Saturday, December 27, 2008

'transhumanism' in the dictionary

It's taken 50 years, but finally, the words "transhumanism" and "transhumanist" have finally made it to the Oxford English Dictionary. Its definition of transhumanism is: “A belief that the human race can evolve beyond its current limitations, esp. by the use of science and technology.”

For a comparison, the definition that Nick Bostrom, the founder of the World Transhumanist Association, gives in the "Transhumanist FAQ" is given in the following quote:

"Transhumanism is a way of thinking about the future that is based on the premise that the human species in its current form does not represent the end of our development but rather a comparatively early phase. We formally define it as follows:

1. The intellectual and cultural movement that affirms the possibility and desirability of fundamentally improving the human condition through applied reason, especially by developing and making widely available technologies to eliminate aging and to greatly enhance human intellectual, physical, and psychological capacities.

2. The study of the ramifications, promises, and potential dangers of technologies that will enable us to overcome fundamental human limitations, and the related study of the ethical matters involved in developing and using such technologies."

To me it's all good that transhumanism gets more recognition, and the definition actually shows how little people think about such notions. For one thing, it's rather naive to believe that something can evolve while staying stuck to "its current limitations", since evolution per definition is about adapting to overcome limitations and meet the challenges of a different environment. If anybody gave it a thought, he would most likely be a transhumanist according to this definition, so the meaning of the word 'transhumanist' would be nothing more than 'somebody who has thought a little bit about evolution'. Now according to some, technology necessarily leads us away from evolving, and to others it can enhance us while it can also degrade us. I myself am a radical transhumanist in that I believe that every technology, as a cultural uttering of humanity, adds to our evolution. In exploring every bit of the technological landscape, we slowly but naturally and spontaneously learn to uplift our being and humanize our environment so we can come to feel "at home" in it, to use Hegelian terminology. To me even technologies like Hitler's gas
chambers and the H-bomb have contributed to our evolution in showing us more about how a humanized environment would look according to the ideas held by their creators. In externalizing our thoughts into our technologies, we reflect through the lived world, and if there's one thing clear to me about humanity, it's that we can only really learn through experience. Evolution necessarily has periods of chaos, separation, union, and transcendence, as explained by cosmologist S.S. Pope in her search for a holistic philosophy.

To me a definition of transhumanism should also include the reconsideration of the human ontology; a disidentification with the human biological form and reidentification with any other form as a reflection of our new technologized ecologies that we are free to shape. To me, we necessarily are transhumanists, we only need to realize and embrace it, critically but openly.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Honey, can you walk out the fish today?

The content of car commercials was already peaking in far-fetchedness, but this is just insane. Apparently if you drive a Volkswagen Spacefox, why not go for the Fishdog as well?

Liquid manufacturing processes

Yes, nanotechnology could dissolve the prevailing dichotomy of ugly and incomprehensible product insides and shiny looking, clean outsides. Then any angular, flat shape would probably serve nothing more than a temporary crystallization in a nostalgic reference to a time when we still thought our bodies to be media for translating mental chunks of information into abstract machine interfaces. Our extreme collective fear of physical death makes us regressively try to shape a safe womb of technology, but has us live as abstract entities, who turn out to have never fully lived in the end.

Let's throw away our fears and fragile identifications to completely go liquid, soft and organic. Let's risk dying anytime we interact with machines, but in the moment at least be in a perfect resonance with them, and with ourselves. Let's start to taste the machine.

flesh, the new plastic

Tactility it's what it's all about in the work of Jason Briggs. In looking like scrambled up versions of the human body, his sculptural objects almost pornographically refer to the details of raw, naked flesh, with names like 'toe', 'squirt', and 'cinch'. To me though, although they look rather eerie, these objects look quite like complete organisms, or should I say organic products, as well. I can easily imagine this to be future products that almost in a sexual way are able to merge with a human user, to which it could provide certain functionalities in a very intimate, empathic and mutualistic fashion, even aligning its entire physiology to that of the human carrier. What if you'd have to dial a number on your cellphone by sticking your finger into a soft, warm, throbbing hole?

In product design, a trend towards softness and providing a wider range of tactile experiences can also definitely be seen, such as with designs like the strawberry skin juice package by Fukasawa, or the Gel remote control by Panasonic (see below). We are collectively bored with anything resembling modernism with all its coldness. Moreover have we visually been conditioned to like glossy, clean and sharp looking imagery, while this is actually drawing us further and further away from the intrinsic qualities of the body with which we stand into the world, which is undeniably soft, warm, and in a way also dirty. Maybe we should learn to embrace these properties too before we can fully start living, without facades clouding our perception.

Are we ready to succumb to the intimate touch of the machine?

Mac-1000 vs. PC model 101

A bit of an extreme take about what might happen when robotics merges with the consumer electronics industry, but sure I think strange things might happen that render the physical world as dynamic, adaptive and uncontrollable as cyberspace is at the moment. Of course comparing any new technological development with a previous one is always flawed and extrapolations are always myopic in ignoring the intrinsic qualities of the new technological medium, but still I think that if we don't learn to love uncontrollability and program ways to develop empathy and cosmic consciousness into embodied intelligent agents, a big mess might result. Soon I will post a more reasoned post on this, including a justification for my belief that if we don't learn to transcend our short-sightedness and local biases, egoic behaviour will emerge in our artificial systems in a way comparable to how it emerged in our cultures and kept them infantile.

Cardboard cars

If only it were that easy. I'm sorry car manufacturers, but all cars are still fundamentally functionalistic boxes, all attempts to make the experience more humane compromising with the inherently inhuman system underlying its manufacture and distribution. Of course I'm not going to talk about the third industrial revolution, for now just enjoy this little video for the Audi Q5.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

patricia piccinini mixes human and animal physiology

In case you didn't know her yet, Patricia Piccinini is an Australian conceptual artist who explores the fusion of the artificial and the natural, her idiom being cross-overs between the anthropomorphic and the zoomorphic. Her sculptures are so life-like that they immediately make you deem possible a future where humans can be genetically shaped into any desirable physiology.

A future that I am looking forward to, because I am plain bored with that ideal beauty image our one-dimensional culture is still clinging on to. I do understand that people do not know any better, but still I await the day where suddenly one human being decides to fund research labs so they can radically transform him or her beyond any recognition of the human form, and that it brings about a wave of followers. Imagine the benefits from having a completely different physiology and thus lived experience; flying, running faster, 360 degree vision, modular bodies, and doing breakdance in ways never imagined before are only the most obvious ideas. The reason we narrow-mindedly stick to our body is that we still treat it as a sexual object with a brain inside. The brain is what makes you smart, we hold, and what defines you professionally, while the body is what defines you socially. Our rationalist roots have so much left the body behind that it is still this open platform only meant to impress others on a social level. But we need to search for a true self, throw away our identification with our body, and start living in an embodied way, realizing that the development of what we call mind is intrinsically interwoven with that what we call body. And that the purpose of life is to find a holistic way of living in the present with the entire dynamical system that we control, continuously shaping an ideal vision as the only thing we identify with, and emanating this vision onto the world to give rise to a highly dynamic symphony of embodied interactions on the brink of evolutionary beauty.

CG cyborgs by benedict campbell

For you cyborg lovers out there, an interesting CG artist is Benedict Campbell. Although many of his images concern typical naive cyborg fetish material, you know, rods sticking out of human flesh and the like, still a lot of images are quite fresh. An interesting example of the latter is the image I depicted above, of an android man recharging his system in a meditative pose.

Now I would like to see really transhuman images, where the human form becomes less and less recognizable as we as a species adapt to take up more ecological niches in our hominization of the cosmos, and lose the inherent qualities of the biological skinbag in the form that we carry it around nowadays. I'd rather become a fish than a cyborg.

Here is some more imagery:

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Cosmic Cyborg

Today, I thought out my transhumanist vision for the future of technology; the Cosmic Cyborg. Here is an excerpt of my vision.

In terms of the definition of a ‘cyborg’ given by Clynes and Kline (1960) as an “exogenously extended organizational complex functioning as an integrated homeostatic system unconsciously”, we are already cyborgs from the moment we started wearing clothing. Wearable technology will only increase the extent to which we are cyborgs, slowly fusing the organic and the artificial, and it is up to designers to critically explore what kind of cyborg we should become.

So far, explorations into wearable technologies seem to have led mainly to the following directions for human augmentation:
 The ‘radical cyborg’: a functionality led approach that keeps us in the flow of handling digital and physical data
 The ‘expressive cyborg’: emphasizing our feelings or social identity, possibly in a poetic way
 The ‘regressive cyborg’: technology will pervade our bodies although in an invisible way, so we still look like ‘ordinary humans’

What this project poses to create is a new kind of cyborg that I term the ‘cosmic cyborg’. By adopting technology into his body he is able to transcend his own local self, and live a life perfused by a cosmic awareness of everything he perceives, including his body, the world, other people, and products of technology, not necessarily identifying with these. Digital wearable technology should provide this awareness on the background of a fully lived embodied experience, where the human and the technology feel at one.

Transformer shoes

I just love transformable objects like these Nike shoes/toys. Our world is so static, cold and distant to us that people are still the most interesting things out there. I would like objects to start pulling tricks on us. To show us who we are, to mock us, to surprise and enlighten us. But most of all, to inspire us.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Cyborg fashion

"The cyborg is a condensed image of both imagination and material reality, the two joined centres structuring any possibility of historical transformation. In the traditions of 'Western' science and politics--the tradition of racist, male-dominant capitalism; the tradition of progress; the tradition of the appropriation of nature as resource for the productions of culture; the tradition of reproduction of the self from the reflections of the other - the relation between organism and machine has been a border war." - Donna Haraway, from "A Cyborg manifesto", 1991

Just another cyborg video by 1stAveMachine. Yay, we are all going to be cyborgs and look cool, it seems to proclaim. While indeed it is a slick looking movie, I must stress again that blindly believing in technological progress is a big mistake, especially now our technologies are converging and we are heading to a big technological mess, where robots are potentially self-replicating, invisible, armed, or as lifelike as a regular human being. To fuse our bodies further with our technologies seems like a good idea, but at the same time if purely infused with scientific thought this development might alienate us further from being intuitively in touch with the cosmic whole, and from realizing our happiness as something that is already present, instead of seeing it as a goal to result from progress and hence never living in the present. Futurism is merely nostalgia projected forwards, a sort of self-induced memory.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

projected skins

In a time our technologies are more and more showing how easily our brain can be tricked, the world is getting more and more surreal. This particular work by Neoproj is just breathtaking. They make even old architecture come alive by projecting animations onto it that are mapped to the particular 3D shape of the object that gets projected onto.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Why iPods have emotions, and how we overvalue the human form

This is a more theoretical text, intended to explain mainly a fundamental way in which people need to change their inner selves in order to cope with the technological revolutions facing us. I will start off this article with a short anecdote that triggered the writing of this text, to become more analytical and abstract afterwards. Not too long ago I gave somebody I know quite well my iPod Nano of the second generation. It had in turn been a gift to me by my professor, but after a while I decided that I did not need it anymore. It had become sort of a habit to shut myself out from my direct outer, but also my inner world whenever I was outdoors by myself, and I realized it provided me with nothing but an easy and safe artificial rhythm to temporarily rely on which mainly distracted me from the things I really wanted to do, like thinking, meditating, reading, studying people or the environment, just being, writing, or appearing open to potentially interesting conversations with others. Thus when the opportunity announced itself that somebody else would be happy with the iPod, I didn’t hesitate and immediately gave it a one-way ticket for the airmail. The receiving end though after a while stated that it had trouble with the usability of the thing, as well as that its functionality was already present in the Playstation Portable she owned, so that I might as well have it back to sell it, which I accepted. But after a while I heard from this person that it had been a bit strange that I had taken it back so easily, giving me the idea that this action had somehow done harm to her concept of me. This puzzled me a bit, hence the reason why I write this all down; Lao-Tze was right when he stated that “they who write do not know, they who know do not write”.

To explain the difference of perspective between me and the other person that caused my puzzlement, I will first explain about my perspective and reason for acting. Then I will explain how this relates to eastern thought, and why this way of thinking should pervade us more and more if we want to sustainably live with more and more others, beit people or other entities such as products. Then I will take this way of thinking, while taking a pragmatist philosophical stance, to show why the perspective that we are the same as our products is a useful one as well, and that being able to hold such a perspective reinforces the adaptivity of us as humankind. I argue that this is the main unique aspect of us as entities that embody the highest form of intelligence we know of, and that in these complex times it should be of the highest priority to think and act for the sake of extropy; to take our evolution further.

I figured that the underlying reason for me taking back the iPod is that I did not think in social terms, but in holistic, evolutionary terms. From a social perspective, i.e. one where people seek mainly to interact with other people and derive happiness from that, it might seem that underlying this act was selfishness, and deriving satisfaction out of “owning” things. The perspective I took, however it might seem almost otherworldly to many, is that of treating humans and products equally, seeing no difference between them. I thought that the iPod would be the happiest when it would belong to somebody that would more fully incorporate it into his or her life. In this, I fully treated the iPod as a social actor as much as I would treat other people as social actors. It is more accurate to say that I saw the iPod more as a baby needing a good parent to make it grow and have it become able to root itself into the world, than that I saw it as an abstract product, to be used by humans like a servant. This also explains why I think “owning” is an awkward term to use also in the context of products; it implies a master-slave relationship between man and machine.

This term so widely being used is that society is about as far as nowhere in understanding and being able to sustainably manage this relationship, but instead is narrow-mindedly biased to value what they perceive as being similar to themselves over the rest of their perceptions. As such, society will be completely stunned if technology developers fill up the world with intelligent, highly dynamic and complex adaptive systems such as robots. As science fiction author Bruce Sterling predicts, what we see as the physical world could rapidly start to be augmented by a layer of data, as if it were a Platonic division between the idea and the material, so the entire world starts behaving like the internet. Then, the incomprehensible complexity will not be experienced as safely hidden behind our computer displays, but will pervade the entire space-time, up to the point that even what might seem to be trees or even clouds will be highly complex and self-evolving interactive information processors.

It is my deepest feeling that as we enter such a world, the master-slave relationship can not hold for long. When information circulates so quickly, feedback loops shrinking almost to instantaneous, it to me is evident that our stance will reverberate back on us in no time. I feel that the form of the system that we treat as a slave does not matter much, and that it is all about the stance taken by the individual human actor. It is evident from history that slavery does not work and that the patterns we create will strike back upon us. In fact, this stance has created enormous intercultural tensions that still keep lurking in the background today. How can our societies be ready for a widespread seemingly coming alive of machines if they are not even sure to be ready for a first black president of the USA, for example? How can people learn to project themselves into others and feel empathy for everything, not just humans, if already they have trouble doing this when only a minor variable such as the colour of the perceived entity is different from them? How can people and machines ever share a mutual universal love and compassion, without any prejudices or negative feelings being silently pushed away towards people’s collective unconscious?

Western societies are changing though, but not predominantly in the direction that will facilitate positive changes concerning the topic I am treating here. The main change now slowly working towards a critical mass is about the social interaction between people and ‘nature’ or ‘the environment’, where mostly the latter is treated as a mother that we need to respect, we being her children that need to keep an eye onto their own behaviour and not be too expressive. This environmentalist stance is of course much better than the consumerist stance that preceded it, but it changes not much in terms of our stance towards technology. If there is any change, I would only see it as negative in this respect, since technology is mostly viewed as extra spoilage of the environment. The environmentalist stance is quite like a neo-Confucianist stance, where strict rules need to keep us from disrupting the balance that is greater than us humble humans.

The problem with this, in psychological terms, is that we still use a concept to act as an ‘other’, namely the concept of ‘the environment’. This concept then works as a superego to keep us back from acting on our instincts. But this is not a holistic approach; it demands of all people to act not by nature, but by rules, which keeps people from fully expressing themselves and developing an own identity through interaction. In a reaction upon the negative results on the planet of the consumerist, materialist stance, this new stance is merely an antithesis, but as any antithesis it still allows the thesis to which it is antagonistic to exist, because of the very reason that it is a reaction to it and does not transcend the dualism it is part of. By punishing people socially because they do not conform to rules, one only reinforces the game they are playing, instead of saying nothing and making them realize their stupidity by themselves, because of the unresolved tension that keeps existing without a social reaction to the action. Laws create crime, and medicine creates disease. But when people can’t rely on artificial external constructions, they have to start thinking about the issues themselves, using the construction that is already present; their own body, their own brain, their own self. Wisdom can then grow from the inside instead of an abstract form of it being pasted only onto the outside layer of the organism, but never able to find its way to the core of the individual.

As the Taoists already knew, and Albert Hanken beautifully restates in his synthesis of eastern and western psychology [3], it is better to enforce the people with as little rules as possible, because if anything goes wrong in this case, a natural reaction will follow automatically and without intervention from a higher position, so matters are automatically resolved. We are all ‘unworked blocks’, as the Taoists called it, and need to keep on expressing ourselves spontaneously in order to refine ourselves towards perfection. This is the state of being I would promote to strive for, despite that it will take a long process with possibly many events we see as disastrous such as killings, when we gradually learn to live without rules. I would strongly argue though that this change must come slowly and naturally, and that some crucial developments first need to take place, like the increasing connectedness of every entity in an increasing global transparency, revealed to us by technology.

To identify with our products and see no separation between people and other objects, we need to overcome our narrow identification with things as our body, our culture, and our material ‘possessions’. In short, it means that we all have to completely transcend our ego – everything we identify with as opposed to things we do not identify with- by gradually expanding it so we don’t let our doors of perception block us any longer, in the end seeing that we are not necessarily separated from our perceptions, and destroying our ego concept for its obvious uselessness. But before we are able to do so, the ego concept is a very important one to hold. Before being able to throw it away, we need to be able to root our ego into our world of perception, so we know who we are and what our purpose is.

In pre-electronic times, this was rather easy compared to this seemingly impossible task in a highly networked global whole. One was largely given an identity, to which one had to progress in a rather straightforward way. The baker’s son became the new baker of the village, and was taught by his father until competent enough, and all to do next was just live out the identity, guided by a local consciousness. As such one was both connected to a whole and unique within this whole at the same time. Today, we are forced into a global network already at an early age, as we can make friends all across the globe, and buy products from everywhere we like. It is easy to connect, but extremely hard to comprehend and find one’s own value within the whole.

A solution directly stemming from eastern schools like Buddhism is to develop the self so it becomes able to identify with the whole, seeing that there are no separations. A known analogy that makes it very obvious in a literal way is that with air; the air I breathe out ceases to be ‘me’ and becomes part of an ‘other’ when that ‘other’ breathes the same air in, therefore there is no actual boundary between ‘me’ and the ‘other’. After this realization then, the way for the Buddhist is to detach himself and accept that he is the whole himself, which grows without active intervention. Then merely remains the task of bringing about this realization in others, before he is able to enter Nirvana, the divine realm.

Where this seems intriguing to many, it still is no holistic state of being to me. There is a difference between the imagined, metaphysical, divine whole of the Buddhists, and our new global technological whole that is here to interact with and to change quite directly. Being one with the global network is not enough; we actively transform it, and that is where we need to find our identity. The whole we can learn to identify with is not simply given to us, but is actively created by us. We are what we perceive and interact with, but we are also the transformative, valuative pattern underlying our interactions. Based on a vision of a perfect world, we should learn to selflessly shape our perceptions so they more and more start to match our perfect world and hence, we become the creators of the world. I will now take a step into pragmatist philosophy to in the end answer the starting question of this article, concerning why the iPod has emotions.

I would like to pose that the transformative pattern we are, may well be a fifth level in the metaphysics of quality or MoQ as posed by American pragmatist philosopher Robert Pirsig. He tried to synthesize eastern and western values into one single metaphysical system, based on the notion of quality, the indefinable “pre-intellectual cutting edge of reality” that grows dynamically by laying down static patterns on different levels [6]. Pirsig defined four levels, the inorganic, biological, social, and intellectual level. Each subsequent level tries to free itself from the level below it, an example being that becoming famous is a goal on the social level, which can take hold of entire cultures. But reaching it can require you to neglect or even act negatively according to biological values, e.g. taking drugs, drinking, overworking, over- or undereating, and smoking. Some people even have parts of their Jacobson's organ removed by cosmetic surgical procedures in order to look better, despite the loss of a sense of smell. Then the social level can be surpassed by the intellectual level; when one reflectively realizes that the social goal one was striving for is not a pattern worth striving for intellectually, the social pattern will be destroyed.

One might also draw a parallel of these patterns with the evolution of the brain, a notion that Pirsig does not make. We have quite distinct brains, namely the reptilian brain consisting mainly of the reticular formation, cerebellum and hypothalamus, the mammalian brain consisting of the limbic system and amygdala, and the neocortex [3]. The reptilian brain is mainly responsible for keeping us surviving on the biological level; i.e. finding food, fighting attackers, and mating. The mammalian brain has evolved so we can cooperate in groups, learn to recognize faces, and communicate emotions. The neocortex, finally, has evolved to reflect upon our actions, and speed up evolution by making it self-aware, being able to imagine new futures by connecting known things in order to produce new things, and make conscious choices as to what is most desirable.

Now the transformative pattern redefines us as creative entities, rooted into the world with our whole being, including what we call the body and the mind. It follows Pirsig’s metaphysics in that the transformative pattern rejects the intellectual pattern. It is a pattern about action in the here and now, and aims for a holistic transformation of the here and now that involves us with our whole being, instead of quality being only sought for on the intellectual level. The transformational pattern requires us to become enlightened so we can use our brains and the rest of our body in a synchrony with the world we interact with. Therefore, we obviously have to learn to master all preceding levels first; a person must learn how to derive food first, before learning that there is something beyond that state of being, which involves making friends and becoming part of a social group, that gives the person satisfaction beyond the biological for now he has an opportunity of seeing who he is in a richer way. Being involved in the social pattern one can learn, when one has gained enough self-confidence, that there is something beyond this level if one realizes that one can achieve more and become a unique intellectual pattern. One can then find out that intellectual satisfaction is even richer than social satisfaction, and choose to pursue this level, which is what many scientists and philosophers do.

Now the transformational level is to be reached when one realizes that concepts and intellectual achievements in themselves are quite meaningless, and an even richer mode of being can be attained. Knowledge then becomes something to be used for transformation; it leaves its status as the highest good, but becomes a mere inspiration for creative action. The highest good now becomes the very moment one is in, and the transformative pattern seeks to transform one’s moments into moments of more beauty by finding patterns of action that one can use immediately, instead of those stemming from conceptual structures that merely point at direct experience but are not rooted into it. The realization that intellectual concepts are tools that can impede transformative action when overvalued goes hand in hand with an evolution of our identity that we are not just what we think, but we are all that we do, perceive, think and feel in the current moment. This is in synchrony with the Buddhist notion that everything changes all the time, that for example the tree we think is the same tree in the next moment, actually is not the same tree anymore; that illusion is merely a concept we paste onto our perceptions. All that we really have is our current perceptions and how we act upon them; and this whole is what I call the Self. When acting from the Self, we act from intuition, i.e. a holistic synergy of all part of our being including our brains and rest of our body. We are fully aligned to evolution, and can finally accept just being, without having our consciousness clouded by concepts such as time, space, money, or the notion of others. In this state of being we realize that it does not matter what is real and what is not real; what matters is how we act and hence shape our universe. By seeing that everything is the Self we learn that all that matters is the perfection of the Self, our concepts being subordinate to the Self. Action and perception are not separated either; the beauty with which we act reverberates back onto us in our perceptions, which becomes evident after the realization that all is one. Holistic beauty becomes the highest good, which also has the implication that everything can be seen as art, everything being understood not only intellectually, but also aesthetically. In an enlightened world all disciplines, beit philosophy, science, design, engineering, politics, or plumbing, will be reclassified as arts, each having their own aesthetical pattern. But this is another story and however it may lead to further clarifications and insights, it is not relevant here.

Now I would like to argue that the reason why we see a distinction between ourselves and our technologies is stemming from the radicalness with which the world became technologized as a result of capitalist thought. In that world, and I am talking about mainly the 19th century, western society was mainly Victorian. Their culture was held together by social codes such as etiquette, and one’s goal in life was to climb up the social ladder. There had been a scientific revolution, but in society scientific truth was still mainly regarded as subordinate to social patterns. This allowed people to preserve their world of focusing on social, human aspects, and to mainly ignore the rest. But when production became industrialized and everyday technology became increasingly complex, people found themselves clueless, alienated and almost ridiculized by the otherness of technology. As Pirsig illustrates, “The mastery of all these new changes was no longer dominated by social skills. It required a technologically trained, analytic mind. A horse could be mastered if your resolve was firm, your disposition pleasant and fear absent. The skills required were biological and social. But handling the new technology was something different. Personal biological and social qualities didn't make any difference to machines. A whole population, cut loose physically by the new technology […], was also cut adrift morally and psychologically from the static social patterns of the Victorian past.” [6]

I think that we still have not coped with this shocking development, and have trouble transcending the Victorian mode of being, since we don’t directly see why this is necessary, and we must look for a more holistic mode of being. But in the meantime there are many globally concerning or at least interesting developments, such as economical crises, terrorism, a lurking environmental crisis, as well as psychological crises such as widespread depression. But humanity seems only to learn in a reactive way. Furthermore, I think that we are tricked by our brain to stay on the safe, social level. It cannot intuitively cope with all the information that we are bombarded with these days, so it has trouble deriving real meaning from that other than on a social level. Knowledge is so often used to impress others, or to feed into a discussion in order to see who wins and thus is socially the most evolved, the intellectual mind thus staying subordinate to the social mind. It is hard to transcend the identification purely with other humans of our own small culture, since the mammalian brain can still easier resonate with our perceptions than our neocortex can. The mammalian brain still feels more at home in this world and is thus given the most attention, it seems. We are hardwired to give attention to see everything that is human, such as faces – the fusiform gyrus is a specialized area in the brain that immediately recognizes anything resembling a face and can store hundreds if not thousands of them [1] – and movements that we can perform with our own body – mirror neurons fire more the more we can perform or imagine the movement we perceive with our own bodies.

If we are to live holistically, in symbiosis with what we call ‘nature’ and ‘technology’, we must slowly transcend the biases inherent to our brain. This can be done both by creating technology that interacts with us in ways that are more familiar to us socially, and by developing ourselves so we can learn to intuitively identify ourselves with and project ourselves into all of our perceptions instead of only that what seems human. By respecting that everything we see is alive and consists of the same as that what we consist of, all separations vanish, and everything becomes part of our evolving Self. Then, in this ultimate open-mindedness where concepts are merely tools to support our creative action, we also see that what we think of as our body is merely an illusion. Just because we have a lot of nerve endings in the outside of what we usually call our body does not mean that this is where we end and that we should mainly focus on action and perception from these areas. There are rich worlds we feel less directly connected to, such as other parts of the world, or our inner world of organs, but we can still learn to interact with and optimize. For example, we feel not very connected to our heart usually, but some yogis can control their heartbeat to the extent that they can even stop it. In a globally connected world, it is not enough to identify only with local processes that we become habituated to identifying with.

If we want to live sustainably with our technologies, we need to be able to take the perspective that they are the same as us. In the case of the iPod, it may seem alien for its inhuman, abstract form, invisible functional processes, and apparent deadness, but it is more useful to see everything we perceive as in a high state of flux. Within the iPod, a lot of processes are going on, electrons flow around, which also generates heat that in turn interacts with the dynamic structure of air surrounding the device. However it seems not to be so, the iPod in this sense is already very directly like an organism, a complex and dynamic system directly embedded in the world. If we learn to identify with everything, we will be able to project ourselves into anything and thus empathize with it, treat it as socially equal. This ability requires a high amount of selflessness, which I think is an absolutely necessary ability for humanity, but also for technology, to develop.

If we then are able to project ourselves into something as seemingly abstract as an iPod, it is easy to see that it would be happier when it would be highly active and do what its configuration allows best for; interacting with the human hand, and sending audio to the human ear. That would be the iPod’s Self; its destiny or mission would mostly be to change humans by providing them with sensory input. Then if we continue this projection, which still might seem a bit far-fetched to you, if the iPod is not allowed to fulfill its mission it can be esteemed to be unhappy.

In the same light, something having emotions depends on our ability to project our own emotional states into our perceptions. For practical matters, we say that humans have emotions, because we can easily read them from their faces and other bodily expressions, and if we cannot do so with products we say that they do not have emotions. For practical matters, if hypothetically a robot could display emotions as rich as humans and in the same convincing and believable way, it would have emotions. Also in humans, we do not know if they have emotions; it just seems so because we can project ourselves into them. There is no way whatsoever to know, and therefore the whole concept of knowledge becomes useless in this context; it is what we can achieve with emotional interaction in terms of transformative value that matters.

Where William James [4] thought that emotions are the result of body states, I think that this still suffers from Aristotelian causality reasoning, and we must discard the entire concept of time in the definition of emotion; the emotion is the body state. When you feel pleasure, you are more likely to display a smile, but the other way around it works as well; when you display a smile, you come in a more pleasurable emotional state. Also I would say that every body state is an emotion, it is only that we call it an emotion for practical purposes when this strikes us the most in a particular situation, for example a social one. As any construct, it is meant to serve practicality purposes and not to delineate what is true. Although I am not intending to make soundly constructed arguments here, it would follow from this that one can learn to choose one’s emotions as much as one can learn to choose one’s behaviour, and that one can learn to perceive emotions in everything.

My main point with this text is to point out that the social stance that contemporary culture is commonly attaining, treating only as socially equal what we can see as ourselves, is not enough for the immensely complex world we are about to enter. Technologies will come alive, and it is crucial that we start to see them as equal to us. Research into human-computer interaction has already shown that our interaction with machines is fundamentally social and interpersonal [5]; we only need to fully realize this and not trick ourselves with the notion that because products seem to be so different, they are different and should be treated as such. If we do not learn already to become less narrow-minded and pertain to an illusory rigid concept of who we are, we will face an incredible psychological shock when it becomes apparent that machines can be as convincingly human as we are. We need both to learn to destroy our attachment to the human form, however tempted we are to attain to it, and learn in the process to identify with everything we perceive and classify everything as human, and part of our Self.

This is not as hard as we think; we just need to become open to change and learn to let go of concepts we take for granted, such as our body, our knowledge, and our self-concept. In fact, the brain is plastic enough to cope with changes in these constructs, even transform its entire neural structure, in quite a short amount of time. As Andy Clark states, "our sense of self, place, and potential are all malleable constructs ready to expand, change, or contract at surprisingly short notice" [2]. It just takes openness, readiness, and insight as to why it would be practical in a new world to reconsider these constructs. Machines could soon become more sophisticated, both mentally as well as physically, as we are, so in evolutionary terms the human body, or “ancient biological skinbag” in Clark’s terms [2], in itself will be quite useless other than for the occupation of some minuscule and yet to be discovered functional niche, possibly only for the superficial sake of nostalgia.

To conclude with, if we are to successfully co-exist with technologies, we need to learn to identify fully with them so in the end, we have no troubles with having technologies enter our bodies if this has practical purposes for our transformative Self, or even separating our bodies, or becoming part of a larger technological body. It is only when we realize ourselves fully as a transformative pattern, that we can become fully transhuman and liberate ourselves in order to devote ourselves to our creative missions in a world of increasing holistic beauty, where separations only exist temporarily, whenever they are useful.

1. Bahrick, H.P., Bahrick, P.O., & Wittlinger, R.P. (1975). Fifty years of memory for names and faces: A cross-sectional approach. Journal of Experimental Psychology; General, 104, 54–75.
2. Clark, A.J. (2003). Natural-Born Cyborgs: Minds, technologies, and the future of human intelligence. USA: New York: Oxford University Press.
3. Hanken, A. (1994). Balanceren tussen Boeddha en Freud - een synthese. The Netherlands: Utrecht: Het Spectrum / Aula.
4. James, W. (1884). What is an emotion? Mind, 9, 188-205.
5. Nass, C., Moon, Y., Fogg, B.J., Reeves, B., and Dryer, C. (1995). Can Computer Personalities Be Human Personalities? Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, 228-229.
6. Pirsig, R.M. (1991). Lila.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

MS Matrix

Our perception of reality will dramatically alter, especially if Microsoft goes Augmented Reality. Enjoy this little movie, that shows the movie 'The Matrix' in case it would have run on Windows XP.

By the way, I haven't had much time to post recently, since I'm busy setting up a new project. But I will catch up soon.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Useless Self-projections

'Doll Face' is an admirable, and just insanely cool, work of animation by Andy Huang. The movie and description speak for itself, and leave nothing to add for me:

"A machine with a doll face mimics images on television screen in search of a satisfactory visage. Doll Face presents a visual account of desires misplaced and identities fractured by our technological extension into the future."


Are our self-projections our next natural enemies to overcome?

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Folded structures

Folding can be an elegant production method, since it requires careful, masterful thought by the designer to decrease the used material and steps of production to get an intricate three- or even four dimensional structure out of it, without any waste material. Here are a few recent folded structures.

This is a quite Escheresque sculpture by paper engineer Kamikawa, and maybe unintentionally, but the shape he chose is quite genius too, although it is a pity that, when in closed state, it is still quite evident that the thing is not what it seems. Nevertheless, this object in closed state signifies what underlies so much of our culture and our technology; the need for love. The need to be surrounded by things that wrap you in a cozy, hot blanket and keep you safe from the full complexity of life that seems so threatening while you try to hold on to concepts like your ego, and all its material possessions it gets projected into. The need to feel special, to be paid attention to an extent that no one else is being paid attention to. The heart signifies to me most strongly than any other symbol this short-sighted, illusory, egoic approach to life. The approach of trying to crystallize our fragile concepts into our technologies, be it words, images or objects. The genius of this then, is that this directly shows the shift from a world where this is still quite an acceptable approach to one that is inherently honest, and shows that it does not work and there is an underlying complexity of life underlying everything. Once people start to see this with their whole being they transform completely, and in the end start viewing such complexity as more beautiful than the concept they had of it beforehand. We are moving to a world where everything changes faster and faster, and the only way is to gain wisdom about our evolution, so we know where to go.

Another artist to be mentioned is Ying Gao, a fashion designer who works with folded structures and pneumatic technologies to create inflatable garments. One of those garments reacts to breath, and correspondingly changes shape, so the wearer's breath is physically augmented so to become what you could call a 'sensual cyborg'. Augmentation of such subtle but immensely important processes is crucial if we want to learn about life. Nowadays people are so distracted and get so little time for self-reflection that the things that draw the least attention get paid less attention to, with as a result that we forget about more subliminal processes. Luce Irigaray wrote an entire philosophical book about how we forgot about air, for example. And this forgetting has the result that all kinds of internal tensions build up during our lives, so we either end up as a boiling barrel full of inner tensions, and denying these through a simplified, ignorant life, or the bubble bursts and we desperately start seeking for help to regain wisdom that incorporates these processes, for example through breathwork like yoga's pranayama exercises. What is so important for technology to do then, is more and more to bring these processes into our attention, and guide us with respect to them so we do not forget them, to in the end have us incorporate these processes consciously and knowledgeably into our lives.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Dutch Design Week 2008

I've been roaming around some exhibitions this week in Eindhoven, where the Dutch Design Week, or DDW, was taking place again. Here are some photos I made of the works I found most interesting.

From the Design Academy Eindhoven:

A windable flashlight with an extremely clever texture design that indicates how to turn it.

Studies into materials, the first one being very much like Bart Hess' Future Fur project, the second one being directly inspired by biological forms, in this case probably ear cartilage.

A lamp that is 'overgalvanized', since the almost plantlike protrusions growing from the edges of the copper arise from not stopping the galvanization process at the 'right' moment. Thus, here the 'right' moment is being redefined, because the creator of this lamp thinks the beauty can also be in the manufacturing process and there is no need to ignore it or try to control it. I could not agree more but would have liked this lamp to have shown that in a more exaggerated way, with more edges so it would have been like the lamp was covered with a 'fur' of copper hairs. On the top of this post is a closeup of the copper branches growing from the lamp's edges.

From Design United, a joint exhibition between the Technical Universities of Delft, Eindhoven, and Enschede:

Somewhat direct but interesting hybrid between technology and nature. The snake whizzes his tongue when the water boils. Interesting that they call this 'evolutionary product development' too *smirks. Of course it's a simulated, disembodied evolution in the head of the designer, but anyway, it's somewhat interesting to me.

Another design under the label of 'evolutionary product development'. From studying the history of game console interfaces this modular design was extrapolated. The two individual controllers can be used while attached or detached from each other.

A head model to design for Chinese people. The designer got subsidized a million dollars from the Chinese government to measure 2.000 heads with a 3D scanner, and use this data to create tools for designers of for example helmets, to make them accepted in Chinese markets. The commentary in a CNN interview almost caricaturally signifies the overly rational approach to design once more applied: "I like to chop the body up into pieces". With these amounts of money one might ask whether it's not more interesting to develop an adaptive helmet that adjusts its shape through use, for example with growing and shrinking elements.

Some works displayed elsewhere:

GrowBike; a step that can be changed into a small bike, so the growing child can keep using his bike.

A sculptural wall with an organic shape, comprised of small, unique metal elements. It reminds of Kas Oosterhuis' parametric architectural design process, where a CAD file of a unique element is directly fed into the manufacturing machines. It makes for a very interesting form language, however the bright white light it was surrounded in didn't do it much right. I had already seen this one in Helsinki where it was displayed in a dark space with coloured light, making this piece really the protagonist of the space in a beautiful, subtle and harmonic way. The form always needs the right anti-form, and the light always needs the right darkness.

A clever idea to make it possible to use cardboard packages as origami, instead of throwing them away after unpackaging.

An interesting design for handgloves, ideal for praying or sleeping while hanging from a tree branch, in case you feel the primeval need to do such things. Anyway, it's interesting to explore how the physical shape of technology can valuatively bias our activities.

Showed by TNO, a sugar-basin that is laser sintered at various resolutions, with the comment that often it seems that our manufacturing processes are 'perfect', but inherently they are not. Indeed a very true statement, think for example of television; it gives the illusion of being real, but it's just pixels, and that's what the essence of the medium is. And 3D tv only reinforces this, so we become disembodied avatars in an electronic world, being tricked to living in a technological incubator.

A beautiful process of bonding gold to textiles called electroforming.

Interesting garment shown at 'De Krabbedans', graduation work.

A chair inspired by natural forms for a neo Stone Age, it seems.

A digitally controlled singing teakettle, whistling your favourite tune instead of the usual monotonous, thought-shattering tone.

Incorporating what common culture sees as 'disgusting' with what it sees as 'beautiful'. To me personally pearls are just as disgusting to see as dead frogs, by the way. It's an interesting combination that shows in an exaggerated way the extreme alienation from nature of mankind.

An anthropomorphic music player, that takes a pose corresponding to the genre of music it is playing. Unfortunately it can't dance yet, but is sitting like a plant on the window-sill.

An extremely clever design for a chair that can be folded from one single plastic sheet, and is surprisingly sturdy and aesthetically refined.

Art Forms of Nature

In 1904, biologist Ernst Haeckel published his work 'Art Forms of Nature', which contains 100 of among the most beautiful illustrations of natural forms, from monocellular amoebas to corals to bat heads. The good thing is: it is now freely available as a download, and however it is the original German version, only the opportunity of looking at the wonderful illustrations is well worth the 260 Mb of disk space it takes.

Here is the link to the download: Ernst Haeckel - Kunstformen Der Natur.

At the time it was published, Haeckel's work served to inspire designers, and the Art Nouveau movement. I hope that it at this time, the scope of design practice being in great expansion, can once again inspire designers with the beauty of evolution.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Plant that walks on its roots

This development makes me quite happy. Plantbot, as this hybrid little device is called, is the latest creation of The Play Coalition, a designer trio who like to let their creativity roam freely.

It makes me happy because for it shows the simple beauty of pure being in an interesting way. Plants often escape our attention in our media-saturated information-overloaded visual-focus-demanding lifeworld, but they embody a lot of wisdom, and this technology elegantly externalizes that. All a plant needs is light, it is in a sense an embodiment of light reception because it completely adapts to the supply of light. A tree grows towards the light, minimizes structure and maximizes receptive surface in order to optimize its efficiency. Of course domesticated plants face entirely different light supplies than those in the environment for which they biologically evolved. And this solution is exactly what liberates the plant and gets it one step closer to successful survival in a planet that could well become fully technologically metamorphosized by man.

Also it is interesting because it is quite a direct extension of a plant's roots, in McLuhanesque terms. But an extension with an individuating bias, and in this it follows most contemporary technologies, which is a bit of a shame. I would like to see complementary technologies that do not individuate, but rather connect things globally. This is a bit more difficult to see, because it would be a lot more calm and holistic, and we are conditioned to be short-sighted and focus on our direct perceptions and whatever seems to look most interesting in a certain place and at a certain time. But in principle it's easy. To take this example; the plant can find more light by individually, locally adapting, but it could also, if given the channels, get light from a plant that already has enough from the environment that plant is in, and selflessly shares what he can miss. Plantbot, in that negative sense, is egoic luxury for plants. But despite my usual criticism it's still a great, fresh development.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Adidas' surreal sneakers

Some imagery sparkling the imagination, from Adidas' campaign 'All day I dream about sneakers'.

Could we really genetically engineer the chameleon-head shoe that catches bugs and licks organic material from the ground, subsequently processing this into energy to be used by our hybrid body?

Saturday, October 18, 2008

A fundamental principle for "Second Nature"

"Second Nature" is an exhibition currently held in ‘21_21 design sight’ in roppongi, tokyo until january 18, 2009. It is curated by Tokujin Yoshioka, a designer who also contributed to the contents of the exhibition with a chair that was grown from crystals. Also Ross Lovegrove shows some objects that use a minimal amount of materials through processes he has called 'netification' and 'coralization'. 

Yoshioka sees the beginning of an era of manufacturing where the product does not leave the assembly line as finished, but as open to adaptation and change by the end-user:

"a design is not something that is completed through being given a form, but rather something that is completed by the human heart. I also feel that incorporating the principles and movements of nature into ideas will become something important in future design."

His feeling is aligned with what I aim to set up a framework for: incorporating wild biological evolution and neocortically controlled, rationalized technology design into a new evolutionary process that takes happiness as the measure for survival. I won't elaborate on that much further, but I can give you the definition of happiness I like to attain. A concept of happiness that I believe is universal, everybody strives for, but that one can only attain when one has experienced this form of happiness. This definition is:

Happiness is the state of being when one's self is fully aligned with one's actions, the two mutually shaping each other in perfect resonance.

Here with actions I mean any intentional conscious move, incorporating motor actions but also thoughts, which are merely actions in the 'internal' realm, if you want to make a distinction between the internally and the externally perceived. After all, as confabulation theory explains, the brain is just another, but very complex, muscle.

My definition of 'self' requires more elaborateness of explanation, as I have developed it myself and haven't found it in any piece of literature yet. For you experts in self-psychology out there, please direct me to it in case it does exist; I'd be eternally grateful. I think it cannot be classified among either one of the four 'forces in psychology'; it does definitely not conform to Freudian psychology, not to behaviorism, not to humanism such as Maslow's psychology, and even not completely to transpersonal psychologies.  My main inspirations for this idea of the self did come from Eastern thought, namely from Buddhism, which arose originally from Hinduism, but has remained more pure, and is better explanable to Western minds, in my view.

As Albert Hanken explains in his excellent synthesis "Balanceren tussen Boeddha en Freud" (which translates as "Balancing between Buddha and Freud"), traditional Western psychology always analysed humans as being in a dualistic state, in a continuous tension between desire and satisfaction of that desire. Then Maslow introduced the need for self-actualization, which emerges when the lower, dualistic needs - needs that arise from a felt deficit such as hunger, sex, or social support, and that can only bring humans into a state of neutrality rather than positivity - have been met. Self-actualization is a monistic need, because an opposing force is not felt, which makes it more like a unidirectional, positive force.

Now I am not an expert in this at all, so I can only talk from intuition, but I feel
that the main lack in Maslow's theory is that the self he is talking about can still be a local type of consciousness; people can actualize themselves as in having the characteristics Maslow described of unity, meaningfulness, spontaneity, and so forth, but these arise from a self that is limited to being aligned to a local pattern, such as a culture or organizational structure. Instead of it being aligned to a more universal pattern it is merely aligned to an abstraction thereof. Of course this is very much related to Sartre's existentialism, stating that people create their own essence.

What happened after that, and is still happening, is a merging of Western science and ancient ideas from the Eastern mystics. As Stanislav Grof explains in "A Brief History of Transpersonal Psychology", humanistic psychology did not take 'altered states of consciousness' very seriously while it was more and more evident that an incorporation of these was necessary for a more holistic, comprehensive and cross-culturally valid psychology. Especially those states of consciousness Grof has termed 'holotropic' have "heuristic, healing, transformative, and even evolutionary potential", mentioning that "In holotropic states, we can transcend the narrow boundaries of the body ego and encounter a rich spectrum of transpersonal experiences that help us to reclaim our full identity".

But what is a 'full identity'? First of all, I want to avoid using the word 'identity' since to me that signifies more of a constructed concept, inherently too abstract and narrow, rather than a holistic representation of what we are. It is a self-concept, while I prefer to use the word 'self' in order to denote that it is not condensable in a concept at all, and doing so is only meant for communication purposes, not for bringing about directly an internalized understanding of what it stands for. That has to come through one's lived experiences and reflections.

What I understand transpersonal psychology, but also quantum physics, to mean with the self, is that people are not separate entities, but parts of a universal dynamic energy field. Karl Pribram introduced the hologram as a metaphor for how the brain works, and this metaphor is also used by modern physicists to rationalize mystical ideas and describe how the universe works according to quantum physics. The remarkable aspect of a hologram is that each part of it contains the whole, so there is not really a distinction between the whole and its separate parts. For example, if you cut a holographic sheet in half, you will get two holograms that are halved in size, but still contain exactly the same, whole, image. General systems theorist Ervin Laszlo speaks of an Akashic field that is absolute and contains all the information in the universe, our experiences being only moments where we tap into this field. This is very much related to the Buddhist notion of 'Atman is Brahman', which roughly means that the soul or essence, called Atman - literally, the breath -, of each person is connected to a universal, metaphysical, divine field called the Brahman, but is also equal to it. In stating that there actually exists something beyond our perceptions, it is also related to the Vedic idea that Swami Prabhupada called 'Krsna' and was the basis of the Hare Krishna movement in the 1960's. He preached that people should free themselves from the material world's conditionings and revert themselves to the metaphysical to gain true happiness.

It may already be apparent, but I am not satisfied with this definition of self as being indistinct from the whole, the main reason being that it is biased towards the mental, and treats the body like a material burden instead of a means to derive the deepest meaning we can derive in our lives. It seems to be more of an antagonistic statement to Newtonian-Cartesian materialism than a full incorporation of it, too. Since metaphors are all we have, I would now like to briefly pose my own view, entertaining a metaphor I have already introduced in an earlier post on this blog, called "Who Are You".

There I posed the metaphor of the 'fractalic universe', with my vague definition of a self being a "dynamic, active, ever-evolving self-organizing pattern within an infinitely complex larger pattern". This metaphor is in my view more precise, since it takes into account people as unique beings while at the same time being part of this whole. Before continuing I must first say again that this is merely a metaphor; nothing like this whole exists since we cannot perceive it, it is only a construction of the mind to put people into the stance that is the most fulfilling, thus the most useful. I take the pragmatist stance of truth being what is most useful, that truth being only a crutch to cope with the complexity of being.

What makes a self unique is its embodied transformative creativity, i.e. the way an entity contributes with his whole being in bringing his perceptions in alignment with a vision of the future that transcends the current mode of being. An individual self tries to align his perceptions with his thoughts, and in my definition one is only happy when this alignment is complete.

I will talk to you from my own experience to make this less abstract now. I have gone through a period where I studied Buddhism and meditated until I truly saw that I had to transcend my ego and become selfless in order to do the things I deeply wanted to do. But in a selfless state, it was not satisfactory to just do things completely selflessly, for the divine whole that is larger than me. I did accept the current world and did not desire for a better one, but I did see that the accepting stance was not enough, since I believe that we can transform the world, and moreover that there is no end to this transformation. I do not believe in an immaterial, absolute highest point to attain, and that beyond that the only thing to do is to get others to this highest point. I believe that we as humanity embody this highest point, and that we need to seek ways to uplift it actively, through interacting with our whole being, our thought-like actions and our motor actions - as stated before I do not see a body-mind dualism, and therefore see everything as actions, but can occasionally still distinguish between two different kind of actions that I now called 'thought-like actions' and 'motor actions' only for the sake of communication. So after experiencing states of selflessness, I started looking for ways to be a unique and active part of cosmic evolution, to transform the world, and so I slowly developed my mission. At the same time, the mission always keeps on changing with each action. I see all consciousness as integrative, the only thing we can do being continuously re-integrating our experiences into a comprehensive and cohesive framework and projecting that onto our perceptions through continuous interaction. I see everything I do as circling around the mission I attain at the present moment; it is the measuring tool I use for everything I experience. Then I think complete happiness is the process of selflessly and completely embodying the intention to carry out this mission, and we are shaping our world so that everything in it contributes to this purpose. The purpose can never be fulfilled, since there is no absolute point to attain; it always keeps shifting as we continuously transform our selves.

Happiness is in the process, and that, as roughly sketched as it is now, would be the kind of happiness that a hominized evolution would take as its measure for survival.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Homo Minifigus

I've seen more biologized, 'scientified' translations arising from a probably implicit feeling of aversion towards our essentially still superficial, appearance driven approach to technology design, but little did I know that this could be done with such originality and strikingness as Jason Freeny does with his digital imagery.

I would actually like LEGO to go more towards a biological approach. It could already start with giving each LEGO a tiny sensor and actuator, and have the thing shape itself through use. Of course there's already programmable LEGO, but this would be self-reprogramming LEGO where the physical and the mental development of an element are not separated in time or space.

I have the feeling that much of the Aristotelian residue in my head has emerged to a substantial extent from playing with LEGO, building my own world and society from a finite set of elements that are all based on an underlying principle, the geometric law of LEGO nature. A simplified, rationalized world that I can understand and control. It is time for LEGO to go wild and get children ready for a complex world that will not be the same anymore after one day.

Of course LEGO wouldn't be LEGO if it wouldn't have its iconic simplicity, but it at least could reformulate its simplicity in terms of the intrinsically generated dynamic behaviour of the elements, instead of their externally imposed form. I await the day that LEGO goes nano, but I am patient. I also await the day that we can create babies in the form of LEGO minifigs, by the way, and humanity has transcended its present-day understanding and self-concept, so many pointless barriers can finally dissolve. But again, I am patient.

Here is some more work that links to the merging of the biological and the technological by Jason Freeny:

Thursday, October 16, 2008

It is...a post-human skin disease?

If these things would pop out of my body overnight, and I could use them as a huge exo-lung, I wouldn't even mind. I could blow myself to work.

And there's the next obvious idea: a wearable helium balloon flying costume. Could be used in a goodbye ceremony for ex-presidents, too.

But seriously, this is the latest creation of Lucy and Bart, called 'Dripping Color'.