Tag Archive | #technology

Wrapping up, a contextual essay

The future of technologies is still fluid, however, there are ways to predict where it may, or may not head, according to current trends in technological advancement. For the purposes of my own research project, I decided to mainly focus on technologies related to medical implantations for recreational use, and where I thought this technology is headed in 5, 10, 20- and 50-years’ time. While researching this I wanted to also take into consideration the ethical dilemmas that might arise with the implementation of this technology.

For my very first blog, my focus was on the entertainment industry. I did this as popular cultures such as movies and TV series are an easy way of introducing the wider population to a verity of concepts in a far less invasive manner. It is not to say that those who watch them are not somewhat frightened by the possibilities shown, but it is far easier to digest something when it is “fictional” than when it is, in fact factual. Thus, I chose several TV shows and movies that helped me introduce the idea of medical implantations for leisure and how that might look. This also helped me map out a sort of timeline of how I thought these technologies could fit into the 5, 10, 20- and 50-year  timeframes.

The second blog I wanted to explore real-world experiments that have been conducted and are still being performed on humans. I was surprised to find that the introduction of medical implants, such as microchips, have been used multiple times already in American, English and Swedish trials.

In his 2017 Ted Talk, Steve Hoffman spoke about how monkeys have already been experimented with to see if brain microchips can be used to control other objects and that the next step was to trial such devices on humans. In fact, as I have already mentioned in my blog, human trials have already been done at the University of Louisville’s Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Centre in 2018 on three patients with spinal cord injuries. I honestly see that in 5-10 years’ time we will start to see these chips being used to help the disabled gain some form of independence again, or even movement. A current example of this is Alex Lewis who became a motivational speaker after he lost his arms, legs and part of his face after a common cold turned toxic. He has begun using microchip implants that allow him to open doors, something which abled bodied persons take for granted, these chips also store his banking and medical information. His hope is to one day be able to drive a car again.

My third and last blog was just a bit of fun to wrap up my project exploring a single form of medical implantation in the form of gaming devices considering both fictional worlds and real-world examples.

Considering how fast these technologies are advancing, and with people already embracing the idea of being a “cyborg” with prosthetic limbs, and other people chipping themselves to store personal information, I honestly believe VR goggles will be replaced with chips in 20 years’ time, possibly sooner. I also think it is more than possible for chipping to becoming mandatory and it being peddled as some form of security measure, like what has been explored in the short film, ‘Nano’ made by DUST. It will probably be around this time that the law begins to catch up to these sorts of technologies.

With only the technological implant being covered should it malfunction and cause the user harm, there is nothing, currently, to cover misuse of these technologies or even hacking of these devices that could end in massive breaches of privacy. But also, how much control we are handing over to devices that can be so easily manipulated by outside sources without much protection in place.

In 50 years’, I am scared to think about how humans might look. I believe the worlds seen within Altered Carbon and Ghost in the Shell could very well be a reality. With the very identity of a person being nothing more than a microchip and their body something that is just seen as a replaceable shell and people unable to determine if the life they’ve led is real or fabricated.

While attempting to further the explorations of these technologies I tried to reach out to a larger audience through my followers on my blog, twitter account and personal Facebook page. With little success, I considered some of the feedback given to me and decided to share the blog on Reddit.

I reached out to a few friends with my last blog and they were kind enough to comment to discuss the movie eXistenZ with me. Dean had been the one to suggest the movie in the first place, so it was great to get his feedback on his take on the movie, as well as Anne, who was a first-time viewer. My Reddit post only really got one comment with a link to a rather interesting website the person had been putting together with his thoughts on “transhumanism”.

I was also fortunate enough to be asked to collaborate with Emily Grujevski on her own project, The Land of Make Believe. A four-part podcast where she has discussed a variety of topics based on potential outcomes in the future. This was an amazing way for me to go over the topics I have been researching and it was wonderful to see that my own work had inspired another student in their own project. I also like helping out others when and where I can.

This project really opened my eyes to how quickly we are moving technologically. I am both amazed and horrified. And while most of my feedback came in the form of a few extra likes on my blog, it was nice to see that I was getting a little more exposure and I sincerely hope that this translates into more interactions on future projects.

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EXistenZ

 (Spoiler alert, if you’ve not seen the movie do not keep reading).

 EXistenZ, a monster/body horror sci-fi movie made by Canadian director David Cronenberg in 1999 about a week or so before the Matrix premiered. The movie centres around a famous game designer, Allegra Geller (played by Jennifer Jason Leigh) and Ted Pikel (played by Jude Law) after Geller is attached by “Realists” (a rebellion group fighting against the deformation of reality by the two main game giants Antenna Research and Cortical Systematics) and they go on the run. In this reality gaming consoles have been replaced by biological creatures known as “Game Pods” which use “umbycords” (cords rather reminiscent of human umbilical cords) to physically connect to a “Bio-Port” placed at the base of the spine. Gaming pods rely on their human host to power them, and in return, they send the user into a virtual reality game, in this case, eXistenZ designed by Geller.

This movie shows gaming in a very different light compared to other movies with similar concepts. Cronenberg hasn’t just made viewers question how virtual reality could mess with a person’s grasp on reality but has linked gaming to sex and addiction. In fact, the sexual undertones are a running theme. From the way, players touch the pods while playing, to how they insert the cords into their ports. Half the time I felt like I was watching some strange sort of alien porn. But I can see the connection, a 2017 study written by Julia F. Christensen in ‘The Royal Society’ talks about how humans seek out instant gratification meaning that things like gaming can be addictive. Christensen talks of “Intermittent reinforcement learning as one of the key mechanisms involved in the aetiology of addiction”, basically a reward system that teaches our brains that if we perform a certain activity enough times, we will get the fulfilment we are seeking. Activities like sex and gaming trigger similar brain chemicals that fuel a person’s desire to keep performing the same actions over and over to the point of obsession. In this world, even Geller admits that she prefers to “live” in the world she created rather than the real one. The Realists, the main antagonists in the movie, are concerned that these gaming pods are destroying humanity by preventing people from really living due to their addictive nature.

existenz2

So why have I picked this movie to review? Well, with an estimated that 30.4 billion in consumer spending going toward the video game industry in 2016 (Shelstad, Smith, & Chaparro 2017) and the introduction of VR technologies within gaming the world within eXistenZ doesn’t seem all that foreign. While current VR is certainly not biological, this new kind of user involvement saw players recording a better immersive experience when surveyed by Wichita State University. Also, with microchipping technologies becoming more commonplace, as I discussed in my previous blog, the transition from using VR goggles to consoles plugged directly into our bodies is more than plausible. Gamers enjoy this new kind of gaming, and technology fans are always pushing the boundaries as they seek out the pleasure sensation. These “Fictional Dystopian futures” give us a glimpse into the potential dangers of this technological progression. In the case of eXistenZ, the medical implications of the bio-port, the bending of reality that messes with the heads of players, and the ultimate war that could rise up between those who wish to monopolise these technologies for their own gain while humanity fights them to regain normality.

References:
Christensen JF, 2017, Pleasure junkies all around! Why it matters and why ‘the arts’ might be the answer: a biopsychological perspective, Proc. R. Soc. B 284: 20162837, http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2016.2837
Shelstad, W. J., Smith, D. C., & Chaparro, B. S. 2017, Gaming on the Rift: How Virtual Reality Affects Game User Satisfaction, Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society Annual Meeting, 61(1), 2072–2076. https://doi.org/10.1177/1541931213602001

 

 

Can’t anymore

I am admitting defeat with this doll. She has been an amazing tool for learning, and while I am sad that she is not going to be finished (at this stage) I just can’t anymore. Right now, I need to go back to square one and start again. I need to plan better, use better materials, have the right tools. She will not be incomplete forever; I am hoping that by trying again I will improve my skills enough that I can come back and finish her.

img_3075 But the artwork is not incomplete, far from it. She is a marvellously creepy little doll and her broken appearance really lends itself to the concepts that I have in my head for this work. She will be on her own plinth painted black to help her shine brighter. She may not have eyes, but she still has this stare that cuts through you and a cheeky little smile that puts you on edge. I do adore her.  

 

Final tweets!!

So following on from my last blog about tweeting I have done my best to improve my skills. Live tweeting still isn’t something I enjoy that much, especially when I have not seen the film. I would rather stop and focus on the movie and blog about it later, but I gave it a good go anyway. The first issue that I wanted to address was my ability to send out quality tweets without spending my entire time looking at my own laptop screen. To address this, it was suggested that I pre-write out all my tweets in preparation for the day, and this is exactly what I did. I never aimed to have a full 10 tweets, but at least 5-6 good tweets with links to other information. I also made sure that this time, when I linked to information, that it was current and preferably a scholarly source. Again, this was made easier by organising myself a few days in advance. Having these links also meant that even if my own tweet didn’t get any attention, I still had the links to share on other peoples comment threads. Another way I managed to help myself was reading the synopsis the night before so that the general concepts behind the movie were fresh in my mind. This meant that if I missed part of the movie it was easier to catch up as well as keep up with the growing twitter thread.

Overall, my twitter encounters did not really increase all that much from the last time, though I did get one random person following me due to the BCM325 hashtag. I found that I was still having deep discussions with the same Twitter users and getting myself more involved in those conversations than making more of my own tweets. But the experience this time was certainly less stressful with the prep work.

Robot and Frank:

I was sick this week, but these were some of the tweets I had intended to tweet that week:

Majorie Prime:

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

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Blade Runner:

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The Matrix:

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

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