Posts Tagged 'cyborgs'

Manifest Alert: Omni Consumer Products Corporation

omni corporation

Big heads up to all the future-watchers out there: I recently became aware of the Omni Consumer Products Corporation and its mission to realize fictional products from movies and other mass entertainment. One can only presume the cumbersome name is so in jest, as it is named after the malevolent corporation of the same name from the Robocop movies – which coincidentally are being honored in Detroit with a seven-foot-tall iron statue of the cyborg crime-fighter paid for by none other than the real OCPC.

Some background: As reported in the NYT (same issue as the Jeopardy report from last post, coincidentally), a group of web-savvy Detroit locals recently raised more than sixty thousand dollars online to build the aforementioned statue.  The website detroitneedsrobocop.com raised the money in a move that is being hailed and decried in conjunction with Detroit’s more serious economic needs.

Commentary:  The goal of literalizing filmic consumer goods, while cute, is predictable, immoral and as foul an action as those taken up by the company’s namesake.  The blind unalterable adoption of ideas from mass media is never a wise move, and it is especially so when the subjects are unchallenging supermarket tripe little different from goods already available to shoppers. If you’re going to bring some gadget from the silver screen to the street it had better be something worthwhile, or at least have a bit of the escapist zest that we love these movies for in the first place.  In peddling caffeinated marshmallows and brand-name  soft drinks, OCPC appears to be little more than a greedy and spineless startup, riding the success of other’s innovation. By funding Detroit’s Robocop statue the company has shown their firm support for neutralizing the distinction between fiction and reality – something this blog cannot accept – and appears more desperate for publicity than truly dogmatic.

Grinding

grinding definition

Posted over at IO9, we’ve got a brief case-study on a DIY cyborg named  Lepht Anonym. Through somewhat scary homebrew self-surgery, Anonym has implanted herself with a number of super-sensual devices – including magnets that let her sense electromagnetic fields (!) and RFID chips that allow a new field of personal computer interaction. Besides working slowly and ambitiously towards the actualization of Post-Human fiction, this story is noteworthy for applying the term “grinding” to this unique brand of self-improvement. As seen above, the word has a vague and widely spread definition ( intransitive verb form courtesy of Merriam Webster ) but it presence in reference to Ms. Anonym piques my interest because of the use of “grinding” in Warren Ellis’ 2007 graphic novel Doktor Sleepless. There, the word also refers to superhuman-improvement through technology and a then-fictional website inspired by the also fictional imminent.sea (hosted on Sealand). Grinding.be is of course now a real website that operates with similar goals to this one except on a greater scale and with more of a pop-media slant.

Anyhow, the Doktor Sleepless website offers the following further definition of  “grinding” as:

people who practice extreme body modification – the term comes from computer gaming, where it refers to unlocking features (or, more commonly, improving one’s character) through repetitive gameplay…

Grinders in Heavenside are seen as a lower tier of society and ignored…

…in New York [and] pretty much everywhere else… the Grinders are viewed as Doktor Sleepless’ private army… Sleepless doesn’t really give them instructions: he merely provides them with tools and broadcasts his cryptic radio shows–stepping back from actual leadership and simply allowing the Grinders to do what they think he might want.

Food for thought, I suppose. Here is Wikipedia on “grinding” in video games – in short: doing mindless repetitive tasks to level-up. The actual grinding.be shares the following (with more at this link) video of Ms. Anonym’s talk at the 27th Chaos Communication Congress (27C3), about which, what?

The CCC or C3 as it is also apparently understood is “die größte europäische Hackervereinigung” (largest european hacking group) and has apparently been having these conference for 27 years. Other events listed on their  schedule include “Tor is Peace, Software Freedom is Slavery, Wikipedia is TruthThe political philosophy of the Internet” and “‘The Concert’ a disconcerting moment for free culture”.

Asthetic Exploitation Roundup

“Hey, this product will bring you into the effortless world of the technological sublime!”

Seeing Popular Support

Here is an interesting case. Having co-created a camera small enough to fit into a prosthetic eyeball, Rob Spence is the man with an empty eye socket to spare; his is the (unfortunately titled) “Eyeborg”. I’ll let IEEE contributor Tim Hornyak do the run-down:

The prototype in the video provides low-res images, but an authentic experience of literally seeing through someone else’s perspective. The image is somewhat jerky and overhung by huge eyelashes; a blink throws everything out of whack for a half-second.
The bionic eye is simply designed, and components are constantly changing. It basically contains a 1.5mm-square, low-res video camera, a small round printed circuit board, video transmitter, and a 3-volt rechargeable Varta microbattery. The components are contained in resealable clear acrylic used in false eyes, but it has two holes for wires to recharge the battery.
“I can recharge my eye via USB off my laptop,” says Spence.

While the tech here is certainly intriguing, what I’m enjoying so much (despite the ham-fisted promo vid above) is just who the first person to don the eye-camera is.  Spence is apparently a filmmaker with a vested interest in Science Fiction, and specifically The Six Million Dollar Man. In the IEEE report, Spence references Star Trek’s Seven of Nine and the Borg. “In today’s world, you have Facebook and camera eyes,” he says. “Tomorrow, we’ll have collective consciousness and the Borg. It’s a collective robot consciousness. I believe that’s a genuine modern concern.”

A concern it may be, but judging by the blunt references in the video to The Six Million Dollar Man and his addition of a red LED light to the eye piece, Spence doesn’t seem worried, per-say, about any so-called “collective robot consciousness”. Indeed while his jokes and the video itself are blatant grasps at publicity, it can’t be denied that Spence is enjoying himself. Having been exposed to bionic men sine he “was a kid”, Spence obviously appreciates the allure of cyborg enhancements, and is hoping to tap into the (most definitely collective) appeal of the futuristic.

And then there’s the fact that he’s a filmmaker. Certainly there are creative possibilities for filming from such a natural vantage point,  but doing so does return us to last weeks post on the dangers of total simulacra. Film has always tried to recreate the effects of natural vision, and if we see the Eyeborg as an early culmination of the growing portability of camera technology, then it becomes easy to imagine people sharing and transmitting their personal vision. This leap of intimacy would be comparable to the one between cinema and the comfy home video of Youtube.

If 60% of the world already has a cellphone (and even half of those are equipped with cameras), it isn’t hard to imagine a loss of distinction between meaningful and carefully selected presentations of images and the pure flow of personal vision. No longer, “What if everyone was a filmmaker?”, the question now becomes “What if everyone’s life was a film?”.

[IEEE Spectrum via Boing Boing]


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