“A strange new era is dawning… an era of revolutionary experiments. Wired torsos, chip-implanted brains, creatures of silicon and steel… welcome to the age of cyborgs and androids. As humans become more machine-like and machines more human, the line between biology and technology is starting to blur. And in the process, we may just be reinventing the future of our species.”
Overview: I was looking for the Jean Claude Van-Dame movie Cyborg when I came across this series. Originally made in 2001, Beyond Human has been on the Internet on tube sites like Hulu, and YouTube (part one of nine, “The Cyborg Revolution,” is above), and on singularity and cyborg sites like The Singularity Symposium. A websearch will lead you to many other sites where the entire series can be viewed online or downloaded (read “torrented”) for offline viewing.
Beyond Human is split into two parts with a total of nine “chapters:” The Cyborg Revolution, Invasion of The Inhuman, The Cyborg Mind, The Age of Androids, How to Design A Humanoid, Emotional Robots, Can A Robot Be A Person, Robot Soccer, and Erasing The Line Between Man and Machine. The first three chapters deal with the possibilities of humans becoming cyborgs, with the rest showing the efforts to make robots more human.
“What about the whole business of them causing cancer? What about the possibility of an immune reaction? I’m not going to stick one of these things in my head until one million other people have.” Haters gotta hate.
The Invasion of The Inhuman chapter may make one second-guess their plans to get brain implants, especially with the comparisons with Tetsuo scenes. This is one of the perils of the advancing cyber-technology; With the technology overwhelm us? Plus the social, ethical, and possibly legal issues raised in the Can A Robot Be A Person chapter shows more potential problems. The final chapter asks “What will happen when robots become commonplace?” Will they be just property, or will they have rights? Will they become cohorts of humans, or their destroyers?
Nine years later, we’re still asking these questions. Obviously, this documentary/series was made to highlight the state-of-the-art at the turn of the 21st century, so it is well past its expiration date. But documentaries like this wasn’t meant to show the current cutting-edge. Instead, I see this as a milestone to show not only how far we’ve come, but how much further we have to go.
Conclusion: Like a time capsule in a backyard or a building’s cornerstone, finding stuff like this a surprisingly fun find. While not meant to be current by any means, it works best as a comparison to where we are.
As the technology gets smaller, it will become harder to find a place to put the battery. America’s DARPA agency has an idea on how to power our implants…
Mad scientists strike again. DARPA, America’s DoD division of mad scientists responsible for the Internet, has been working on an important project for implantable electronic devices: How to power them when they are so small that the smallest batteries currently being manufactured are still too big to fit.
Smithsonian’s Michael Belfiore writes about a couple of DARPA ideas for the magazine’s August 2010 edition… possibly as a not-so-subtle advert for his book about the agency.
(In my best He-Man voice) I HAVE THE POWEEEEERRRRRR! Literally. DARPA plans to power implants involves “scavenging” (that’s the term they’re using) the human body to generate the power needed for implants. To make that power, DARPA plans to use human movement (”vibrations”) and body heat:
(Smithsonian) - Obviously, our bodies generate heat—thermal energy. They also produce vibrations when we move—kinetic energy. Both forms of energy can be converted into electricity. Anantha Chandrakasan, an MIT electrical engineering professor, who is working on the problem with a former student named Yogesh Ramadass, says the challenge is to harvest adequate amounts of power from the body and then efficiently direct it to the device that needs it.
In the case of harnessing vibrations, Chandrakasan and his colleagues use piezoelectric materials, which produce an electric current when subjected to mechanical pressure. For energy scavenging, ordinary vibrations caused by walking or even just nodding your head might stimulate a piezo material to generate electricity, which is then converted into the direct current (DC) used by electronics, stored in solid-state capacitors and discharged when needed. This entire apparatus fits on a chip no larger than a few square millimeters. Small embedded devices could be directly built onto the chip, or the chip could transmit energy wirelessly to nearby devices. The chip could also use thermoelectric materials, which produce an electric current when exposed to two different temperatures—such as body heat and the (usually) cooler air around us.
I remember reports of flexible solar electricity-generating plastic sheets from a year or two ago that this project can use. The plastic can be made transparent so it can be used in eye implants and contact lenses. Another possible human power source, written about by Boing Boing’s David Pescovitz in 2002, gets its power from glucose in the human bloodstream:
(University of California, Berkeley Lab Notes) - The prototype microbial fuel cell contains a tiny chamber where the microbe resides. Glucose flows into the chamber, causing hydrogen protons and electrons to be generated during the fermentation process. In a June paper, Lin and graduate students Mu Chiao, Kien B. Lam, and Yu-Chuan Su reported that their tiny powerhouse cranked out 300 microvolts for two hours until the solution dried out in the open air. That kind of power is plenty for microelectromechanical systems (MEMS), tiny machines fabricated similarly to the way integrated circuits are manufactured.
Sort of want. If you’re the kind of person who wants implants, you will need to have a way to power them. Which method of human-power harvesting will work best or win out is yet to be determined. Then again, there will be those who would rather not get into the implanting scene, though I can’t understand why…
“What is the Matrix? Control. The Matrix is a computer-generated dream world built to keep us under control in order to change a human being into this. “
Like a double-barrel shotgun-o-flechettes to the face, news about two different types of implants is going to have some borg-wannabes salivating in anticipation. Stay cool, mensch-machines, these implant aren’t on the market… yet. But with news like this, it can give those who want… and need… them much hope.
Progress report on the artificial pancreas shows… IT WORKS.
(JDRF website) Today (27-Jun-2010), during the joint American Diabetes Association-JDRF symposium, Hovorka outlined results of his most recent study, which showed these benefits remain consistent even after adults with type 1 eat a large meal and drink a glass of white wine before bedtime. The study found that using the artificial pancreas system, these adults spent 70 percent of their time within their target blood glucose range, up from 47 percent of the time they spend within target overnight without use of the artificial pancreas system. As in the other studies, time spent in hypoglycemia tended to be reduced, even though alcohol is known to increase the risk of nocturnal/next morning hypoglycemia for people with type 1 diabetes.
Also revealed were the results of research of people who used continuous glucose monitoring, or CGM, a key component of the artificial pancreas. Those who actually used CGM and understood what its data meant had better results.
“There needs to be attention paid to the people using CGM,” she said. “We can’t just focus on the technology. In determining individualized patient care, it’s important to pay attention to who is most likely to succeed with this technology. It’s not for everybody.”
The JDRF has also set up a website, The JDRF Artificial Pancreas Project, so we can track the progress of its development. This may be a diabetic’s best chance for a cure… until they figure out a way to clone a new pancreas.
You won’t be able to see for miles and miles, but seniors losing their eyesight may still benefit from this telescope.
The FDA sees what they did. America’s Food and Drug Administration (the FDA) has approved a telescope implant device made by VisionCare Ophthalmic Technologies Inc. The implant is being made for senior citizens suffering from severe loss of vision due to blind spots. This is good news for seniors, but the approval comes with some drawbacks (in other words, the implants are “release candidates”)…
VisionCare needs to keep tabs on those who have already been implanted while implanting and studying a larger group of people. The implants themselves aren’t perfect, requiring rehabilitation to use them properly since only one eye can be implanted. And the implants themselves may require a cornea transplant.
Then there’s the biggest drawback: A $15K US price tag…
Finally managed to pry my head out of my ass. I don’t like letting CPR go so long without some kind of review or news, so I’m going to act on a suggestion from our resident Stormtrooper of Death. If I see that there have been no front-page updates and I haven’t read/watched/played something worth reviewing, I will check the reviewer’s forum and post a review from there. This way, should the news be slow, we can keep this site fresh.
To start, here’s Gren’s take on the recent parkour/free-running game Mirror’s Edge (Link to the Reviewer’s Forum post). I purchased this game via Steam, but couldn’t play since my video isn’t up to specs. Once I do that upgrade and get to play, I’ll post my little review in the comments. Till then, take it away, Gren…
Mirrors Edge was one of those games I was psyched about for months. I hung on every second of the hauntingly beautiful trailers, did my best to chisel out every little detail I could about the games stirring theme: A lone girl named Faith (who happens to be a Parkour expert) attempting to live free in a society ruled by a psychotic surveillance state.
You just gotta have Faith.
The product they ultimately delivered possessed all of these qualities in theory, but the theme was more or less ignored in favor of a simplified plot involving a kidnapping by the government, a thinly veiled conspiracy, and a daring rescue. It was about when I was sneaking into the office of a pro wrestler turned ‘goon in a suit’ named “Rope Burn” to interrogate him that I realized the game was getting a little bit off message. Also, the game sometimes seems like it’s trying to convey some sort of political message, but apparently it keeps getting confused on which message it’s trying to send. On one hand, the cuddly nanny state which takes the place of the games thematic antagonist is typically a perversion of an overly liberal society (”you don’t need guns, we’ll keep you perfectly safe, there’s cameras everywhere, self defense is so last century”). Yet halfway through the game your apparent enemy becomes a cartoonishly evil Private Military Corporation (which is why it scores “Medium” on the theme rating instead of “Low”), which is a theoretical scenario associated with an overly de-regulated or libertarian society. It’s also entirely possible that this mash up is entirely apolitical, but the theme seems to be at odds with itself in this regard.
There’s a lot of cyberpunk fluff padding out the games plot, such as hideouts bristling with computers constantly monitoring the city’s surveillance grids and police patrols, the members of the protagonist’s organization all have these cool circuitry tattoos denoting some sort of ‘hacker status’, but it rarely has anything at all to do with the game itself. Also, because the cutscenes are delivered in a trashy 2d flash animation style, it removes these elements even further from the experience.
However, the visuals of the game itself warrant a mention. When you’re standing on the edge of a sky scraper, over looking an endless white city sprouting from the earth like fragments of polished bone, speckled with only sporadic blotches of color (usually propaganda billboards), watching cars drift silently up and down the thoroughfares like drone insects, you’ll feel for a moment that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
You can find plenty of reviews that will explain the particulars of gameplay and story in gratuitous detail, but for the purpose of this site, suffice to say the gameplay is fair and with an emphasis on movement rather than combat (though combat certainly exists and is seldom optional).
In closing, Mirrors Edge is still an enjoyable game, even with the afformentioned detractors from the plot and theme. It’s extremely linear and has no significant multiplayer to speak of, so replay is limited. It’s definitely not a game for everyone, and some folks will tire of it exponentially faster than others. If you can forgive it’s short comings, though, somewhere in the midst of a forty foot jump between buildings, with the streets below passing like a dizzy dream and the birds scattering in anticipation of your landing, you might find the feeling the game is trying to convey.