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    From meganmay's personal cargo

    the wii ware legacy
    Project: The Voyager update project

    a human

    Judging from my visual intake of the world around me, and my propensity for pattern matching, it would seem that EXPERIENCE is a buzzword at the moment. While the word is oft exploited for advertising campaigns, somehow suggesting that visual recall is an experience unto itself, there have also been attempts recently to use real physical experience as a marketing strategy, as is the case with many viral marketing schemes or outdoor, event based campaigns, such as the controversial stunt pulled for adult swim’s Aqua Teen Hunger Force in ‘07.

    Given how dense a world of two-dimensional, multi-media constructs we’ve come to live in, this interest in moving away from abstraction and towards direct experience seems timely, and when prompted to update the Voyager Golden Disk with a message from humanity to whatever alien species might intercept it, the Wii Ware development team immediately agreed to do our darndest to deliver the EXPERIENCE of being human to ET.

    This was quite the task, because abstraction happens to be the most frequently relied upon model of human communication. If I want to communicate to you an experience I had yesterday with a chair, for instance, I can conveniently assume you know that when I say chair, I mean something you sit on, and when I ask you to imagine what it’s like to sit on a chair made out of concrete and metal without wearing any clothes and while eating dinner, hopefully you have enough experience with this variety of chairs, or these particular materials and this particular circumstance to imagine a relatively cold and uncomfortable sitting experience.

    These abstractions however, cannot be conjured up in the brain without you or I having had some kind of direct contact with these objects in the past. In addition, our ability to trade experiences through abstraction requires that our experiences were rendered through the same set of sensory inputs and filtered through a similar cognitive process. If you suddenly lost any and all skin sensitivity for instance, we would no longer be able to speak of the chair as cold, and depending on whether or not you still had feeling in your muscles and joints, we may or may not be able to discuss the discomfort of sitting in this position for an extended period of time.

    So the problem the WIi Ware development team took upon themselves during our research phase, was the following:

    How do you deliver experiences, which are inevitably defined by your inputs to the world and the way your brain is built to process the incoming signal, to someone who may not have those same inputs or cognitive processes?

    We imagined for the moment it was possible and called it THE HUMAN SUIT.

    The human suit was more of a concept, an undeliverable invention that by its very nature suggested that the human body is something you can take on and off, or exchange for something else. This assumption also assumed the existence of some undefined entity inside the body that can be shuffled around and placed in a variety of different containers.

    Though I don’t think the entire team was aware of it at the time, the assumption that the human body is merely a vessel that can be traded in for a different, preferably more advanced model, is very much a post/trans-human assumption. According to most post-humanists, this version of the human corpus, which we’ve been doing our best to modify and extend (fairly successfully) for centuries, is still susceptible to the wear and tear of time and injury, it demands copious amounts of attention and upkeep…it is the most regulated body we could ever imagine. Luckily feeding ourselves is a more pleasurable experience than paying taxes, but LO! Is not the very reason we pay taxes to host our body, keep it safe, groomed, warm, and fed? This current line of human suits demands far too much attention and far too many resources. We must build for ourselves a new and improved variety.

    If I may interject, in my humble opinion, it would be a shame, not to mention relatively impossible, to throw out this highly intelligent experience processing entity in favor of a replacement conceived of by a human brain (which at this point is far from being capable of engineering a replacement of comparable sophistication). However, the biggest mistake made in assuming this is possible, is in the complete betrayal of the human BRAIN, that grey mass oft cited as the source of our very being.

    The brain is configured around the processing of information received by the rest of the body, with much of its function devoted to rendering the world and defining our experience of it. It would seem then, that imagining a replacement for the human body would also require imagining a replacement for the human brain. One must wonder what percentage of the human mind would be left intact if it no longer had to process and render information about the world in its usual human way.

    Let me take a step back, perhaps I've jumped the gun. Please allow me to begin again under the assumption that trans/post-humanists would not be so silly as to preoccupy themselves with the above scenarios. Instead, lets assume that the questions of how we extend, improve, or reconfigure this mind/body contraption are of greater interest than replacing it altogether. Questions like: how would our brain be reconfigured if suddenly we had a much greater volume of high resolution visual, auditory, and tactile information coming in? Would we need more surface area to process the higher resolution signal? Would we require "external hard drives" to help with processing this new influx of information? If we could re-engineer our skin cells to be as tough as steel wool, would we be able to appropriate the pain receptors in our brain for some other processing purposes?

    These were the questions that preoccupied the Wii Ware team during our waking and sleeping hours, and we quickly sought answers though a series of experiments, affectionately known as mind hacks. By cracking open our normally seamless experience of the world, these experiments allowed us to see exactly how the human body and brain functioned together to produce our experience of the world. A modification as simple as crossing your arms, interlacing your fingers, and swinging them back up to look at them, produces a tangle of phalanges so inconsistent with your brain’s usual mental map that you lose control of your motor coordination.

    Thanks to the elasticity of the human brain however, this tangle of fingers can be remapped to resemble something familiar in due time, but this finding indicated to us the ease with which the HUMAN brain/body can be made to feel alien to itself.

    At this point, we decided that rather than making a human suit for an alien in outer space, we would use Wii as a platform for delivering the sensation of being alien to a human here on earth. This would be accomplished by placing several of the experiments we performed previously in the context of a video game and imagining an interface that would facilitate their execution. The Human Suit was thus dubbed Wii Ware, and we began to consider how all of our goals could be implemented technologically.

    _______________________________________________
    THIS IS WHERE IT REALLY GETS INTERESTING

    After many an evening of heated debate, a trip to the Laboratory of Neuro Imaging at UCLA, and several bags o tricks later, we decided that Wii Ware would be a peripheral device for the Wii gaming system, and would interface with the brain directly. After prompting users to ‘upload experiences’ from the world, Wii Ware would be capable of storing and ‘playing back’ the brain activity associated with, for instance, eating a banana, to produce sensations felt in the body. We now had a machine that would actually learn about your experiences of the world, and be capable of reconfiguring and delivering these experiences back to you. The implications of this were tremendous.

    For one thing, the Wii Ware technology would be capable of learning about the world through experience by mapping information coming in from your HUMAN senses and rendering this as an experience in your body. LO! Could this be the human suit in disguise! Could we have successfully conceived of a way to supply an alien entity with the human experience!

    All right all right, I will cease to play dumb, after all it would be silly to imagine Wii Ware as a self-aware entity capable of comprehending this experience, though it would seem we did make a sneaky reference to such a possibility when naming our product. What we actually realize at this critical point in our research, is that Wii Ware is not just about human experience, nor is Wii Ware about some artificially intelligent entity’s experience, but about the ways in which Wii Ware, as a new technology, modifies our human experience. So, to our astonishment, what we have succeeded in prototyping is a future human suit, and a perfect analogy for the human experience.






    Sat, Mar 22, 2008  Permanent link

    Sent to project: The Voyager update project
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    gleb     Sun, Mar 23, 2008  Permanent link
    Though I don’t think the entire team was aware of it at the time, the assumption that the human body is merely a vessel that can be traded in for a different, preferably more advanced model, is very much a post/trans-human assumption.

    It is interesting to think about the post-humanists are also dualists just like in the olden days of Descartes. But then again if we listen to Searle that is not a problem, both theories are trying to say something true, problem is the categories and vocabulary (see matthew's post)
    psyoko     Sun, Apr 6, 2008  Permanent link
    I thought this video was excellent. Nice job!
     
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