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    The End of the Terminator Era?
    In the span of 12 hours I met a young French man playing gypsy music on a saxophone in the park, filmed a rehearsal for an anti-play by 1960s Austrian playwright Peter Handke, being restaged for children by my friend Emily Mast, and attended an event about the current trends in science, specifically related to transhumanism, for an audience of Hollywood screenwriters. Needless to say, you can live in as many different centuries in a day as you can access multiple dimensions (which according to current estimates is up to 12, or infinitely many according to Gleb*). In the strangest way this clash of generations within generations seems be a defining characteristic of this day and age. (And it seems like an age when more effort is being put towards characterizing the passing days than ever before.)

    Transhumanism itself is a hodge-podge of scenarios and strategies for enhancing humanity through technology; at least, this is how the hosts of the “Science of Cyborgs” framed the movement at the Directors Guild on Sunset Blvd. I listened as they reminisced about the days when “the heart of cyborgian transhumanism” was the forearm, (more often than not a male forearm), and presented the fairly well accepted refrain The Future Is Now, on the basis of Oscar Pistorius’ Artificial legs.


    Wearable Terminator Salvation Toys, basically sums up this entire post.

    Next, they introduced one screenwriter and three scientists, whose research was meant to inspire the next round of Hollywood blockbusters. Jonathan Mostow was the first to present, and set the tone by explaining that perhaps one of the reasons the prevailing depiction of evil machines in motion pictures results largely from a deep-seated anxiety about humans losing contact with one another. An interesting theory.

    Then up walked a PHD! an accreditation that, given the context, inspired a certain amount of reverence. It may have been just me, but in this context, it seemed like the scientists were 21st century prophets come to deliver an eager audience of culture-makers news from the future.


    Epic question from MacIver's PPT

    The first presenter Malcolm MacIver, was developing robotic systems based on the movement and sensory systems of a weakly electric fish called the “black ghost weakly electric fish.” This same presenter was a consultant on the sci-fi series Caprika, and concluded with the a clip from his favorite show, Battlestar Galactica, where one character says to another “You said that humanity never asked itself why it deserved to survive...maybe you don’t.” Again, the human audience was asked to question its relevance, but more because of its arrogance than its anxieties. The next presenter, Michel Maharbiz worked on inserting microcontrollers into larvae in order to wii-mote control beetles (seriously), while the fourth and final PhD, Mark Humayun, discussed his work on recovering sight for the blind. Humayun proved to be the only one of three working directly with human systems, and it was his singularity that proved to be one of the most striking aspects of the evening.

    While the discussion began by defining cyborgs as machine modified humans, it concluded with how photosynthesis could be inhibited in isolated spinach coroplasts. And it was the final statement from Maharbiz during the Q&A that really defined the evening for me:
    “If there’s one thing you should all do when you get home tonight, it’s wikipedia opto-genetics… What you think now is technology is organic.”

    This statement seamed to debunk the classical notion of our future as cyborgs altogether in favor of the increasingly seamless integration between artificial and organic systems on a whole. The kind of invisibility predicted by Kevin Kelly in his first book, and a seamlessness that ultimately poses the greatest challenge to Hollywood screenwriters: when biology becomes technological, how will the difference between “us and them” be visualized?

    In any case, it’s this integrative perspective of the entire organic system that I find most exciting when considering our future forms. It’s the re-contextualization of our sapience in a larger pool of sentient life that explodes far beyond the singular human frame and, perhaps, marks a closure of the conventionally imagined cyborg era.

    Here are a few resounding notes compliments of Glebden.

    Wed, Mar 2, 2011  Permanent link

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    nagash     Wed, Mar 2, 2011  Permanent link
    I don't think this "invisible cyborg" is new to cinema or TV screenwriters... the cited Battlestar Gallactica and many other sci-fi series and movies had explored the idea. But even if it turns out to be scientifically correct, it just doesn't have the same appeal as a red-eyed mechanical skeleton marching with a machine-gun -

    Pop-fiction is dumb for a reason, and I think it will not change in a long time :)
         Wed, Mar 2, 2011  Permanent link
    I have a morning ritual that I need to share. I call it “The Terminator.” First I crouch down in the shower in the classic “naked terminator traveling through time” pose. With my eyes closed I crouch there for a minute, visualizing either Arnold or the guy from the second movie (not the chick in the third one because that one sucked) and I start to hum the Terminator theme. Then I slowly rise to a standing position and open my eyes. It helps me to proceed through my day as an emotionless cyborg badass. The only problem is if the shower curtain sticks to my terminator leg.

    (an old joke that i can only try to not laugh at every time i think of the terminator)

    I came across this post right after reading this link, serendiptiously enough:

    http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2011/02/darpas-cheetah-bot-designed-to-chase-human-prey/

    This stuff is all jokes to me compared to how much awesomer stuff like optogenetics is :)
     
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