Saturday, 25 September 2010

Fixed: the science/fiction of human enhancement

What does disabled mean when a man with no legs can run faster than many Olympic sprinters? With prenatal screening able to predict hundreds of probable conditions, who should determine what kind of people get to be born? If you could augment your body's capabilities in any way imaginable what would you do? From pre-implantation genetic diagnosis to neural implants to bionic limbs, researchers around the world are hard at work developing a myriad of technologies to fix or enhance the human body. What does it mean to design better humans and should we want to?

FIXED takes a critical look at the direction of emerging human enhancement technologies through the eyes of three people with significant disabilities a scientist, a journalist, and a community organizer who each play very different roles in this developing field. Gregor Wolbring is a biochemist, bioethicist and disability and ability studies scholar at the University of Calgary, in Calgary, Alberta and lectures worldwide on human enhancement technologies and ableism. John Hockenberry is an Emmy and Peabody award winning journalist, author and distinguished fellow at the MIT Media Lab where he works to promote research into human-machine collaborations. Patty Berne works at the Center for Genetics and Society as the Director of the Project on Race, Disability and Eugenics where she focuses on raising awareness about the ethical implications of emerging prenatal screening technologies. What these three individuals a scientist, a journalist and a community organizer — all have in common is a personal experience with disability and a passionate engagement in the debates around human enhancement technologies and yet what they are each fighting for is quite different. Through their unique experiences of both living with a disability and being experts in their field, what emerges is a textured debate that tackles some of the most pertinent social and ethical questions of today. MIT neuroscientist Ed Boyden, transhumanist James Hughes, MIT robot scientist Rodney Brooks, and bioethicist Marcy Darnovsky also contribute to deepening the issues, revealing the social tensions that underlie these emerging technologies in surprising ways.

Through a dynamic mix of verite, archival and interview footage, FIXED: THE SCIENCE/FICTION OF HUMAN ENHANCEMENT challenges notions of normal, the body and fundamentally what it means to be human in the 21st century.

Produced, directed and edited by Regan Brashear.
Trailer edited by Josh Peterson.
The full documentary is currently in post-production.

If you would like to make a tax-deductible donation to support the completion of the film or to sign up for our mailing list, please email

Steve Fuller interview suggestions

Hi blogging team,

I've just noticed that Steve has put up on his blog an interview about his latest book, Science: the Art of Living. I recommend reading it for some useful background to help guide you through the pdf proofs I've forwarded to you. That might make it easier to formulate some questions of your own, should your schedules permit. Because that interview is based around a series of very open questions, I thought it might be a good idea to try instead to pin Fuller down on some specifics. For example, I am preparing a question on whether he considered situating his ideal of "an art of living" in relation to bioethics by way of a comparison or contrast- or is this something to read between the lines (or perhaps it's already elaborated in greater detail in another of his works; if so, I can't find it).

Feel free to email any thoughts you have.

STILL not in our genes....

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Assault on Attica and the Symbionese Liberation Army
the media histories of state violence restaged in Romero's Dawn of the Dead

"The SLA used the notoriety it had won to spit invective at the country’s corporate leaders. ‘DEATH TO THE FASCIST INSECT THAT PREYS UPON THE LIFE OF THE PEOPLE,’ it proclaimed, in what became its signature sign-off.

The ‘insects,’ however, got them first. On May 17, 1974, 410 officers of the law representing the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) and its Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) Unit, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, the FBI and the California Highway Patrol, poured over 5,000 rounds of ammunition and 83 tear gas canisters into a Compton bungalow in which six SLA members, including Donald Defreeze, were holed up. One of the rounds ignited the flimsy building and, pinned down by continuous fire, those inside died of smoke inhalation, caught bullets, or, in DeFreeze’s case, committed suicide.

Before launching the attack, the LAPD marshalled the media into place. The incineration was broadcast live on national television, as though to exercise the radicalism that had been corroding the conservative core of the country. At least some of the police performed their task with the glee of an Old South lynching. One SWAT member quipped of DeFreeze, who had changed his name to Cinque (which DeFreeze pronounced ‘Sin-Q’) Mtume, after the leader of the 1839 revolt on the slave ship Amistad: ‘He may have been Cinque yesterday, but he’s bar-be-que today.’ The message couldn’t have been clearer: anyone ornery enough to challenge the U.S. government – whether a black ex-convict or a white dropout from the University of California – would be annihilated."

Daniel Burton-Rose

Guerrilla USA: The George Jackson Brigade and the Anticapitalist Underground of the 1970s

nine-forward slash-nine
remembering revolt, rebellion, insurrection, uprising of September 01971

"History which keeps alive the memory of people's resistance suggests new definitions of power. By traditional definitions, whoever possesses military strength, wealth, command of official ideology, cultural control, has power. Measured by these standards, popular rebellion never looks strong enough to survive.

However, the unexpected victories-even temporary ones-of insurgents show the vulnerability of the supposedly powerful. In a highly developed society, the Establishment cannot survive without the obedience and loyalty of millions of people who are given small rewards to keep the system going: the soldiers and police, teachers and ministers, administrators and social workers, technicians and production workers, doctors, lawyers, nurses, transport and communications workers, garbage men and firemen. These people-the employed, the somewhat privileged-are drawn into alliance with the elite. They become the guards of the system, buffers between the upper and lower classes. If they stop obeying, the system falls.

That will happen, I think, only when all of us who are slightly privileged and slightly uneasy begin to see that we are like the guards in the prison uprising at Attica—expendable; that the Establishment, whatever rewards it gives us, will also, if necessary to maintain its control, kill us.

Certain new facts may, in our time, emerge so clearly as to lead to general withdrawal of loyalty from the system. The new conditions of technology, economics, and war, in the atomic age, make it less and less possible for the guards of the system-the intellectuals, the home owners, the taxpayers, the skilled workers, the professionals, the servants of government-to remain immune from the violence (physical and psychic) inflicted on the black, the poor, the criminal, the enemy overseas. The internationalization of the economy, the movement of refugees and illegal immigrants across borders, both make it more difficult for the people of the industrial countries to be oblivious to hunger and disease in the poor countries of the world."

Howard Zinn
Chapter 24: The Coming Revolt of the Guards

nine - forward slash - eleven
forward nine years

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
I Give Up - 9/11 Responders Bill
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

Friday, 10 September 2010

"why are the proud descendents of Plato paying off more debts accommodating NATO?"
European Super State

As a single trading block, the EU is by some way China's largest trading partner. Every year, more Chinese diplomats are posted to Brussels to study EU regulations (there are said to be four Chinese officials whose sole task is to monitor the European Parliament).

But China knows perfectly well that the EU functions only rarely as a single block. It has learnt from experience how easy it is to divide the Europeans on tough political questions such as their arms embargo on China. Moreover, EU citizens cannot even agree on whether China is an economic threat or an opportunity. Some countries, such as Germany and Sweden, make lots of money selling machine tools and other capital goods to China. In southern Europe, businessmen complain vociferously that their traditional exports such as shoes and textiles are being killed by China. In eastern Europe, businesses built on (relatively) cheap labour fear China mightily.

The China trade syndrome - Charlemagne
6 October 2007
The Economist

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Body Corporate

And I will take Luigi Palombi or Joanna Rudnick over futurologists such as Gerald Celente any day of the week thanks. A tip of the hat too to Jay Rosen's astute critique of media coverage of elections in terms of a horse race.

Transhumanism: transcending biology

But where does libertarianism fit into all this, you ask? First of all, it’s useful to note that transhumanists don’t all fall under a monolithic political philosophy. There are many liberal transhumanists who see the enhancement of the mind and body through technology as the ultimate equalizer that will allow people to improve themselves and transcend their limitations. There are even Christian transhumanists who see the technological singularity as a sort of man-made Rapture that will bring them closer to God (see also here).

But there is also a very vocal sect of transhumanist libertarians who see their future robot bodies as the best chance to escape statist control once and for all.Reason magazine’s Ron Bailey thinks transhumanism is the linchpin that will help libertarians “win the future.” Why? Because once we all become self-healing and self-medicating cyborgs, then “ideas about government health care and government-guaranteed incomes will appear quaint.”

I also tag this post "Patri Friedman" in reference to the seasteader and cyber swinger extraordinaire-- who once flamed me on this blog for criticizing him-- because the Alternet article links to another piece entitled, "The Really Creepy People Behind the Libertarian Inspired Billionaire Sea Castles". The title is self-explanatory, and I concur entirely with how Mark Ames characterizes these members of the Lunar Right. It's disturbing to see how in the time since my post, more people are being drawn to this, "spoilt child's autarky, an imperialism of outsourcing, a very petty fascism" (to quote China Mieville's description in Evil Paradises).

Monday, 6 September 2010

A bizarre disconnect

I was fixing some errors in my "Hyper real religions" post, which I blame on a bad bout of illness, when I received an email from Derridata castigating Melinda Cooper, who is fast becoming a central figure in debates about biology and society:

"...woeful as Melinda Cooper's bizarre disconnect from political economy with weather turbulence...goddess help us if this morphs into Sloterdijk-inspired atmospherics


So if some of Cooper's recent efforts are indeed disappointing, it's better to turn attention elsewhere. Steve Fuller informs me that his latest book favourably refers to this blog, so I look forward to receiving my signed copy, as well as preparing an interview, or some other kind of feature, which should appear here soon.

We also recently took in China Mieville's appearance at Kinokuniya, so I'll try to post some pics and maybe a brief writeup too.