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    Cyber Jouissance, the future of cybernetically enhanced senses
    Project: Polytopia
    "One of the definitions of sanity is the ability to tell real from unreal. Soon we'll need a new definition."


    Alvin Toffler

    The reality of our technophile civilization is presently, I believe, beyond dispute, even the most ardent Luddite will find it hard to deny the almost invisible casualness with which she uses a smart phone.
    But even this all-pervading ‘smartphonism’ is only a hint or perhaps an insinuation of what the cyborgization process is leading us, as a species, as a culture and as a civilization, into.

    The two main concepts which seem to provide some kind of indication as to where we are headed are Situational Awareness (SA)1 and the Adjacent Possible (AP)2.
    For those not yet fully familiar with situational awareness, it may be wise and maybe necessary to revise their understanding and implication of the evolution of this prevalent field of inquiry into human behavior, especially as pertains to decision making in rapidly evolving info flows.

    Situational awareness, as defined by Endsley is : "the perception of elements in the environment within a volume of time and space, the comprehension of their meaning, and the projection of their status in the near future," is probably the most salient at present if for nothing else that it represents the conceptualization of a person’s ‘feeling’ of one’s infocology, the absorption of said information and the correlated response.
    SA as it is known, is however much more important than first appearances might suggest, the reason for that is simple enough; given that most of the information we receive from our surroundings enters our brains via our senses, the recent advances and soon to come to a retail store near you sense extensions may paradigmatically revolutionize that which we deem ‘ sense perception’ and by extension change dramatically that which we call ‘comprehension’.

    When the prime paradigm of the future is ‘everything is programmable’ sooner than later a combination of augmented reality technologies, coupled with programmable genetics and synthetic biology will permit our bodies to extend their senses into domains previously inaccessible.

    "We see with our brains, not with our eyes. When a blind man uses a cane he sweeps it back and forth, and has only one point, the tip, feeding him information through the skin receptors in the hand. Yet this sweeping allows him to sort out where the doorjamb is, or the chair, or distinguish a foot when he hits it, because it will give a little. Then he uses this information to guide himself to the chair to sit down. Though his hand sensors are where he gets the information and where the cane "interfaces" with him, what he perceives is not the cane's pressure on his hand but the layout of the room: chairs, walls, feet, the three-dimensional space. The receptor surface in the hand becomes merely a relay for information, a data port. "


    Prof. Paul Bach-y-Rita(3)

    (image of Electronic Sensors Printed Directly on the Skin- MIT)

    Though the model of SA was originally developed in the aviation industry and its military applications, it is my view that a sizeable amount of the model can and should be applied when dealing with the hyperconnected mind of the present day human, since the same kind of parameters apply even if the field of application is totally different, namely the infocology of the hyperconnected world we live in.
    Moreover with the advent of the Internet of things (IOT) and the ensuing complexity, the kind of conceptualizing that until recently was sufficient for a ‘sense-making’ of the state of affairs of the world is no longer satisfactory.

    “In our houses, cars, and factories, we’re surrounded by tiny, intelligent devices that capture data about how we live and what we do. Now they are beginning to talk to one another. Soon we’ll be able to choreograph them to respond to our needs, solve our problems, even save our lives.”

    (wired)

    Robotics, Cyborgs, Augmented Reality, Synthetic Biology, Artificial Intelligence, and human enhancement technologies are only some of the fields, which are changing the ‘situation’ to which we need construct a new model of reality.
    The world to which we were accustomed and through which we ‘made sense’ and constructed awareness to is no longer.
    We may not realize the immediate implications of these technologies, but make no mistake, as soon as sense extensions become a widespread phenomena (and we believe that is soon) our Situational awareness will change accordingly and the theory of mind we each construct and carry will be altered irrevocably.

    (CNN) — We're in the midst of a bionic revolution, yet most of us don't know it.


    Sense extension, sense enhancement

    Seeing through your skin

    Take for example the ability of plants to orient themselves to light, according to Prof. Leonid Yaroslavsky of Tel-Aviv University:
    "Some people have claimed that they possess the ability to see with their skin," says Prof. Yaroslavsky. Though biologists usually dismiss the possibility, there is probably a reasonable scientific explanation for "skin vision." Once understood, he believes, skin vision could lead to new therapies for helping the blind regain sight and even read.
    Skin vision is not uncommon in nature. Plants orient themselves to light, and some animals — such as pit vipers, who use infrared vision, and reptiles, who possess skin sensors — can "see" without the use of eyes. Skin vision in humans is likely a natural atavistic ability involving light-sensitive cells in our skin connected to neuro-machinery in the body and in the brain, explains Prof. Yaroslavsky.” (Reuters)

    The mind’s computational economy is continuously bombarded by the impression of the senses, from which it extracts the information necessary to compute action, behavior and decision-making. However with the advent of enriched sensorial technologies the amount of information coming from our environments changes both in quantity and quality.
    This particular aspect is maybe the most important when describing the evolution of the mind, its computational economy and the resulting behavior.
    The complexity of the system composed of human senses, technologies of sense extension, and the world, increases exponentially and changes the ‘state of affairs’ of ‘sense making’ and our situational awareness.
    To continue the example from above if we start seeing with our skin, the amount and quality of information entering our internal informational economy will create a dramatic shift not only in perception but also in our basic worldviews.
    Furthermore, a recent article in Science presents the very detailing advances in the fields of Optogenetics and Optoelectronics, the combination of which in Injectable form into human organisms promises great advances in biomedical technologies.



    In neuroscience generally, and in optogenetics in particular, the ability to insert light sources, detectors, sensors, and other components into precise locations of the deep brain yields versatile and important capabilities. Here, we introduce an injectable class of cellular-scale optoelectronics that offers such features, with examples of unmatched operational modes in optogenetics, including completely wireless and programmed complex behavioral control over freely moving animals. The ability of these ultrathin, mechanically compliant, biocompatible devices to afford minimally invasive operation in the soft tissues of the mammalian brain foreshadow applications in other organ systems, with potential for broad utility in biomedical science and engineering.
    ScienceMag (5)

    Technological telepathy is not science fiction but science fact. Recent advances in electronically connecting rat brains, via brain machine interfaces, shows that the connectivity between brains could smooth the progress of treatment and transfigure computation.(6)

    "It's using the technology to provide something extra. It's enhancing. It's upgrading."

    Kevin Warwick- Engineering extra senses at Nova

    There are as of now an increasing number of projects that promise to perform enhancements on our bodies that until not long ago would have appeared to be completely beyond our reach and yet, here they are. Integrating circuitry in our flesh is a revolution of the senses; bionically enhancing our bodies is a disruptive and radical transformation of our fields of perception, these in turns will transform our situational awareness and create ipso facto a different kind of human, the cybernetically enhanced human.

    The CyberHuman will be able to receive information from his surroundings to an extent and quality we will find hard to accommodate. Jarringly up-to-the-minute situational awareness will require a certain novel fashion of ‘conceptualization’ through which the assimilation of innovative insights born of extended senses can become practical and useful.
    The possible and potential applications of these technologies are immensely promising, whether on a personal level, the community level or indeed as a stepping stone towards a hyperconnected humanity, and a possible global brain, composed of humans and machines.

    The point however of all this, is that it is changing us in unpredictable ways.

    It is my view that the cybernetically enhanced human is potentially a better kind of human, stronger, healthier, more intelligent and more aware. The factuality of our lives is that we exist as highly intense linked and joint hyperconnected interactions that fuse our bodies and situation in a composite mesh of mutual influence, giving rise to an extended situational awareness in hyperconnectivity.
    Infocologies backed up by extended senses will provide a novel fashion of perception of the world and a new description to the old fashion of being in the world, with the world as the world.

    Cyber Jouissance

    Leave it to the French to have a word, no, strike that, a kind of word, that permits a description, so wide and so far reaching, that you wish to have it ready in your linguistic arsenal.
    Especially when writing about the future. Particularly when the subject matter is human enhancement and brain machine interfaces, more intensely yet, when the sub-subject of this article is pleasure and friendship in hyperconnectivity, creating advanced infocologies where thriving, both personal and societal is assured. (Which is a paradigmatic subtext of the Polytopia Project.)

    A few days ago I had the pleasure of spending most of the day with two exceptional humans, which intelligence, acute insights and wide spread knowledge of the state of affairs of hyperconnectivity and the current state of our technological enhanced culture was astonishing.
    Given that both of them are architects, a subject that to my embarrassment I know very little about, the structure of our interactions was very fluid and, dare I say it? Like a de-pixelization and re-pixelization of the great future that awaits us all.
    I could say that what we did was implicative, I could write that a cross fertilization took place; I could also say that in a mysterious fashion, hyperconnectivity brings together minds of the same inclination.
    I am certain that Carl Jung would have had a field day was he to catalogue the many instances of a shared synchronicity, of a co-evolving vision, that swiftly transformed into a seed, a potentiality for a future project.
    As you obviously can read in these lines, I took great joy from this encounter, not least because of the confidence it re-instilled in my view of a positive and exciting future for humanity.

    Our main subject was the future of humanity, the technological implications and most importantly perhaps, the realization that the adjacent possible is indeed within our grasp.
    The adjacent possible most interesting aspect we dealt with was the future of education using embedded prosthetics of cognitive enhancement.
    More importantly perhaps we decided to initiate a project of research and vision clarification concerning sense enhancement and their potential implications on human affairs.

    We will soon be starting a new blog in which we will strive to comprehend and structure a more comprehensive approach and didactically inclined presentation, since education is key.

    In the next installment of this new project I will aim to provide the roadmap Andrea who is a computational designer and a Knowmad, Alessio who is a Biodigital architecture researcher and myself are in the process of designing.

    Stay tuned.

    "Education is our passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today." Malcolm X



    Notes and biblio:
    1. Situational awareness (wiki)
    1.1 For an extended read of multiple definitions of SA see: Beringer, D. B., and Hancock, P. A. (1989). Exploring situational awareness: A review and the effects of stress on rectilinear normalisation. In Proceedings of the Fifth International Symposium on Aviation Psychology(Volume 2, pp. 646-651). Columbus: Ohio State University. (Pdf)
    2. The Adjacent possible: Stuart Kaufman
    3. Extracted from 'The Brain That Changes Itself', by Norman Doidge (Penguin)- Via the Telegraph- via Good)
    4.Image via : Controlling the brain, with lasers!
    5. Injectable, Cellular-Scale Optoelectronics with Applications for Wireless Optogenetics
    6. Pais-Vieira, M., et al. (2013). A Brain-to-Brain Interface for Real-Time Sharing of Sensorimotor Information. Scientific Reports, DOI: 10.1038/srep01319

    Further reading:
    Brain-Computer Interface Technologies in the Coming Decades (PDF)
    Intel Capital Fund to Accelerate Human-Like Senses on Computing Devices

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