Thursday, December 13, 2018

Natural-Born Cyborgs Chapters 1-2

Margo Crane Natural-Born Cyborgs Chap. 1 Notes • The term “cyborg” came about in the 1960’s after the journal ASTRONAUTICS published the paper “Cyborgs in Space.” • The birth of the cyborg concept came about when Manfred Clynes and Nathan Kline proposed the idea that instead of terraforming space to better suit humans, why not evolve humans to better cope in space? • Artifact-organism systems, or “cyborgs”, deliberately incorporate exogenous components extending the self-regulating control function of the organism in order to adapt it to new environments. • Cyborg: Cybernetic Organism, or Cybernetically Controlled Organism • The first cyborg was a rat-pump system named Rose. It consisted of a rat with an implanted osmotic pump that would automatically inject chemicals into the rat to form a biotechnical control loop, which can be adapted to unusual conditions. • Direct bioelectronic signal exchanges, made possible by various kinds of implant technology will one day open up new realms of human-computer interaction and facilitate new kinds of human-machine mergers. • As bioelectric interface grows in complexity it will probably move inward, away from the periphery of skin, bone, and sense organs, and instead be implanted further into the brain itself. • What blinds us to our own increasingly cyborg nature is an ancient western prejudice – the tendency to think of the mind as so deeply special as to be distinct from the rest of the natural order. What goes on there is so special, we tend to think, that the only way to achieve a true human-machine merger is to consummate it with some brute-physical interfacing performed behind the bedroom doors of skin and skull. However, there is nothing quite that special inside. The brain is, to be sure, an especially dense, complex, and important piece of cognitive machinery. It is in many ways special, but it is not special in the sense of providing a privileged arena such that certain operations must occur inside that arena, or in directly wires contact with it, on pain of not counting as part of our mental machinery at all. • Perhaps, then, it is only our metaphysically based obsession with our own skin-bags that has warped the popular image of the cyborg into that of a heavily electronically penetrated human body: a body dramatically transformed by protheses, by neural implants, enhanced perceptual systems, and the full line of Terminator fashion accessories. The mistake was to assume that the most profound mergers and intimacies must always involve literal penetration of the skin-bag. • What mattered most, even when dealing with real bioelectronic implants, was the potential for fluid integration and personal transformation. • Mark Weiser’s vision of ubiquitous computing was a vision in which our home and office environments become progressively more intelligent, courtesy of multiple modestly powerful but amazingly prolific intercommunicating electronic devices. • In ubiquitous computing, the idea is that instead of focusing on making a richer and richer interface with an even more potent black box on the table, it aims to make interfaces multiple, natural, and so simple as to become rapidly invisible to the user. • The computer is thus drawn into the real world of daily objects and interactions where its activities and contributions become part of the unremarked backdrop upon which the biological brain and organism learn to depend. • The more closely the smart world becomes tailored to an individual’s specific needs, habits, and preferences, the harder it will become to tell where that person stops and this tailor-made, co-evolving smart world begins. • At the very limit, the smart world will function in such intimate harmony with the biological brain that drawing the line will serve no legal, moral, or social purpose. • One way that our electronically infested world has come to exhibit the right kinds of boundary-blurring smarts, is the use of sophisticated software agents in the realm of current commercial practices. • A software agent example would be a program that monitors your online reading and buying habits, and which searches out new items that fit your interests. More sophisticated software agents might monitor online auctions, bidding and selling on your behalf, or buy and sell your stocks and shares. • Pattie Maes, who works on software agents at MIT media lab, describes them as: “software entities… that are typically long-lived, continuously running… and that can help you keep track of a certain task… so it’s as if you were extending your brain or expanding your brain by having software entities out there that are almost part of you.” • The biological design innovations that make all this possible include the provision (in us) of an unusual degree of cortical plasticity and the (related) presence of an unusually extended period of developmental and learning (childhood). These dual innovations (intensively studied by the new research program called “neural constructivism”) enable the human brain, more often than any of the other creature on the planet, to factor an open-ended set of biologically external operations and resources deep into its own basic modes of operation and functioning. • It is the presence of this unusual plasticity that makes humans (but not dogs or cats, or other animals) natural-born cyborgs: beings primed by Mother Nature to annex wave upon wave of external elements and structures as part and parcel of their own extended minds. • Clynes and Kline were adamant that such off-loading of certain control functions to artificial devices would in no way change our nature as human beings. They would simply free the conscious mind to do other work. • The author’s claim is that various kinds of deep human-machine symbiosis really do expand and alter the shape of the psychological processes that make us who we are. • We need to understand in detail how brains like ours dovetail their problem-solving activities to these additional resources, and how the larger systems thus created operate, change, and evolve. In addition, we need to understand that the very ideas of minds and persons are not limited to the biological skin-bag, and that our sense of self, place, and potential are all malleable constructs ready to expand, change, or contract at surprisingly short notice. • Direct accessibility to individual conscious awareness is not essential for a human-machine merger to have a profound impact on who and what we are. Indeed, some of the most far-reaching near-future transformations may be rooted in mergers that make barely a ripple on the thin surface of our conscious awareness. Chap. 2 Notes • The author talks about visiting a place called the “Black Hole” where one could buy various old mechanical and computer parts. • The old technology of human kind was not design to blend into the background of anyone’s life, instead they were the strict antithesis of Weiser’s vision of ubiquitous computing. They were heavy, enormous, and almost maximally resistant to easy human use, and thus these technologies rarely ran the risk of blurring the boundaries between machine and human. • There are two types of technology, there’s “transparent technologies” and “opaque technologies.” • A transparent technology is one that is so well fitted to, and integrated with, our own lives, biological capacities, and projects as to become almost invisible in use. • An opaque technology is, by contrast, one that keeps tripping the user up, requires skills and capacities that do not come naturally to the biological organism, and thus remains the focus of attention even during routine problem-solving activities. • The ongoing problem with technology today is to successfully deploy and control the tool. Once a technology is transparent, the conscious agent literally sees through the tool and directly confronts the real problem at hand. Like how a pen and paper are nearly invisible to the writer, in that they don’t even have to think about how to use the tools, it just comes naturally. • These tools, like the pen and paper, have become transparent equipment, tools whose use and functioning have become so deeply dovetailed to the biological system that there is a very real sense which -while they’re up and running- the problem-solving system just is the composite of the biological system and these nonbiological tools. • We are not born in command of the skills required. While some technologies may demand only skills that already suit our biological profiles, others may demand skills that require extended training programs designed to bend the biological organism into shape. • The processes by which a technology can become transparent thus include both natural fit, and the systematic effects of training. • Scientist Donald Mornam describes the evolution between opaque and transparent technologies in a historical progression from “technology-centered” to “human-centered” products. • Human-centered products wear their functionality on their sleeve and exploit the natural strengths of human brains and bodies. • The trouble with technology-centered products is that they answer only to the need to do things that previous products didn’t do. What they don’t answer to is the need to enable those things to be done fluently, reliably, and with a minimum of learning and effort on the part of the user. • Therefore, technologies must evolve by coming under cultural-evolutionary pressure to increase its fitness by better conforming to the physical and cognitive strengths and weaknesses of biological bodies and brains. • The product is now poised to enter into a kind of symbiotic relationship with its biological users. It requires widespread adoption by users if its technological lineage is to continue. • One example of these products would be the wrist watch. Or at least that was the example given in the book, however, within the last decade wrist watches have nearly become extinct due to a newer technology, the cellphone, which incorporates a clock among many other useful devices, such as a calculator or a calendar. • A prime characteristic of transparent technologies is their poise for easy use and deployment as and when required. • Let’s go back to the wristwatch for a moment. When someone asks you “do you know the time?” your first reaction is to say “yes” and motion to actually check the device on your wrist. When someone asks you “do you know the meaning of this word?” you don’t automatically say “yes” and then go check a dictionary. The difference between the two is that you have already accepted and incorporated the wristwatch technology with yourself, you have become one with this device, and thus are one step closer to unconsciously becoming a cyborg. • When it comes to time keeping, the evolution of the relation between time keeping and humans has changed quite a bit over the millennia. Humans began with “time obedience” in that they obeyed the natural light cycles, wake up with the sun, start activities, and eat and rest with the darkness. Overtime once tracking time became more and more precise and widespread “time discipline” was the next step in this evolution. With time discipline, the presence of easily accessible, fairly accurate, and consistently available time-telling resources enabled the individual to factor time constantly and accurately into the very heart of our endeavors and aspirations. Effectively, we took command of time and thus also incorporated our time-telling devices with ourselves. We became one with the time-telling technology, and it became invisible to us. • What happened with timekeeping is now happening with the flow of information itself. We as a society are now starting to incorporate our “information appliances” within ourselves, in the form of our cellphones. A small, handheld device that is becoming more and more invisible to us, and slowly merging with us. • “Information appliances” are characterized by 3 things: o An information appliance is geared to support a specific activity, and to do so via storage, reception, processing, and transmission of information. o They form an intercommunicating web and can “talk” to each other. o And the are transparent technologies, designed to be easy to use, and to fade into the background. They are poised to be taken for granted. • The philosopher Heidegger, writing in 1927, distinguished between a tool’s being “ready-to-hand” and its being “present-at-hand.” For example: when working with a hammer, while it’s in use, is ready-to-hand, meaning it has become an extension of you. It is not an object of conscious reflection. We can, in effect, “see right through it,” concentrating only on the task at hand (hitting the nail). But if things start to go wrong, we are still able to focus on the hammer itself, encountering it now as present-at-hand, that is, as an object in its own right. • The effective use of tools thus often involves a kind of flipping between invisibility-in-use and availability for thought and inspection. • Paul Dourish thus reminds us that “the effective use of tools inherently involves a continual process of engagement. Separation, and re-engagement.” • Dourish also invented the term “tangible computing.” Which maintains key elements of the invisible computation model but seeks to do so without allowing the tools and technologies to become permanently invisible, available solely as ready-at-hand.


Here's the link to my Instructables page!

Week 15 Update

Put a lot of work-time this week into the physical construction of the headdress. Which is always my favorite part of a new project.

Week 14 Update

So week 14 I started working on the new design for the pyramid rather than the sphere. I also worked on the coding for the arduino. It definitely took some time but I finally programmed it to spin randomly. I also started on the base cutting of the cardboard.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Week 13 Update

OKAY! So after discovering that I have no actual idea as to what I am doing (and with immense help from Thomas (thank you btw!)) I have redesigned my project to something that I can actually accomplish in the time that I do have.
I have started coding the arduino with some basic stepper motor commands ("spin", "don't spin", crazy stuff).
And I had to reorder my stepper motor, because the one I currently am using requires a 12V 8.5A power supply, and I have learned (after going and checking out a battery store not far from my school) that batteries are f*@#ing heavy, and would be a lot of fun lugging around using only your neck muscles as support.
The battery I needed was about 5 freaking pounds.
SO, (after MUCH mathing to my best abilities), i have discovered a stepper motor that requires only about 4V and <2A to power. Which ultimately means a MUCH lighter battery to lug around.

Needless to say I have learned an important lesson on how to calculate what Voltage, Amperage, and Torque I'll be needing.

So here are the redesigns for my project:
The eyeball has shrunk significantly (which is what would weigh the stepper motor down since it is the only thing actually attached to the stepper motor), which means a lower torque, and an overall lighter power supply.

Week 12 Update

So during this week I was working on my final project. I wanted to incorporate an eye-reading device with stepper motors. However, I started realizing how intense the coding for everything would be, and decided it was going to be way too much for me to complete by the deadline. So I have been redesigning my project quite a bit.

but here is some of the work I was doing for my original idea:

for the eye-writer portion i was working on disassembling a PS3 camera. I was trying to remove the infrared blocker.

And this is how I was designing the outer shell using cardboard:

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Week 11 Report

This week we started working on some prototypes in class. Kennedy Reed and I worked together using an infrared proximity sensor. We tried a few different set ups and different codes we found online, but by the time class got out we hadn't quite figured out how to get the LEDs to light up. We kept dealing with a particular error code.

I wasn't able to continue working on it unfortunately because I had work the next day. But Kennedy was able to figure out how to get it working properly. I wish I could have been more help on this particular project.

But also during the weekend prior I was able to work on a trial head sphere using 13mm thick EVA foam I bought at the Foam Forge downtown. It was much harder to cut than I thought it would be, plus I think the blade I had was super dull. But I managed to cut out 8 pieces and glue them together to form the sphere. It turned out way larger than I had imagined it would be, but in order to fit all the other pieces inside of it it has to be pretty big.
it held together pretty well using hot glue and medical paper tape (I prefer medical paper tape because it is extremely adhesive and very flexible), although for future notice, because it is porous, hotglue will ooze right through it if you're not careful (says the person her burnt the sh*t out of her leg and ruined a pair of pants when some dripped out).
Plus the sphere didn't turn out completely spherical, it had ridges where the pieces met. I wanted to try heating it up and warping the foam to be more of a curve shape, however because I used hot glue I could use the heat gun too much without all the pieces falling apart, plus it was a much thicker foam than I had originally planned on using, so it didn't bend as much I was hoping it would.

Week 10 Report

This week we worked on making light sensors using our arduinos in class.

Week 9 Report

So this week we did a little more research into our final projects, I've been looking at the electronic components and have been trying to decide what I'd like to do. Although I'm confused as to haw I want to proceed with my project. I would like to attempt the eye tracking hardware, but I feel like that might be way too much work for the amount of time that I do have.

I turned in my chapter 1 and 2 discussion notes, however we never really went over them in class.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Final Project Ideas

Tentative list of supplies needed:

  • EVA foam, 10mm, 5'x6' square
  • Worbla 
  • aluminum strips
  • bike helmet
  • 2 small stepper motors
  • 1 larger stepper motor
  • 8-10 U Groove wheels
  • Mod Podge
  • Wood Glue
  • Super glue
  • Epoxy Glue
  • Gorilla glue or Contact Cement
  • Arduino motion sensor
  • Cover for electronics
  • Paint
  • Power supply + cover

Here are the links that inspired my creation:

This one in particular is what I am interested in working with:

Here are some eye symbolism links for my research:

More research: