitled "Myth, Ritual,and Symbolism" I had my second encounter with DMT. It seems it is/was a shamanic tool used throughout tribal communities to empower the Shaman. As I studied it in Anthropology, the Shaman takes some DMT and then travels into the spirit world to communicate with "God" (as each respective culture perceives the notion of God)
Then, earlier this year, a new, rather experiemntal aquaintance of mine obtained a MASSIVE amount over the internet; however, this person had no intention of experimenting with the drug in any recreational sense- to him, it is(and I quote) "pure, cultural science". After much "mothering" from myself, he gave me a book; rather, a chemistry students doctoral work. The book is entitled DMT: The Spirit Molecule. This chemist had administerd the drug to a great number of individuals. Time and time again, the exact same response was brought out by the drug, namely: out of body experience, communication with some form of God. Some people saw the ghosts of loved ones, others fairies. Each case involved a serious lapse in time perception( the effects of the drug usually last 3-8 minutes; however some people experience so much in this time that they truly believe they have been "away" for periods of up to 6 months).

Background aside, here is what is relevant about DMT to our class, and the notion of the "ghost in the machine"- the chemist's conclusion, after 5 years of administering the drug: "Dmt is linked to the pineal gland, considered by Hindus to be the site of the 7th chakra and by Rene Descartes to be the seat of the soul. In Dmt: The Spirit Molecule I (Strassman, the chemist) make the case that DMT, which is naturally produced by the pineal gland, facilitates the soul's movement in and out of the body"... as the book progresses he explains that in a chemical sense, (he believes) the composition of DMT, when administered in large doses, can somehow "free the human soul" from the confines of our chemical make-up, allowing our spirits to interpret reality in various ways (like seeing ghosts/ fairies/aliens- all components of various layers of "dimension")... it is very strange stuff indeed, but it is quite similar to the idea in The Matrix or Ghost in the Shell that you can free your soul/mind/ or ghost from your body. DMT is just an organic version of a jack, or of a microchip. The interesting difference between the technological and organic is that the DMT consistently produces experiences of a "spiritual' nature (more than half of the individuals who participated in the study are now devoutly religious, although all of them are part of different denominations, not all of which are Christian) whereas, in the works we have studied, spirituality has either become totally irrelevant to the technological societies, or has literally been replaced by technology (as we saw in The Machine Stops). It is interesting to me that an organic "soul free-er" (sorry) would produce a spiritual response, where a technological/mechanical "soul free-er" is hypothesized as an end to spirituality in general...
Ps: Rick Strassman is now Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the University of New Mexico, School of Medicine, and can be easily looked up on the internet, as can various sites that log people's personal experiences with "the spirit molecule."
PPS: The DMT phenomena reminds me of the Science Fiction novels by Jeff Noon, particularily VURT, wherein the society of the future is collectively addicted to a bizarre form of drug known as feathers...

Electronic underwear warns of heart attack | The Register

The Lord of the Rings' monstrous warning

As I made all of you aware last week, I am currently undertaking the task of writing two rather large papers on disparate aspects of The Lord of the Ring. I have become aware of theme shared by the texts we are currently studying. I am assuming that all of you have seen the movies more recently than reading the books, so I will refer to the films. The issue is Saruman, once white, he was a peace loving nature worshipper endowed with the ability to do good. Treebeard discusses how he used to emply nature as a source of inspiration, energy, and magic power- always for good purposes. In the film The Fellowship of the Ring we witness the white wizard during the latter stages of his transformation. He has become evil, and thus is doomed, because he has forsaken the powers of nature for, what he believes is a source for increased power, "rock and steel". This may seem like a large stretch- to imply that rock and steel can be compared to, or can be seen as interchangeable with, the types of mechanical innovation we are looking at- but let's put the book in its historical context. (Prepare youselves, enter THE NERD) Tolkein lived in a small rural community called Sarehoe (sp) near Birmingham. He writes that his native landscape embedded in him "a deep love, and responsibility for nature". He claimed that Sarehoe was so isolated and removed, that during his youth he was totally unaware of WW1. However, by the time he was entering adulthood, the industrial machine had spread to Sarehoe, uprooting the landscape and putting factory after factory in its stead. We have already examined the factory as a sort of cyborg-state in Modern Times. From this angle we can interpret the saga involving Saruman to not only warn against monster of industrialization, but as a warning of the corruption of humanity that such technological advancements bring-(I don't wanna say it but.... CAPITALISM); however I feel that Tolkein's message was not that far removed from Forster's message in The Machine Stops, or Shelleys message in Frankenstein as both warn against the moral or spritual repercussions of technological advancement- which is what I hope to have suggested about Saruman.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Electrodes capture signals from the brain to manipulate objects by thinking

news @ - Paralysed man sends e-mail by thought:

"A pill-sized brain chip has allowed a quadriplegic man to check e-mail and play computer games using his thoughts. The device can tap into a hundred neurons at a time, and is the most sophisticated such implant tested in humans so far."

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Cyborg Couture

The Tissue Culture & Art Project (via BoingBoing)
A tiny "stitchless" jacket grown in vitro in a "technoscientific body":

As part of the The Tissue Culture & Art Project, the "Victimless Leather" is grown out of so-called immortalised cell lines, which are cultured to form a living layer of tissue on a biodegradable polymer matrix in the shape of a coat.

Frankenstein remade, again...

USA NETWORK | Frankenstein
Dr. Frankenstein is now "Victor Helios" (Thomas Kretschmann); the monster is now "Deucalion" (Vincent Perez) roaming about sensitively 200 years after he was created. Deucalion is bent on the destruction of his creator, who's still hanging in there being an obsessed visionary, kept alive all this time through the wonders of science (he wants to create a new race of people to replace mankind; and, surprise!, here it comes, they're designed to be calm and analytical but they're "tortured by their own existence, unpredictable, and often dangerous." These evil creatures have infiltrated society and are "wreaking havoc."). Deucalion learns about the evil scheme, and teams up with two New Orleans (why New Orleans? enquiring minds want to know...) police detectives, Carson O'Connor (Parker Posey) and Michael Madison (Adam Goldberg). The detectives are investigating a series of freakish murders (organs are being stolen, dammit, and who else but good ol' US police and a 200-year-old protocyborg could save the world from such evil and terror?).

Frankenstein's nine producers include Marcus Nispel (known for directing various music videos and the 2003 Texas Chainsaw Massacre), Martin Scorsese, and X-Files writer John Shiban. The scenarist is novelist Dean Koontz. It sounds too good to be true.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Superman, mechanistic and supernatural, vs. human frailty; Or, literary tropes just won't stay out of the debate on humans & technology

Times Online - Health:
Following the death of Christopher Reeve due to heart failure last Sunday, Times Online in the UK has published an opinion piece titled "We should fear the disturbing future where man becomes superman" (by Michael Glove), suggesting that "embryonic stem-cell research turns human life into a means rather than an end." I am constanty intrigued by the propensity to incorporate literary tropes into moralized debates about the roles that science and technology should play in human embodiment. While praising Reeve's personal heroism and dignity, this article somehow manages to conflate comic-book heroes, ethical debates on the use of embryonic stem-cells, and Reeve's advocacy of stem-cell research. Glove writes:

"Superman serves a moral purpose. He is a deus ex machina, both supernatural and mechanistic, setting this world to rights through his technologically advanced powers, relieving suffering and injustice by means of his X-ray vision and speed-of-light flight. Superman fills the void apparently left by the unwillingness of God to intervene in human affairs, ensuring that evil will not triumph in this world.

The contrast between the myth of Superman, the sheer potency of this fictional creation, and the eventual fate of Christopher Reeve is inescapably poignant. The actor who played a figure capable of transcending human weakness was, horrifically, trapped by the frailty of his own body. An accident sustained while enjoying his own athletic prowess reduced him to a paralysed state. He became the prisoner of flesh that would no longer respond to his own, indomitable, spirit."

Glove then goes on to defend giving embryos the same protection that we give to other human life.

He concludes:
"For some scientists the promise inherent in stem-cell research, the cloning of human embryos and the whole burgeoning field of biotechnology, is the prospect of remaking man. The frailties that make up the human condition can, progressively, be eliminated by the manipulation of life’s building blocks. Not just life-threatening disease, but all manner of infirmities and imperfections can, potentially, be engineered out of existence. The prospect, if not of Superman, certainly of superior models of man, beckons. The comic-book myth of transcending human constraints has become a modern scientific aspiration.

Before we applaud such ambition, however, can we pause to consider what that would mean for humanity? Have we not learnt from those in the past century who wished to remake man, and saw in the lure of genetics the chance to create their own superman?"

This article raises all sorts of interesting questions, foremost of which (for me) is why the idea of transcending human constraints through science and technology so often falls back upon a literary allegory. Superman stands for the deus ex machina and the impossible ideal of the Man of Steel; therefore Reeve's heartbreaking accident must stand for a moral comment on what humans should be? As Glove defines it, "To be human is to inhabit a world of vulnerability and limits." To use the Superman myth and Reeve's death as a basis for an argument against embryonic stem cell research is ludicrously fallacious. But it's a little persuasive, too, because we like those myths of humanity, and we like those myths of the amorality of mechanism (aspiring toward the "super"-natural, above nature).

Friday, October 08, 2004

Create the Ultimate Cyborg Warrior!

Cyborgs... and Justice... together at last!

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Cyborg Insane mp3 free download

Metal News - Rising Moon New Song Available For Download ( Metal Underground . com )
Italian death metallers Rising Moon have uploaded an MP3 of their new track "Cyborg Insane" at this location.

Cyborg Health Surveillance (Implantable Sensors)

TheFeature :: Implantable Sensors and the Doctor In Your Pocket
Cyborg wealthius may soon have an evolutionary advantage over the common cyborg and disappearing ordinary JoBlow humanus.
"In the future, your cell phone will diagnose you based on bio-data transmitted from sensors under your skin.

The human body is like a car. Take care of it, and it might even last a lifetime. If it has problems you may have to bring it to the mechanic, your doctor. Once you're there, though, the knocks and pings always seem to disappear, leaving you with a lot of explaining to do. Ideally, for treatment's sake anyway, your physician would follow you around and do an instant examination at the moment a symptom rears its ugly head. That's the idea behind UbiMon, a wireless sensor network of medical-monitoring devices that will eventually be implanted right into the body."

People Need Lives

Ships Ahoy - Singles: Flirt Up Your Life [October 06, 2004, 01:32 am EDT] -

Eidos sends word that Singles: Flirt Up Your Life, the swinging sim, is now available at retail in North America, after previously being available online only: "It's time to pick up those apartment keys and meet the new roomates! [sic] Today Singles: Flirt Up Your Life for PC is shipping to stores! Start exploring the lives of two young roommates as they meet for the first time and begin living together in their new apartment. You may choose the librarian and the dj or perhaps the suave lady's man and the hippie. Every interaction and conversation they engage in are the building blocks to either a distasterous [sic] feud or closer friendship. Find out what makes her laugh and gets him to clean the bathroom. The characters are now fully customizable allowing you to choose their skin, hair, and eye color as well as their outfits! You are in control, your skills will determine the future of the roommates lives, will their apartment become their love nest? It's up to you!"


I suppose someone could argue that having an artificial, computer-simulated social life is not fundamentally different from having artificial flavouring in your food, but to me, this is pretty disturbing. I guess it was just a matter of time before some ambitious marketer had a product like this made, but really. You go and watch Lord Of The Rings because you can't go around riding on elephants and killing trolls in real life. However, this is blatantly marketed towards people who have social problems like we were discussing last class...

Monday, October 04, 2004

Industrial Music

This I think is fairly on-topic, as there's a fair amount of music out there that incorporates technology in some severely hefty ways and also deals with monstrous themes. Given as I'm not one of those people who's like "I listen to bands that you haven't heard of, I'm more hardcore than you!" and I don't spend much time ferreting out obscure bands because I haven't the time, most of these bands are no doubt at least familiar to you.

There is certainly a lot of retarded music that has no point, but I think there is a strain in Industrial music over the last 20 years or so that deals with the question of technology and how it affects people's lives. Back in the late 1970s a band called Joy Division appeared, inspired by writers such as Kafka, the main thrust of their work was a political analysis of what it is that makes modern society so unique and confusing, including technology, propaganda, communications technology, the post-industrial revolution social system, and so on.

Skinny Puppy seems to have a similar message (they were one of Canada's hugest acts in the 1980s) though they're a lot more cryptic and bizarre.

The most popular vender of this type of music is obviously Nine Inch Nails. They have one song called "The Becoming" (I'll post the lyrics) that seems to deal with a person entering into a machine-like detachment to avoid those pesky emotions, quite a bit like Spider Rose actually.

And closer to home The Tea Party, back when they were half-decent, wrote the album Transmission which they described as "The question of what becomes of the soul in the face of technology."

The Birthmark

I'm creating this thread so we can discuss the story the Birthmark (we're supposed to post comments on it here as we didn't get to it during Friday's class).

I think that the story is actually fairly similar to Frankenstein. Certainly, the Almayer character is modeled on Victor Frankenstein beyond any doubt. However I think what the story is really critiquing is not the idea that humanity has the the right to interfere with nature, but rather patriarchal values - essentially the idea that the rich powerful white guy (who certainly is Almayer) has the right to impose his will on anything other than himself, because he's apparently making things "better." Of course I'm probably just reading my own leftist views into the story, but the way that Georgiana is treated (even though she seems to lack any will of her own) seems to lend itself to a critique of her husband imposing his will on her rather than the institution of science. The reason things end up so badly is that Almayer always believes that he is doing the right thing and this justifies any risks he might be taking, even with other people's lives. It also justifies him lying to Georgiana, in a move not unlike what Plato said in The Republic - that the educated upper classes have the right to keep everyone else in the dark because they know best. Damn was Plato ever an asshole (pardon my language).

Further thoughts shall appear...

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Hallmark Channel to air proto-cyborg Frankenstein story

Hallmark Channel Presents Monster Makers
"A Classic Tale of Undying Love"??? What new horror is this?...A supposedly authentic adaptation of Frankenstein airs on Hallmark Channel this month.

Donald Sutherland and William Hurt star in an "epic" television adaptation of Shelley's Frankenstein. Part One is to be aired on Tuesday, October 5 (9/8c), and Part Two on Wednesday, October 6 (9/8c). Encores on October 26 and 27. This production was apparently shot entirely on location in Slovakia (Slovakia???).
"Yet this new creature (Luke Goss, Blade II) proves even more fallibly human than Frankenstein. He is not only imbued with knowledge and wisdom, but a conscience as well and a longing to be accepted for something other than the deviant he is....

Mary Shelley's immortal novel truly comes to life for the first time in the most elaborate, gragic, and chillingly faithful version of her classic macabre tale....Frankenstein will rouse audiences with something far more profound than fear."

The burning question: where where where can I ever get a chance to see this?

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Maybe Cyborgs Don't have to have viral infections

News in Science - Nano AIDS shield given a boost - 30/09/2004 :
Nanotechnology could provide a means of protection against HIV. An Australian biotechnology company has been granted US $5.4 million from the US National Institutes of Health for its research on a gel that prevents HIV infection of cells. The gel contains a synthetic molecule called a dendrimer that binds to the surface proteins of HIV and prevents it from infecting T-cells.
"Melbourne-based Starpharma is reaching the end of early phase human trials of the gel which is the world's first dendrimer-based drug to be used on humans.

Dendrimers are synthetic molecules which have been likened to nanoscale golf balls that act as molecular Velcro capable of targeting cells and pathogens.

The gel uses dendrimers like sponges to 'mop up' the virus.

'We're trying to slow down HIV to the stage where it can be dealt with by the body's immune system,' Starpharma development manager Dr Tom McCarthy said."

If John Kerry were a cyborg

The Many Faces of Kerry - Funny Stuff
He looks more like the tin man here. But then presumably if the tin man has a heart, he's to all intents and purposes a cyborg. Maybe the Frankenstein Kerry is more true to the cyborg vision... (with apologies to John Kerry, who surely doesn't deserve this [but it's just part of doing of good research: a diligent intellectual can't leave stuff out just because it's puerile {but diligent intellectuals all over the globe purposely leave out the puerile (but really I'm not all that intellectual [thank goodness that's resolved])}]).

Friday, October 01, 2004

Cyborg Surveillance Goes Both Ways

CBC News: Winnipeg group begins policing the police
This article, about an anti-racism group in Winnipeg that is providing video cameras to volunteers to monitor police treatment of native residents of the city.

Amouse: the mouse-whisker cyborg that's mostly robot & a little bit rat

The Artificial Mouse Project (Amouse) is a European project to develop a multisensory robot with visual sensors and an artificial whisker system. The organic component of this thing is a robot built with rat whiskers glued on capacitor microphones.

"Each whisker is thus a single sensor. Data acquisition is done on a laptop with a PCMCIA data acquisition card.

So far, the artificial mouse has been used for experiments on the morphology of the whisker array. We looked for an optimal arrangement of the whiskers by comparing different morphologies as to how well the robot was able to avoid obstacles. We found that a different morphology than the one found in nature is optimal for this task."