Wednesday, November 24, 2004


Has anyone seen this remarkably good film from 1997? If not, it's kiiiiiiiiind of like Brave New World in that social roles and etc are to some extent predetermined, but more like dystopian science fiction in general. In it genetic engineering is optional, not government controlled or anything like that, and as the main character (a guy who is not genetically engineered, but fakes it by partnering with someone who is) says, "There's no gene for success." However, the world has been split into two classes, those who are genetically engineered and those who are not. It's really interesting in that it does not scream anti-technology or pro-technology, rather just exploring the issues that would exist in a near-future society in which genetic engineering is available, highly refined and widely used. And, as they say about every dystopian scenario, "It's disturbingly close to the real world" (or something like that).

That's just a link to a site that collects information and reviews on tons of movies, which has a page for Gattaca. There's links to a bunch of reviews of the film there.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Ghost in shell, becoming a reality?

This I found while puttering around... seems there has been significant progress toward humans being uploaded onto the internet... much like the reality of Ghost in the Shell... the professor however, reminds me of a comic book villain deranged by his drive for scientific advancement. Note his rebuttle to criticsm:
"For those of you that want to stay'll be a subspecies " he said.
Warwick believes that eventually human beings will be networked to a computer, creating an almost "infinite knowledge base," he said, adding that it would be akin to upgrading humans... I wonder how much it will cost to upload a four year English Honours degree?

Sunday, November 14, 2004

MetroNaps: Do more with your day

Welcome to the future of workforce productivity; the MetroNaps Pod, a room within a room. They had an ad in the newspaper the other day. Another one of those things that made me take a step back and wonder is this for real? And it is...

This was the caption in The StarPhoenix Saturday, November 13:

Paying money to take a nap
A company called MetroNaps is setting up its daytime slumber stations in the Vancouver airport next month. For $15 weary travelers will be able to snooze in the slumber station for 20 minutes.

Time Travel Analyzed

I was looking around online for a copy of the script of 12 Monkeys over a bet on some of the dialogue a friend and I made, and I found this rather interesting web site.

It is a bit excessive, but it is kind of cool that someone actually took the time to have a serious look at the treatment of time travel in all these movies. I don't plan on reading much of it, but it might be good for a look. Time travel is a constant theme in sci-fi and the logical paradoxes involved in it are interesting.

Machinima storytelling

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Kevin Warwick's Cyborg Virus warning

Virus warning: Cyborgs at risk | CNET

Warwick says that computer and organic viruses will become a single entity in cyborg bodies.

"Speaking this week at Consult Hyperion's fifth Digital Identity Forum in London, Warwick spoke of a future when those who aren't cyborgs will be considered the odd ones.

'For those of you that want to stay'll be a subspecies in the future,' he said.

Warwick said he believes there are advantages for a human being networked to a computer. It would mean an almost 'infinite knowledge base,' he said, adding that it would be akin to upgrading humans.

The security problems that dog modern computing won't be much different from those that could plague the cyborgs of the future. 'We're looking at software viruses and biological viruses becoming one and the same,' Warwick said. 'The security problems (will) be much, much greater.'"

Friday, November 12, 2004

Jeff Noon's Nymphomation

I read this book a few years ago and from what I remember I enjoyed it.

Blurbfly Rules:

8a. The blurbs are the property of the AnnoDomino Co., invented to perpetuate their messages of luck and hope beyond the normal channels.
8b. Blurbflies are allowed to travel the streets, buzzing their adverts alive and direct to the punters.
8c. Blurbs shall stand for Bio-logical-Ultra-Robotic-Broadcasting-System.
8d. Only the Company may manufacture the blurbs. Other businesses or individuals may purchase blurbs from the Company, pre-loaded with messages and armed to the teeth, for the appropriate price.
8e. None but the Company shall know the insides of a blurb.
8f. None but the Company shall capture a blurb.
8g. If captured, a blurb may take the necessary steps to escape.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

The NS-5: What will you do with yours?

Introducing the world's first fully automated domestic assistant.

Okay, is this some kind of funny joke? See website for awesome rock 'n roll
intro. followed by the eerie but dramatic "shock and awe" type soundtrack.

hmmm... "Absolute fail-safe"; "environmentally safe"; "brain is the 'heart'..."; "Free OS updates"; "servicing via on-site house call";"WORLD'S MOST COMPREHENSIVE RECORD OF HUMAN HISTORY".

This has to be a joke. I guess we will find out on July 16th.

Halo: THE game for cyborgs

BBC NEWS | Technology | Halo fans' hope for sequel:

As a cyborg researcher, I am embarrassed to admit I've never even heard of this amazing Xbox video game, which purportedly has sold 5 million copies. Surely this BBC news article is a bit of hype, but perhaps I'll have to go out and buy an Xbox in order to conduct in-depth studies.
"Halo is considered by many video game pundits to be one of the finest examples of interactive entertainment ever produced and more than 1.5 million people worldwide have pre-ordered the sequel.

A science fiction epic, Halo centred the action on a human cyborg, controlled by the player, who had to save his crew from an alien horde after a crash landing on a strange and exotic world contained on the interior surface of a giant ring in space.

Remembrance of Things Past it was not - but as a slice of schlock science fiction inspired by works such as Larry Niven's Ringworld and the film Starship Troopers, it fit the bill perfectly."

Better living - and smarter rats - through nanotechnology

Better living--and smarter rats--through chemistry | Perspectives | CNET
"Some day, humans may plant a chip in their head to help them remember where they put the car keys.

A group of researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry in Martinsried, Germany, have devised a specially designed chip that can stimulate or monitor brain tissue when placed under it. A synapse fires, and a corresponding spike in voltage occurs in the adjacent chip. Alternatively, electricity courses through the chip, and chemical synapses fire in the brain tissue.

So far, the group has only used the technology to study the reactions of snail neurons, sections of rat brain and a few other types of nerve cells. The group is not close at all to delivering a product--but the technology creates the possibility that the movements of mind can be mapped (or guided) by computers.

'The real goal is to make content-addressable memory' in living beings, said Peter Fromherz, speaking at the International Congress of Nanotechnology this week in San Francisco. 'You can really look at brain dynamics with a CMOS chip,' he said, referring to complementary metal-oxide semiconductors."
Even though this article presents the technology in a positive light, it's interesting that the opening lines play up the "taking over your mind" aspect of nanotechnology - even in direct contrast to the quotation of Fromherz, who says the goal is to create a map of memory. That's got nothing to do with smarter rats, or guided minds. The rest of the article is about nanotechnology such as research into regenerating human nerve tissue, microchips that can detect dangerous biological agents from small samples of air, synthetic biology such as bacteria that manufacture fuels, or antimalarial drugs.

Is the goal simply to attract attention with the old technology-will-take-over-your-mind scheme, or has it become a sort of shorthand cliche for the inherent and potential dangers of technology?

Wednesday, November 10, 2004


Well, this is totally un-cyborg related; however I think we are like- minded individuals, and you may appreciate this.
Go to google, and type in weapons of mass destruction- but don't hit enter, click on "I'm Feeling Lucky"... the error message is rather hilarious, and I suspect that the programmer responsible has already been fired...

The Job of Art

I just heard this quote from Bono of U2 on an Apple video and I thought it might bear some consideration:

"The job of art is to chase ugliness away . . . Apple have made beautiful machines."

I couldn't resist putting in the second part cause I dig Macs, but the first is interesting. Monsters are not supposed to be beautiful, so can the job of art be to chase monsters away? And though it's a plug for a big corporation, the idea of a corporate philosophy that is dedicated to producing aesthetic technology is pretty interesting. Technology is less frightening if it is fun, cool, pretty... unthreatening.

At the moment I am suffering from a severe fel d 1 reaction (see the Perfect Cat post) so I don't have the mental chutzpah to tackle the idea right away. I'll have a nap and get back to you. I think my brain sneezed right out.

2001: A Space Odyssey

It struck me as odd that no one has brought this monumental film up so far in this class. It's one of the most influential and important science fiction films of the 20th century (directed by Stanley Kubrick in the 1960's). You have probably all seen it or at least heard of it, it has some very interesting sequences and suggestions.

The Artificial Intelligence that controls the space ship, HAL, goes "insane." Now this isn't just some ultra-paranoid, uninformed scenario, nor is it based on the idea that anything with self-consciousness will eliminate threats to itself (like in Terminator). Rather, HAL is based on rational decisions, and it is precisely because it runs into a conflict of rationality that it cuts the life support of the crew and plots against the survivors.

In Isaac Asimov's work, it is suggested that humans will be capable of creating robots that are superior to them in every way - including morally - and thus, any strange behaviour on the part of machines can be attributed to their greater understanding. Not so in 2001: A Space Odyssey, which was based on the book by Arthur C. Clarke (also a scientist in real life). In the film, superior rationality can be flawed, things that make sense to a computer make no sense to its creators. Interesting idea.

Another idea in the movie is that humanity was the creation of, or was tinkered with by, an alien race. This has since become a very, very tired cliche (Chariots of the Gods anyone?), but it's a cool idea in the movie, especially how the aliens are portrayed. The aliens are masters of time and space, probably bodiless, enigmatic and so far advanced that humanity probably can't even comprehend them (Arthur C. Clarke acknowledged Lovecraft as an influence, who proposed a similar idea in his sci-fi novella At The Mountains of Madness in 1931). In 2001, however, the enigmatic nature of the aliens is a revalation for mankind, that of a higher intelligence that has fashioned mankind, not unlike a return to religious ideas, whereas in Lovecraft this is cast as the rejection and opposite of all religion.

In both Lovecraft and Arthur C. Clarke, technology is portrayed as revealing the truth about reality (as opposed to philosophy or theology, and I agree with them: what can you find out by arguing, with concrete evidence?). The difference is in the nature of that truth - in the former, something it's better not to know, to the point of suicide, but in the latter, a fascinating revalation of ultimate purpose.

Monday, November 08, 2004

"Putting a face on Big Brother"

I came across an article that outlines a computer simulation of basic visual human reactions to visual stimuli. The interesting thing is there is actually no artificial intellgience involved.

Personally, I don't want a virtual being turning on the lights for me at 3 in the morning when I go to get a snack or whatever. Anyone seen 2001: A Space Odyssey? This kind of reminds me of HAL, which isn't good. Of course, that would require the involvement of AI rather than just programmed reactions.