I Wanna Be a Cyborg…In 10 Steps or Less…

June 26, 2007

 Screencap

 

Mac Tonnies over at Post Human Blues posted a link to a fun little essay/emerging tech news overview from the Free Geekery Blog. The packing is a Top 10 list titled “The Do It Yourself (DIY) Guide to Becoming a (Real) Cyborg.” I would list them here, but really they don’t do justice unless you see the words with them.

This post has been filed under Cyberpunked living by SFAM.

Snow Crash’s Metaverse A Reality in 10 – 20 Years

June 23, 2007

 Google Earth-Second Life Mashup Screencap

 

Every now and then, two great ingredients come together to create something magical. The latest “peanut butter and jelly” moment comes from two powerhouses in Web 2.0: Google Earth and Second Life. Arguably the second-most popular and influential work cyberpunk, Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash, has fueled a generation of virtual worlds developers, who have continually strived to achieve the vision laid out in this wonderful story. Now it looks like that possibility is on track to arrive in a reality near you.

 

Question: What do you get when you combine Google Earth with Second Life?
Answer: The Snow Crash Metaverse!

 

The MIT Technology Review has a wonderful article, titled, “The World Wide Web will soon be absorbed into the World Wide Sim: an environment combining elements of Second Life and Google Earth.” It describes how these two, when combined with “mobile augmented reality” tools will create a transformative environment that allows people to simultaneously interact with those around them in reality, and those geospacially around them virtually.

 

…within 10 to 20 years–roughly the same time it took for the Web to become what it is now–something much bigger than either of these alternatives may emerge: a true Metaverse. In Neal Stephenson’s 1992 novel Snow Crash, a classic of the dystopian “cyberpunk” genre, the Metaverse was a planet-size virtual city that could hold up to 120 million avatars, each representing someone in search of entertainment, trade, or social contact. The Metaverse that’s really on the way, some experts believe, will resemble Stephenson’s vision, but with many alterations. It will look like the real earth, and it will support even more users than the Snow Crash cyberworld, functioning as the agora, labo­ratory, and gateway for almost every type of information-based pursuit. It will be accessible both in its immersive, virtual-reality form and through peepholes like the screen of your cell phone as you make your way through the real world. And like the Web today, it will become “the standard way in which we think of life online,” to quote from the Metaverse Roadmap, a forecast published this spring by an informal group of entrepreneurs, media producers, academics, and analysts (Cascio among them).

 

Imagine a scene in San Francisco, where you want to have a meeting with two associates at a local coffee shop, but at the last minute, you decide that three others need to participate. They can log into Second Life, and then show up in the coffee shop virtually. You and your friends have special glasses and sound devices that allow you to see and hear them as if they were literally at the coffee shop. By overlaying detailed maps onto a Second Life sim, and then tying them together with augmented reality sensors scattered about the locale, people will be able to simultaneously live in both virtual and real events, tied to the same geographic location. The possibilities are endless.

 

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In the field, technicians or soldiers may get 2-D slices of the most critical information through wireless handheld devices or heads-up displays; in operations centers, managers or military commanders will dive into full 3-D sensoriums to visualize their domains. “Augmented reality and sensor nets will blend right into virtual worlds,” predicts ­Linden Lab’s Ondrejka. “That’s when the line between the real world and its virtual representations will start blurring.”

I asked David Gelernter why we’d need the Metaverse or even mirror worlds, with all the added complications of navigating in three dimensions, when the time-tested format of the flat page has brought us so far on the Web. “That’s exactly like asking why we need Web browsers when we already have Gopher, or why we need Fortran when assembly language works perfectly well,” he replied.

The current Web might be capable of presenting all the real-time spatial data expected to flow into the Metaverse, Gelernter elaborates, but it wouldn’t be pretty. And it would keep us locked into a painfully mixed and inaccurate meta­phor for our information environment–with “pages” that we “mark up” and collect into “sites” that we “go to” by means of a “locator” (the L in URL)–when a much more natural one is available. “The perception of the Web as geography is meaningless–it’s a random graph,” Gelernter says. “But I know my physical surroundings. I have a general feel for the world. This is what humans are built for, and this is the way they will want to deal with their computers.”

 

We all know the web itself will once again morph into something completely different. Geospatial positioning is intuitive for structuring our reality, so why not use it to structure cyberspace? And yeah, this certainly brings us on track to move ever closer toward a post-human society. When smart phones are passé and augmented reality devices become the norm, our cultural patterns of interaction will again shift in counter-intuitive ways. When combined with transformations to our bodies we see with prosthetics research, and transformations of machines with robots and AI advances, our society may look very different far sooner than we think.

This post has been filed under Cyberpunked living, News as Cyberpunk by SFAM.

Communications Dopplegangers – Robots Cut Travel Costs!

April 27, 2007

gemanoid robot screen capture

 

I often watch movies that I think “might” be cyberpunk in nature that end up not really fitting for one reason or another. One movie I enjoyed that fit this was the Japanese movie, Hinokio (Akiyama, 2005). In Hinokio, a robotics scientist tries to help his very disturbed son by making him a robot double who can go to school for him and interact with other students. His son is able to control all the movements of this robot, and can talk through it, etc. In the real world, Professor Hiroshi Ishiguro of Osaka University is working on the same concept in creating his “Geminoid” which was designed by using a model of his body and hair from his head. Many articles discussed this, here’s one:

 

Ever wished you could be in two places at one time? A Japanese researcher has managed it, through a robot that looks and moves exactly like him…He can see through its eyes, which act like cameras that beam images back to a monitor. Ishiguro, who moves his neck or hands to give the robot human-like twitches, is very attached to his robotic twin…

Ishiguro controls the android’s movements with a remote control and sensors attached to his body. When you poke its face, the robot grimaces like a real human, thanks to the more than 50 sensors and motors that are implanted beneath its lifelike skin. It appears to breathe when compressed air is pumped through its body.

“I don’t find any particular difference between talking through Geminoid and talking as myself,” he said. “And curiously, when the body of Geminoid is touched by somebody, I get very similar feelings of being touched.”

 

This approach of creating a “communications double” is far more attainable than the creation of a sentient robot. In essence, the problem has been decomposed to focusing on creating realistic human movements via messages sent from a host. While this is still an extremely difficult problem, just looking at the robots created over the last few years, they are making incredible headway.

 

 

As the Guardian write up states:

 

Geminoid is a modern variant on an old idea, a humanoid robot designed in his creator’s image, down to the tiniest of details. The skin tone, the spectacles, and even the lengthy hairs on its head are the same as Hiroshi Ishiguro’s, a robotics expert at the Osaka University who built his doppelganger as a stand-in for when he is otherwise engaged…

Dr Ishiguro believes robots like Geminoid will in future allow people to be where they cannot be. Speaking through Geminoid, he says, has become natural, an extension of himself.

 

It’s always interesting to see how these really cool technological advances are predicted to affect the world. While its certainly possible that this technology can be used to cut travel costs, one can envision a myriad of other, perhaps more important applications. If combined with, say, a really powerful VR application, you can imagine invalids traveling to the moon, for instance. Another interesting thought is the idea that combining these robots with a sort of “proto-intelligence” might allow one person to “control” a group of them. The human can pass on broad directions or program parameters, which are then acted on by the robot team.

Incidentally, in the Meatspace Forums, there is a thread devoted to the latest in robot, cyborg and transhuman innovations. Check it out!

This post has been filed under Cyberpunked living, News as Cyberpunk by SFAM.

Media Immersion Pod Spotlight: [email protected] Cyber Cafe

April 5, 2007

B@gus Cyber Cafe

 

Overview: CPR previously did a write-up on Japanese Media Immersion Pods. Here’s an in-depth look at one of them:

[email protected] Cyber Cafe
12F Roi Building, Roppongi Japan

A short walk down Gaien-Higasi Dori in Roppongi will reveal to you a world of Discount shops, trendy night clubs and sushi bars. But at the Roi Building on the 12th floor there’s two things and two things only that will greet you – Media and Information.

 

B@gus Cyber Cafe

 

Sporting shower rooms, Internet, free drinks (food was extra), 100+ seating (including dual/quad and ladies only seating) and a vast collection of any kind of media you could think of. One could theoretically live here for ever. The only thing standing in the way of maintaining your cyber-addiction is the fee and the money required to pay for said fee.

 

B@gus Cyber Cafe

 

When I went in they were offering a day package, 980 Yen would net me a cube and all the coffee I would need for 3 hours. The clerk right off the bat asked “Smoking? Or non?” “Smoking” I replied, Ultra smoking. So I got my receipt and was shown my cube on the map. F-12 Dual seating. I quick made a pit stop at the coffee bar, grabbed a ashtray and I was on my way. I wasn’t sure what I was in the mood for, A library size collection of Manga (Every Akira, But no GITS), Magazines (TIME, Sass) and Porn (Playboy etc, etc.) greeted me as soon as I walked away from the counter. Deciding on the good ole’ fashion tubes of the Internet, me, my ashtray and coffee set off for my cube.

 

B@gus Cyber Cafe

 

Cubes. Lots of cubes: Tucked away in a corner of the floor in a dark, quiet maze of cubes I found F-12. Kicking off my shoes at the door, I opened it up. Like a mini-living room, it has a TV, DVD player, PC (Running WinXP Home), Headphones and a PS2. Also each cube had a phone so you could order whatever you needed. Each cube had black leather cushioning and had seat formed cushions on top of that for back support. The only thing these cubes were missing were IVs and catheters. I turned on a lamp and began my session.

 

B@gus Cyber Cafe

 

Internet? PC Gripes and tubes: I surfed some of my usual spots; cyberpunk review and googled some random stuff. My session was pretty fast, pages were would pop up fairly quickly. I wouldn’t expect it not to, seeing some people spend all night here and fast tubes is a must. I must of came in before basic maintenance because the pc was running sluggish when having to load anything (Didn’t really hinder my experience, plus I feel for their IT). My biggest whine is that they don’t offer OS’s other than Windows, and it would be a nice change if places would start to offer Linux and/or Mac, instead of just WinXP. I would gladly pay 100 extra Yen an hour for a little OS change. But like I said it’s personal not necessary.

 

B@gus Cyber Cafe

 

Dark room: This place is quieter then any library I’ve ever been in. In the background you can hear clicking of keyboards, people shifting in their seats and the occasional clearing of the throat. but otherwise it was dead silent. I had a window cube so I could pop open the curtain and see the street below bustling with life. Not that the silence bothered me but it was a nice reminder that the world was still there. I can see why, staying the night you wouldn’t want to be bothered with the real world or be reminded of one while you were going on a media/coffee binge.The only light source was from lamps and the sunlight creeping in from the curtains.

 

B@gus Cyber Cafe

 

Overall? As I exited the elevator and was greeted by the raining Roppongi afternoon I met up with my girlfriend. As the cool rain beat down on me, I pulled the hood up on my black hoody and walked across the street to meet up with her, clubs and bars starting to open up exclaiming that happy hour was now indeed in effect. “How did your thing go?” How did it go? What was my experience? On that twelfth floor there was a soft lonely feeling, a nagging at, you might not forget. No matter how lonely and cold it can be, soft LCD glow can carry you home. I smiled, pulled the hoody tighter. And thought of a quote. “Well….There’s no there, there.

The photos that I took were a little blurry so I apologize.

This post has been filed under Cyberpunked living by -design.

85% Is Still Sheep!

March 26, 2007

Sheep screen capture

 

Similar to the tagline Albert Pyun’s movie, Nemisis (~86.5% is still human~), apparently we’re now saying similar things about sheep. But at least we’re not talking sheep cyborgs here. Instead, as reported in The Mail, we’re witnessing the first human-sheep chimeras.

 

Scientists have created the world’s first human-sheep chimera – which has the body of a sheep and half-human organs.

The sheep have 15 per cent human cells and 85 per cent animal cells – and their evolution brings the prospect of animal organs being transplanted into humans one step closer.

Professor Esmail Zanjani, of the University of Nevada, has spent seven years and £5million perfecting the technique, which involves injecting adult human cells into a sheep’s fetus.

He has already created a sheep liver which has a large proportion of human cells and eventually hopes to precisely match a sheep to a transplant patient, using their own stem cells to create their own flock of sheep.

 

The idea for increasing the number of available transplants is an interesting one. It does give yet another dimension to our upcoming post-human future. One wonders what the market dynamics will do with this. Perhaps the hospital systems will use this as a nice money generator – “Well, a full human liver costs an extra 15K, but I have this genetically modified sheep liver for a song!” Truly, at first glance, this sounds like something out of Transmetropolitan. Apparently others have similar thoughts, given their worries:

 

But the development is likely to revive criticisms about scientists playing God, with the possibility of silent viruses, which are harmless in animals, being introduced into the human race.

Dr Patrick Dixon, an international lecturer on biological trends, warned: “Many silent viruses could create a biological nightmare in humans. Mutant animal viruses are a real threat, as we have seen with HIV.”

Animal rights activists fear that if the cells get mixed together, they could end up with cellular fusion, creating a hybrid which would have the features and characteristics of both man and sheep. But Prof Zanjani said: “Transplanting the cells into foetal sheep at this early stage does not result in fusion at all.”

 

Hmm, sheep fusion, ey? Gives a whole new slant to the whole sex with farm animals thing!

This post has been filed under Cyberpunked living, News as Cyberpunk by SFAM.

Sterling on Our Cyber-Green Future. It’s Finally Here!

March 13, 2007

Bruce Sterling No Map for These Territories Screencap

 

Last week, cyberpunk legend and current futurist, Bruce Sterling wrote a nice piece in the Washington Post about how the time of the Greens has finally arrived. While this was predicted some years back, it took a while before things kicked in high gear.

In 1998, I had it figured that the dot-com boom would become a dot-green boom. It took a while for others to get it. Some still don’t. They think I’m joking. They are still used to thinking of greenness as being “counter” and “alternative” — they don’t understand that 21st-century green is and must be about everything — the works. Sustainability is comprehensive. That which is not sustainable doesn’t go on. Glamorous green. I preached that stuff for years. I don’t have to preach it anymore, because it couldn’t be any louder. Green will never get any sexier than it is in 2007. Because, after this, brown will start going away.

 

Sounds like the world is finally starting to take notice. But the message isn’t so positive:

The time for action isn’t now. The time for action was 40 years ago. Today we live in a stricken world that bypassed its time for action. We have wreaked science-fiction levels of havoc on the unresisting carcass of Mother Nature. The real trouble is ahead of us.

 

Ah yes, yet another indication that our cyberpunked future is quickly merging with our present circumstances. One has to wonder what will happen when the impacts of our excesses start to truly affect the global economy. Sterling seems to view the Balkans as a bellweather for our global future:

Serbia may be the world’s single-greatest locale for a professional futurist. Awful things happen there faster than awful things happen anywhere else. The Balkans is a tragic region that denied stark reality, broke its economy, started multiple unnecessary wars, and basically finger-pointed and squabbled its way into a comprehensive train wreck. It suffered all kinds of pig-headed mayhem, all unnecessary.

 

But life isn’t all bad. Sterling ends things on a high note, where he gives us a glimpse of his wonderful ability to juxtapose circumstances:

So what’s the good part? They never gave up around here. On the contrary: There’s a certain vivid liveliness in the way they’re scrambling and clawing their way out of yawning abyss. The food is great, the women dress to kill, and sometimes they even laugh and dance.

 

For some reason, the last line reminds me of Edger Allan Poe’s Masque of the Red Death. We laugh and dance now, but lets just hope Prince Prospero chose his guests more wisely this time…

This post has been filed under Cyberpunked living by SFAM.

Help Write the New Cyberpunk Manifesto – ver 3.0 /2007

March 13, 2007

Sixteen Tongues Screencap

 

In a recent post in the Meatspace forum, Stormtrooper of Death advocates the development of a new Cyberpunk Manifesto, ver 3.0. Stormtrooper of Death has started the process by creating a node in the Cyberpunk Wiki. The previous two version are reproduced here. In 2007, we’ve entered a world in which the power of mass collaboration is changing the mode of production (See Wikinomics for a good read on this subject). As a consequence, this process should also drive the development of a new cyberpunk manifesto. Please join us in writing this.

This post has been filed under Cyberpunked living by SFAM.

Cheney is Really a Fleet of Malfunctioning Cyborgs!

March 5, 2007

 

This was too funny not to post. On the Daily Show last week, John Oliver posited that the explanation for Cheney’s seemingly contradictory positions is because he’s really a bunch of cyborgs. Whether or not you like or hate the current administration, you’ll probably find this funny. But enjoy it while it lasts, as it gets pulled from Comedy Central at the end of the month, and has already been pulled from YouTube. Truly, I’m sure that ongoing buzz and publicity is bad for a TV show so I certainly understand their desire to get this off the air quickly.

 

Cheney as Cyborg

 

Strangely enough, the “Cheney as Cyborg” mantra seems to be picking up steam as we look around the web. There are pictures, lots of political posts, and even a comment from Scott Adams a number of years back. Hopefully this has more to do with his suspect intellect than just his body replacements. Then again, propping up Dick Cheney as an example of superior cyborg thinking isn’t going to endure the world to transhumanity, now is it? :)

 

This post has been filed under Cyberpunked living by SFAM.