Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Placebo Cyborgs | Expecting results may help medicine work better

CTV reports today that sometimes cyborgs are better cyborgs when their own brains are doing the feedback, according to research by Dr. Fabrizio Benedetti (Department of Neuroscience, University of Turin Medical School in Italy): "Parkinson's patients moved much better when they were told that doctors had turned on a pacemaker-like implant in their brains, which blocks tremors, than when it was turned on covertly," explains this CTV article.

In their article "Placebo-responsive Parkinson patients show decreased activity in single neurons of subthalamic nucleus" (Nature Neuroscience 7.6 [June 2004]: 587-588) Benedetti et al. describe using electrode implants to measure activity of neurons in the subthalamic nucleus (a target in therapy for Parkinson's Disease). The placebo was an injection of saline solution and the suggestion of a motor improvement.

Dr. Benedetti spoke on "The Biological Basis of an Imaginary Treatment" at on February 15, 2005 at the London School of Economics. The precis: "An imaginary treatment is a simulation of a real treatment, showing that the context around the patient may affect the therapeutic outcome. This occurs through the release of endogenous substances in the brain which modify the activity of neurons. These new neurobiological acquisitions have both clinical and ethical implications."

Benedetti and others recently published "Expectation enhances autonomic responses to stimulation of the human subthalamic limbic region" (Brain, Behavior, and Immunity 19.6 [November 2005]: 500-509). Microelectrodes inserted into the subthalamic regions provided the means for "microstimulation" of the STN, which has known autonomic effects (such as an increase in heart rate) and emotional effects (such as feelings of well being and pleasure) in the human. But telling the patient when this was happening apparently had a significant impact on the response: "Most interesting, the overt and covert stimulations of this area produced very different outcomes. Sometimes the open–hidden difference was as large as 50%, both for heart rate and sympathetic responses."

Monday, November 28, 2005

Cyborgs have no privacy (update)

The "electronic Cybrid dimension of construction"...oh, those crazy conceptual artists

HMC Medialab (Grosvenor House, Belgrave Lane, Mutley Plain, Plymouth, PL4 7DA, UK) has its new Lacuna Project up and running at the Portland Square Building in Plymouth, UK.

From their website:
Lacuna is a response to the relationship between body and architecture in the cyborg era. Existing in the perceive 'gap' between physical volume and electronic volume, Lacuna is customised software that communicates between the visual medium of the screen and a high resolution electronic skin of real world architecture. This in turn creates virtual counterpart architecture, enhancing the electronic Cybrid dimension of construction.

Rather pretentious dialogue, but beautiful images!

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Cyborg 101 online

Cyborg 101: The Warrior's Guide to the Blackboard Jungle is an online book by Angus T.K. Wong, published by Grasshopper Enterprises and stored on Their blurb:

With the recent release of Terminator 3, we went back in time to retrieve this cult classic by Angus Wong. Unfortunately his original site has vanished. Some of the information is dated, but overall it stands as an inspiring journal of an intrepid explorer. It is too unique to let fade into the pixel dust of cyber-history so we've reproduced what we could, without modification; all rights are retained by Angus.

From the introduction:
Midway through university, Angus was suspended because of poor academic performance. Three years later, he graduated at the top 5% of his class, on the dean's honour list.

This book is his "how to" guide. Its techniques have transformed a lazy, poor-performing dropout, into a straight-A student.

From the Author's Note:
In my quest for the perfect perspective with which to regard school, I created what I call the paradigm of the cyborg. It is the key manner in which learners will realise success. By viewing themselves as war-machines, of sorts, and the classroom as a battlefield, the students can destroy the notion that school is boring and mundane. This frame of reference also facilitates analysis of the situation in strategic and tactical terminology. In addition, the concept of "cybernetics" in the context of this book refers to the combined use of organic and inorganic tools to assist the student in achieving a common objective. Inorganic devices include, for example, personal computers and subliminals. Organic tools, on the other hand, refer to mental skills such as speed-reading and memory techniques.

Cyborg poem from "Squirrels in My Attic" blog

"Mary Oliver vs. Cyborg Prostitute" by K. Silem Mohammad.

Cyborgs have no privacy

So here I was, cut off from the world this morning (that is to say, my Internet connection wasn't working because my account was overdue). Not a big deal: I called Shaw and said I'd pay it today and the operator obligingly reconnected me. But here's the shocking thing. She also asked me to give her either my driver's license number, or my health services card number. I balked, politely, and she told me I didn't have to do it today but that the Canadian government had recently ordered that this information be collected by all Internet Service Providers in Canada. I couldn't quite believe it, but this, she assured me, would be the scenario in the near future any time anyone wants changes to existing services, or updates, or to set up a new account: Shaw would first require that customers provide one of those numbers--and that the ISP would be legally required to collect and store these numbers in their database. "That's insane," I said, with all the eloquence I could muster.

On Michael Geist's site at, there's a nice summary of what I presume to be the legislation behind this request:
The Canadian government today revealed that it will unveil the lawful access bill on Tuesday, November 15th. The bill, titled the Modernization of Investigative Techniques Act, will "compel all Canadian telephone and Internet companies to create and maintain infrastructures that are intercept capable and to provide access to basic subscriber contact information such as a name, address or telephone number."

Geist's website points to Bill C-74 online as well. I haven't yet read this thoroughly, but what I can see is this on page 15:

A telecommunications service provider shall, on the request of a police officer or of an employee of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police or the Canadian Security Intelligence Service...provide the name, address and telephone number of any telecommunications service providers from whom the service provider obtains or to whom the service provider
provides telecommunications services, if the service provider has that information.

...the operative words being "name, address and telephone number" and "if the service provider has that information." What the...?

Now I'd like to believe that the operator to whom I spoke is just confused, but she clearly had a database field at the ready in which to enter my health card information or driver's license number. This is just plain disturbing. I think I'd better call Shaw and see what's up.

UPDATE (morning November 28): Help! I need a lawyer! I called Shaw again this morning to figure out what's going on, and spoke to a kindly-sounding customer representative, who explained that in fact, yes Shaw does need to collect a health services card number, a driver's license number, or a passport number - something that provides unique identification. She claims this policiy is a result of recent updates to the Privacy Act. I asked why. She explained that they need a way to identify people - say someone in your house, a young child, wants to get a movie - if Shaw has your personal information, they have a way of identifying the person requesting the movie. I told her I don't even have cable, I just have Internet access. It's used for identification purposes for services, she said, for example if you need to find out your password, or get the balance on your account. Are all Internet Service Providers in Canada required to collect this information, I asked? She assured me it was for cable tv too. Well, say, does Sasktel have to collect this information too? Yes, she said, it's because of the updated Privacy Act. There's a website, she said. Just look it up in the blue pages.

Huh? Now, I'm not a lawyer, but I looked this up, and the Act reads as follows, right at the top:
The purpose of this Act is to extend the present laws of Canada that protect the privacy of individuals with respect to personal information about themselves held by a government institution and that provide individuals with a right of access to that information.
Last time I checked, Shaw was not a government institution (last time I checked, requiring personal information to make changes to or to set up an Internet account was not a policy particulary concerned with protecting an individual's privacy). A quick skim of the next section, "INTERPRETATION," suggests that the act is solely concerned with access to information retained by governmental institutions.

What is Shaw up to, I wonder? This seems, at the very least and in the most generous of interpretations, misleading. Perhaps I'll phone again tomorrow and talk to a different service rep.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

cyberlit: cyborg class projects (Rutgers)

Cyborg Comic by James Kohl is an online comic version of Donna Haraway's "Cyborg Manifesto." Sister Cyborg by Camilla Levister and Ingrid Diaz-Silva is a Flash animation interpretation of the Manifesto.

Future Cities: The Cyborg and the City

Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA)- - Future Cities: The Cyborg and the City:

Darn! I missed this one: Friday Nov. 4 2005. The blurb reads:

"Cyberspace is dead, say the new gurus of mobile communications, and long live the cyborg. The network of wireless connections between ourselves, other people and our surroundings is said to be transforming how we navigate our way around the city.

Almost invisibly, we have all turned into "cyborgs" or "electronomads" - human bodies with embedded digital extensions - and have the city as our network. But is wireless IT as transformative as its enthusiasts claim? And what are the implications of the mobile revolution for activists, urban architects and designers?

Speakers: William J Mitchell, Professor of Architecture and Media Arts at MIT and author of Me++ and Placing Words; Kevin Warwick, Professor of Cybernetics at Reading University and pioneer of the surgical implantation of mobile devices under human skin."

Monday, November 21, 2005

Saitek Cyborg Evo Force PC Joystick

Saitek Cyborg Evo Force PC Joystick Review

The Saitek Cyborg Evo Force Joystick has eight buttons, rudder and throttle capabilities, and cool blue lights to illuminate the handle. What more could any cyborg want?

Friday, November 18, 2005

Cyborg Anime on DVD

Anime on DVD:
On his quest to find the humans possessing Net Terminal Genes, Killy enters Cluster Town, where he comes across a woman who offers help. Her vast knowledge of the power behind this city may prove to be an asset to Killy, as long as he can give her what she needs. But the two will have to work fast, as they attempt to break through to the next sector of the Authority--the massive network that makes up the brain of the city.
Here's an excerpt from Tsutomu Nihei's review of the DVD (trans. Stephen Paul)
"You will probably never confuse or compare Blame! to any other English translated manga on the market, which for me makes this title a must read for all cyberpunk fans....

Tsutomu Nihei's artwork is about as completely opposite of the majority of English translated manga on the market as it can get. There no cute, doe-eyed characters with pointy hair or revealing clothing. No bishounen or lusty ladies or samurai inspired designs. The character designs of Blame! are the melding of flesh and metal, to the point where neither is distinguishable from the other. There is not a lot of facial expression work, but in a way the pale, lucid faces seem to fit in with this world where there appears to be no sun (and most everyone is no longer human).

The backgrounds are absolutely stunning. Nihei-sensei was schooled in architecture, and his sense of perspective and building construction are really highlighted by his skill. He also creates wonderfully directed action sequences that explode off the page, sometimes in a great full-page panel. Overall, the artwork fits the story perfectly; it gets extra props for being an unconventional style that makes a lasting impression."

Cyborg game from Madman Entertainment

November Highlights from Madman Entertainment :: :: Where Anime News and Reviews Matters: November 23, 2005 release.

"An anime classic reimagined for the new millennium...

"World War III is over. In a post-apocalyptic landscape and under the strict guidance of a supercomputer, the remaining humans enjoy an idyllic life. However, not everyone is happy... Military terrorists plot to overthrow the government and leading their only opposition is the legendary warrior Deunan Knute. With the help of her cyborg partner, Briareos, will she be able to revive the 'Appleseed' and avert disaster.

"With massively popular REEL ANIME Showcase screenings in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane (coming soon to Adelaide and Perth), this slipcased 2 Disc release comes packed with exclusive special features including DTS audio, video from High-Definition masters, making of documentaries and more!

$34.95 SRP"

Cyborgs never have to die

'Terminator' to become TV series -
By Lisa de Moraes
The Washington Post
Friday, November 18, 2005
"Arnold Schwarzenegger as the Terminator will, as promised, be back.

"This time on television.

"The producers of Terminator 3 -- which came out two years ago -- have sold a pilot to the Fox network for a "Terminator" drama series.

"Only it's called 'The Sarah Connor Chronicles,' although according to trade paper Variety that is only a tentative title, which is a good thing because it's way too namby-pamby for an action drama."

Thursday, November 17, 2005

MPrize-Michael Chorost on Cochlear Implants and Transhumanism

MPrize-Michael Chorost on Cochlear Implants and Transhumanism: Michael Chorost on Cochlear Implants and Transhumanism

"On August 31st, Michael Chorost, author of Rebuilt : How Becoming Part Computer Made Me More Human, spoke at the Institute.

"Rebuilt is the first cyborg memoir, the story of how Chorost lost his hearing, got a cochlear implant, and learned to hear again - this time with the world of sounds mediated by a set of microphones, microprocessors, and electrodes. A cochlear implant is really a couple devices: the implant that sits on the surface of the skull, with an thin wire running into his inner ear. At the end of the wire are six electrodes. Under normal circumstances, the cochlea transduces sound vibrations into electrical impulses that travel to the brain; many cases of deafness (like Chorost's) are caused by a failure in the cochlear, which leaves it unable to translate motion into electrical signals, but still able to send those signals to the
brain. An implant bypasses all the ear's delicate sound transmission and transduction mechanisms, and feeds signals directly to the cochlear nerves....

"...Chorost also talked a bit about the transhumanist literature. He describes himself as trying to stake out a middle ground between enthusiasts like Kevin Warwick and critics like Francis Fukuyama; he sees his work emphasizing the complexity of the human body, and the necessity of soft approaches such as training and social infrastructure to gain maximum benefit from whatever technology is developed....

"He's also more skeptical of claims that new technologies will transform humans. Almost all current technologies are used to restore senses or sensory capabilities, rather than extend or enhance.

"Restoration is the goal of most ordinary people, and is difficult enough: 'I am skeptical of potential for enhancement via bionics,' on the grounds that our natural sensory organs are fantastically sophisticated, and reproducing them - or completely new things - will be very hard to create. Further, in the pre-nanotech state of the art, 'bionics is big and clunky: it works on the scale of millimeters. The body works at the level of nanometers. We're not even close' to matching the body's capabilities and scale."

Anime News Network - Press Release

Anime News Network - Press Release:
"Comic Book Movies and Ishimori Group to Jointly Develop Movies Based on Shotaro Ishinomori Mangaanounced on 2005-11-15Ishimori Entertainment Inc., Comic Book Movies, LLC, ITOCHU Corporation, and Lotus Inc. have agreed to jointly develop motion picture franchises based on the original properties of the late Shotaro Ishinomori.

"Shotaro Ishinomori (1938-1998) is one of the most famous Manga authors of all time, distinguished by his creations of more than 500 Manga characters. In Japan, his name is as widely recognized as is the name, Walt Disney, in the United States. The parties intend to produce theatrical motion pictures for a worldwide audience, with their initial release as early as 2008. Their agreement extends to DVD's, television, merchandising, and other ancillary markets critical to their franchise-building strategy."

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Biology News: Cyborg cells sense humidity

Biology News: Cyborg cells sense humidity: "Cyborg cells sense humidity"

"Living bacteria have been incorporated into an electronic circuit to produce a sensitive humidity gauge.

"The device unites microbe and machine, taking advantage of the properties of both to make for a supersensitive sensor.

"'As far as we know, this is the first report of using microorganisms to make an electronic device,' says Ravi Saraf, a chemist from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, who developed the 'cellborg' with his student Vikas Berry.

"This is essentially a first step towards a biological computer, and would have many applications," says Steve Ripp, a biotechnologist at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville."

Friday, November 11, 2005

New Scientist Breaking News - Light could trigger super-fast synthetic muscles

New Scientist Breaking News - Light could trigger super-fast synthetic muscles

MIT: Conjugated polymers can be used to create artificial muscles because the polymers contract when an electric current is run through them, but they're slow and they have to be bathed in a fluid or gel electrolyte. Sidney Yip's research team suggests that light at a certain frequency can activate the wave of charge much more quickly. These faster and stronger synthetic muscles could be used for the synthetic limbs of humans and robots.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

:: Neal Stephenson :: beautiful cyborg imagery

:: Neal Stephenson :: The flash intro here showing the melding of technology and human minds is just simply quite beautiful. He's a fantastic author, one of my favourites: his books are intelligent, creative, complex, and now here's a gorgeous website to boot. If I were prone to envy I'd be envious.

Sousveillance: common zealots righteously sending photos to the authorities?

CBC News - Viewpoint: Stephen Strauss: Here's an interesting commentary on sousveillance by author and journalist Stephen Strauss:
"To begin with, I am not sure at all that citizens armed with cameras must make the world a more democratic place. There are lots of undemocratic societies wherein masses of people have embraced narrow, mean, spiteful and never-endingly illiberal civic behavior. Think 'no dating' in Iran. Think 'destroy Buddhist sculptures' in Taliban-run Afghanistan. Think apartheid in South Africa."

Toronto Star: "The Future is Nanobots" - Tech talk: "Why can't an iPod be as big as a watch? Or better yet, injected into your body?"

According to Ray Kurzweil, molecular fabricators — devices sort of like those imagined by Neal Stephenson in The Diamond Age, which can produce a non-organic object out of molecules — will be available by the 2020s.

He says they'll be comparable to the inexpensive music and film-making software that's replaced the need for multi-million dollar studios.

"The means of creativity have already been democratized," he says, speaking of our storytelling technologies. In the future, he predicts, our technologies for manufacturing will be similarly democratized: "inexpensive table top nanotechnology based molecular fabricators" will allow us make almost any product we want in our own homes.

Steve Mann is quoted here too, though it's unclear whether he's making a general comment or a comment on technology, or on Kurzweil's predictions: too much "clutter" associated with existing and future technology — for example spam and marketing text messages — will cause people to pull back. He suggests instead there will be an "un-digital" age of technology.