Cyborgs in New Media

In class, we discussed the possibilities that soon the human world will be able to create robots, or more specifically, cyborgs. Humans who are melded together with machine. Typically, when one thinks of a robot or a cyborg, one tends to view these things as evil. Why? Because in every film we have ever seen that has robots or cyborgs in it, the robots are usually the ones who are trying to take over the world. The Matrix, Terminator, iRobot, Blade Runner, and even Wall-e are (to name just a few)  typical examples of robots in new media who are shown as evil. Over and over again, we are given cautionary tales from these moves about artificial intelligence, and the threat it could pose on our world if we are not careful. While the movies listed above are good examples of robots in film, one particular show that I would like to mention is Battlestar Galactica. For those of you not familiar, Battlestar Galactica is a T.V series about a small fleet of survivors from devastated planets searching for a new home away from the Cyclons (a mixture of machine and human, otherwise known as Cyborgs). These “cylons” were originally created by the human race, but they developed their own intelligence and evolved beyond the control of the humans, eventually destroying their creators home world and seeking to eliminate the human race entirely. This is an excellent example of a cautionary tale about A.I.

However, despite all of this negative outlook on robots and cyborgs from new media, we can’t deny that fusing organic material with electronics could have to potential to improve the lives of everyone. Yet we are reluctant to improve our technology further because we are afraid of what could happen if we are not careful. In short, I believe that they negative outlook films and television shows have given towards A.I has affected the way we see technology advancements in a negative manner.

If you are interested in learning more about Battlestar Galactica, here are a few links;

General Information: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0407362/

Opening Titles: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zu0FMaEneO0

 

Is the Age of the Human (as We Know it) Drawing to a Close?

With all these discussions about the advancements of technology, what it means to be posthuman, and the immergence of the cyborg, I was compelled to look at humanity as it is in its current state. (And I must say, doing so was a little frightening).

In some aspects, I do believe that the age of the human, and what it previously meant to be human, is drawing to a close. Technology has now become an integral part of our lives, and some would even say that it has taken over or replaced simple acts that defined human beings as humans.

One example of how technology has changed what it meant to be human is seen through the degradation of our memory. Our memory is nowhere near what it used to be. In antiquity, people had the ability to recite hundreds of lines from the Iliad. They did not rely on computers, memory sticks or the written word to share stories with their community. However, technology has now replaced our need for memory. Why bother memorizing a story word for word when you can pull it up on the Internet?

I am also inclined to say that technology has replaced our need for a physical voice. (Here I mean the physical act of speech, rather than our rights of expression). Instead of communicating face to face with one another, we now rely on e-mail, text messages, blog forums, Facbeook and twitter to communicate. Some even prefer to communicate through these mediums, rather than communicate in real time and space with one another. Will we see a day where our physical voices are no longer needed?

I have a few other ideas about how technology has replaced certain aspects of what was once defined as being inherently human. However, I would like to leave further discussion to my classmates. Do you think the age of the human, as it has been defined through history is drawing to a close? Do you see other characteristics specific to human beings being replaced by technology?

Are We Ready for the Singularity?

It seems to me that the reason why the larger society expresses feelings of unease towards the posthuman topic is because there are many posthuman stances, but little clarity as to what exactly it is and what it means. In Hayles’ essay, “What Does it Mean to be Posthuman?” she suggests that posthumanism examines man’s integration into his technological environment, and that man has always been posthuman. In this case, the topic does not seem to warrant fear because it implies that the posthuman is not unfamiliar to us.

However, Ray Kurzweil, renowned for his singularity theories, represents another spectrum of the posthuman topic, speaking on the future relationships between man and machine. In this week’s presentation, Ray Kurzweil’s role in the posthuman discussion was briefly introduced. Kurzweil has produced a large body of work, but his 2011 appearance on the Jimmy Kemmel show can provide us with an overview of his singularity predictions: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N63DoBKJTCg. Kurzweil explains that within the next decade(s) humans will be inserting computers and technology into their bodies to make them smarter, monitor their biological functions, and alter their genetics. Jimmy Kemmel, on the other hand, voices the fundamental concern that the larger public can’t help but focus on, and that is, “What happens when the computers, and they eventually will, become smarter than we are?” Kurzweil does not directly answer this, but instead asserts that the computers will not be a race separate from humans, but an extension of us, and of our own construction. This is the singularity that he describes, that man and machine will become one merged race.

But as confidently as Kurzweil discusses the singularity, and as logical as he makes the merge between humans and their computers (compumans in Kemmel’s words) seem, why are we still fearful? I believe that many of us remain reluctant to the singularity postulation because the predicted future of the human and computer relationship drastically contrasts the current status of our world, and this is highly disconcerting. Kurzweil describes a world we won’t recognize, and processes that seem unnatural, such as the reprogramming of our biological processes. He predicts that these procedures and technologies will be available in about fifteen years. Are we, the general public, prepared for these integrations? Will we welcome its promise to extend our lives, or oppose its promotion of genetic identity tinkering?

Does Stelarc move beyond the body?

Stelarc has an interesting perspective of humanity, or rather, post humanity. When we looked at his installation in class, where he hangs by his skin from wires, he says that he is trying to overcome the boundaries of the body. The boundary he is focused on is his own skin. But rather than eliminating it, I feel he is only drawing attention to it. In this installation, he is supporting his body by what? His skin. His disregard for the mutilation only draws focus on the skin’s purpose.  As we see blood dripping down his thigh, we realize that the hold on the skin is the only thing keeping him from falling to the ground, holding his internals in, and identifying him as an individual rather than a blob of a living system.

I think that trying to overcome the body disregards it for the spectacular system it really is. And with our bodies come behaviors that are human. From chemical reactions in our systems we experience joy and grief, and lust and adrenalin. I understand that a physical body has its limitations, but trying to dispose of the body will come with a lost of identity. Being embodied is a root of self, and if the post human is to be just a bodiless consciousness, like I think Stelarc or Moravec believe, that it won’t be post “human” but another species all together.

Assault by a Conscienceless Typekiller…

Digital anonymity, in a sense, has provided the ability to presume a false identity, where identity consists of race, gender and class. In light of this digital transcendence of self, one might decide to act differently on the internet because it is an opportunity to do and say things that are either not culturally appropriate to say, or do not reflect one’s true character/self. The big question here is: do digital beings (users in rpg’s) have to abide by a code of honesty, or should one be able, by virtue of anonymity be able to choose who they want to be? When we put names and faces together, we automatically let multiple signifieds flood into our minds and decide (un/subconsciously) based on race, gander, and class, whether or not the subject of discussion is appropriate having come from a specific user. In Ian Shanahan’s article, we have no idea, in any capacity regarding identity, who the antagonist is, and whether or not his (or her) choice of words is appropriate in any regard. Besides the fact that this person uses a racial slur, this remains a display of the use and/or abuse of anonymity in a digital world. How does the digital world help or hinder one’s online identity?

Planking and Seinfeld – “Are you still a master of your own Domain?”

By examining the relationship between digital media and real space, as a community we may identify that digital media has integrated into our social sphere and makes itself into a seamless part of our everyday lives. In the case of Chang and Goodman’s article about “Concrete Games” we have three requirements when it comes to playing their game…the same can be said about another more recent game that involves a place, a person and a digital element – planking. When planking, one must take a specific pose, on top of a particular object and/or in a particular place. To make it “digital” it should be recorded, either through video or photography and then uploaded for public viewing.

http://www.planking.me/how-to-plank/

Also, included is a link to an episode of Seinfeld, where George obtains an arcade version of “Frogger” and plays it in an urban environment. It’s a nice twist and takes a more literal meaning when it comes to expanding digital games into the physical world.

Sorry for the Quality… :p

Click, Click, Boom!

Type. Click. Click. Boom, you’ve arrived. So you’re perusing your computer monitor at breaking speeds; taking in a multitude of information in a place where gathering and organizing patterns has never been so easy – a true example of instantaneity at our fingertips. What are we capable of with just the click of a button? Uploading and downloading media – music, movies, textual data (strings of information); creating 3-D digital design solutions, integrating CGI into movies, editing of all kinds; even ordering food, drinks and other consumer products…the list can go on and on. How vast the possibilities are with something as simple as a click – what Anna Everett might call ‘click fetish’ (p.36, Cybercultures Anthology). She continues to say that ‘there must be some pleasure to be had – otherwise, why buy? Why buy the rhetoric of plenitude or the expensive machines and services of click culture?’ (p.36) I suppose the point of all of this is to ask ourselves, in terms of remediation and click theory:

Is something (not necessarily tangible) gained by partaking in ‘click culture’?

What happens if we choose to refute the digital world?

Is this a remediation of basic and complex decision making?

Choose a question, what are your thoughts?

Wanna do some clicking? Check out (if you haven’t already) “OMGUW” – but please don’t blame me if you don’t get your homework done because of it… :p

Link to OMGUW: <http://www.omguw.com/&gt;