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What is Next Nature?

With our attempts to cultivate nature, humankind causes the rising of a next nature, which is wild and unpredictable as ever. Wild systems, genetic surprises, autonomous machinery and splendidly beautiful black flowers. Nature changes along with us.

Posts Tagged ‘Technorhetoric’

  • glo pillow

    Humane Technology #4: Resonate with human senses

    Principle number four: Humane technology should resonate with the human senses, rather than numbing them.

    If you’re an office worker or a video game fanatic, you may spend most of your waking hours staring at a screen, and not tasting, touching, or smelling much of anything. How much more engaging would the constructed environment be if we had squishy computers or scented information?  This is the basis of information decoration, which attempts to expand the digital interface beyond the flat screen of a computer or cell phone.

    Humane technology recognizes that humans are sensory organisms, made to live in a rich three-dimensional environment.  Neurologists have counted between 9 and 20 difference human senses.  It’s time we engage more than just the ones required to operate a computer.  That blaring 7 AM alarm may be the norm, but it feels better to be awoken by the gradual glow of a sunrise-style lamp or pillow.

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  • orange hippo roller

    Humane Technology #3: Take Human Values as a Cornerstone

    The third principle of humane technology: It should take human values as a cornerstone of its development.

    Technology doesn’t have to be expensive or electronic to be humane. Think of it as the Occam’s Razor of humane technology. The simpler the solution, the better the outcome. For instance, the Hippo Water Roller makes it significantly easier for poor, rural communities to haul water from a lake or river back to their homes. Rolling water, rather than carrying it, reduces stress on the body and frees up time for other tasks. Taking human values into consideration for technology goes beyond basic humanitarian aims.  The development of humane tech should consider the fact that any new device will be nested within a rich network of social actors. Designers needs to keep an eye on the societal and environmental ramifications of novel technologies and act accordingly.

    See also the LifeStraw, Adaptive Eyewear and the dubiously world-changing One Laptop Per Child. These might not be the most Next Nature-esque technologies we’re featured here, but they’re certainly worth a ponder.

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  • manco_8

    Manko & Life [#8]

    Manko sighed.

    Nada: ‘Did you like it?’

    Manko: ‘I have to admit that if this is the starter, I’m not sure I’ll survive the main course.’

    Everyone at the table laughed.

    Manko: ‘Let me ask you, how is this considered dinner? I did not eat anything.’

    Bessy: ‘That’s a good question. We do not really need to feed ourselves anymore. In fact, the soup you ate contained more than enough energy and body-repairing particles to keep you up and running for the next week.’

    Now Manko understood why he had felt so energetic after the soup.

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  • People are better at growing Limbs than Lizards

    People are better at growing Limbs than Lizards

    Whereas lizards have the extraordinary ability to regenerate lost limbs – meaning that if the lizard loses a limb through conflict with a predator, it will grow back – people have a perhaps even more extraordinary ability to extent themselves with technological limbs: shoes, cars, bikes, warm winter coats, cellphones.

    Mobile phones are a good example of a victorious second nature that becomes a first nature. Although they were introduced relatively recently, almost everyone carries a mobile device, and when you accidentally leave your house without your phone it feels naked, almost like you have been amputated, and you quickly run back to your house to grasp your missing limb – your cell phone – off the table.

  • Blinky – Does what we want it to do

    In the short movie Blinky, on a boy and his robot, director Ruari Robinson reflects on our daily dealings with technology and its risks.

    Alex is a child growing up in a family owned by marital problems. Blinky distracts Alex from the daily rowing of his parents. But the awareness of the simplicity of Blinky, which seems to be an intelligent and emotional friend in the beginning, turns into the tipping point of the story.  It illustrates how technology can turn into a nightmare and gets out of control. In fact the word ‘control’ is an interesting issue in this story.

    Does the humanoid Blinky really run out of control or was it the naive handling of Alex? Does technology really run out of control or aren’t we not able to deal with the offered scope and consequences of technology?

    Watch the entire movie (12 minutes)

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  • God Grew Tired of Us

    The Real Coming to America

    Christopher Quinn and Tommy Walker’s documentary ‘God Grew Tired of Us‘ tells the odyssey of four boys from Sudan who embark on a journey to America after years of wandering Sub-Saharan Africa in search of safety. They are part of what remains of 27,000 Christian Sudanese boys who escaped from the oppression of their Muslim government in 1983 and walked more than one thousand miles over a period of five years.

    Besides their astonishing and heartbreaking story, the film also provides a great deal of optimism and humor, as the three young men explore the technological marvels of the strange new world in which they find themselves living: food that comes prepackaged from a freezer, hot and cold water that comes flowing out of a tap, light that appears at the command of a switch. One of the boys even admits to never having “seen” electricity before moving to America, and he worries over whether he will ever be able to master its use.

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  • bjorklove_530_system_animals

    System Animals

    What animal is so naive to come into this world as a naked and crying infant, completely vulnerable, helpless, and an easy prey for any predator? Newborn lamb or giraffe’s babies can walk within a few hours, but it takes humans years and years to learn to take care of themselves. Yet, despite our physical vulnerability, we’ve proven not only able to survive, but even to dominate the planet. How come?

    Unlike other animals, which have specific organs, skills and reflexes that enable them to survive in their proper environment, humans have never been placed in an environment for which we are specifically equipped. The human physique implies that there is no such thing as a ‘purely’ natural environment for us. We are system animals: technological beings by nature.

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    Angel with Cellphone adorns Cathedral

    To mark the twelve-year restoration of the Sint Jan cathedral in Den Bosch, a new statue of an angel carrying a mobile phone was added to the building. The angel joins the many other statues adorning the outside of the mediaeval cathedral.

    Member of the churchboard, Pieter Kohnen, explained the modern frivolity by explaining that “angels help us to communicate with the invisible world. Specifically, in these days, in which so many modern communication means are available, angels want to remain reachable.”

    The statue was created by sculptor Ton Mooy, who was responsible to for the renewal of the statues on the cathedral. The last in the series needed a modern twist, he decided. The phone has just one button, the artist says – it directly dials God. As well as holding a mobile phone, the carved stone angel is also wearing jeans. Peculiar image of the week.

  • manko9

    Manko & Dinner [#7]

    Manko blinked. Then blinked again, and again and again. While he did, he went through various layers at once and he was dazzled and amazed, his jaw dropped at all that he saw. He started blinking faster and faster. It didn’t take a long time before he started getting dizzy.

    Nada: ‘You better stop blinking, or pretty soon you’ll be throwing up. Bokor, please help him.’

    As he blinked, Manko saw all kinds of layers pop out of Bokor’s head. Bokor smiled.

    Bokor: ‘Close your eyes. Relax. Do not open your eyes until you feel you are ready for your maiden voyage. It will take patience and skill to navigate these layers properly. Start by exploring them one at a time and enjoy the discovery. It is a magical feeling that you can only experience once in your life. After a while it will just become part of your routine. It will become part of you, part of your nature. Now, when you open your eyes, blink fast three times and slow one time.’

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  • id16903_530

    (Nano)technology imitating Nature

    Over the coming years, nanotechnology will invade our everyday lives. Nanotechnology, usually defined as the control and manipulation of matter at the nanoscale, will be incorporated in anything from windshields to cancer drugs, and from sun lotion to batteries. But what exactly is this technology that encroaches upon our daily activities?

    One strategy of explaining nanotechnology is by referring to scale. For instance, it is said that the dot of this ‘i’ encompasses a million nanoparticles or that a human hair is 80.000 nanometers wide. Surely this sounds impressive, but what exactly does it mean? Would it make any difference to my non-technical mind if a human hair would be 800 nanometers wide? Or 8.000.000 nanometers? How do you imagine a technology that is defined by its size, when that size is too small to imagine?

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  • DNA spray

    The Neighborhood’s DNA

    I’ve noticed DNA spray notices springing up around Amsterdam.  I assumed it was a fairly standard anti-theft device:  A crime is committed, a little nozzle is activated by the offended shop owner, and the criminal is coated in a long-lasting UV-dye.  So far, a more advanced update of the standard ‘exploding ink in a wad of money’ trick, but nothing unusual.   The DNA angle seemed like a marketing ploy to make a banal technology sound bio-futuristic.

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  • manco_4

    Manko & Nothing [#5]

    Manko was completely cut off from everything around him, virtually dead, buried alive inside of his own body. He remembered Zero’s advice not to panic, but to no effect. He had no feedback from his body. He couldn’t even sense any breathing, which freaked him out. Right now in his mind waves of questions tumbled over each other.

    Were these people serious about living forever? Was this the way he was supposed to contribute? By being preserved like this? He pondered on the possibility of never being woken up. Even if Zero’s team wanted to revive him, would it not be possible that they would fail to wake him up? How often had they done this before? Were there more people like him in other rooms? Were they trying to bring him back to the world at this moment? Were there any complications? Would they soon give up on him?

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  • nanosupermarket_collage_530

    Nano Supermarket in Amsterdam

    From Friday 28 January – Wednesday 2 Februari the Nano Supermarket will be opened at the Leidseplein in Amsterdam. Additionally, on the 27th of January we will be opened at the Nano Festival in Nemo Science Center.

    The NANO Supermarket presents speculative nanotech products that may hit the shelves within the next ten years: medicinal candy, interactive wall paint, programmable wine, a twitter implant, invisible security spray. Come visit us to taste & test our products and experience the impact of nanotechnology on our everyday lives.

    Event website: www.nextnature.net/nano-supermarket

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  • YouTube Preview Image

    Amber Case: We are all Cyborgs Now

    Technology is evolving us, says cyborg anthropologist Amber Case in her 8 minutes of TED. We become a screen-staring, button-clicking new version of homo sapiens, relying on “external brains” (cell phones and computers) to communicate, remember, even live out secondary lives. But will these machines ultimately connect or conquer us? Buckle up for some surprising insight into our cyborg selves.

  • questforfire_530

    Next Nature Movie #1: Quest for Fire

    The Quest for Fire (1981) shows the Next Nature of 80.000 BC. Set in a world without highways, supermarkets, airports, Internet, television, farming, money or written language, the film depicts a group of Neanderthalers who are able to control fire, but cannot create it. Similar to our habit of carrying a mobile phone, these Neanderthalers consequentially wonder around with a mobile fire.

    When one day their fire is tragically smothered, the three bravest men leave the tribe and set out in a quest for fire. Throughout their journey they meet with various other humanoid species, of which the most outlandish is undoubtedly the Homo Sapiens, who impress not by their size or posture but even more by their ability to domesticate their surroundings through the use of tools and technique.

    While the Neanderthaler men are accustomed to a life in caves, the geeky Homo Sapiens amazes them with technological gadgets like pottery, an artificial cave created from animal skins, advanced weaponry and, most of all, their astonishing ability to create fire – which in its time was at least equally if not more impressive than any nano-, bio-, or digital technology of today.

    The Quest of Fire is a honest attempt to look at the origins of the species and the development of humanity through loss, tragedy, hardship, hostile elements and the beginnings of laughter, morality, community service, leadership, friendship and of course, love. A wondrous feat of body language performances as there is no truly discernible spoken dialogue.

    The film can be thought of as the first five minutes of Space Odyssey 2001 (1968) stretched up to a feature film length. Director Jean-Jacques Annaud manages to capture the essence of the human condition as ‘natural born cultural beings’. Which deepens our understanding of the ever-changing relation nature and makes us see some of the contemporary technological ‘upgrades’ in a different light.

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    Passed: 2001: a Space Odyssey (1968), The Gods must be Crazy (1980), Surplus – Terrorized into Being Consumers (2003).

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  • koyaanisqatsi-530

    Next Nature Movie #3: Koyaanisqatsi

    Koyaanisqatsi (1982) is a film with no actors, no storyline, and no dialogue. The only things we see are landscapes, images of cities, and people going about their regular lives. The film opens on ancient native American cave drawings, while the soundtrack chants “Koyaanisqatsi” which is a Hopi indian term for “life out of balance”.

    Koyaanisqatsi uses extensive time lapse and slow motion photography. In one of the first scenes, we see cloud formations moving (speeded up) intercut with a montage of ocean waves (slowed down) and in such a way we are able to see the similarities of movement between these natural forces. It is not long before the pristine images are replaced by nuclear power plants, highways, skyscrapers, rubble, fire and ash, and hoards of ant-like beings (humans, of course) scurrying through modern urbanity. The portrayed humans are making their way through the cities in a manner that seems more conditioned than voluntary.

    By cramming together so many images of people behaving more like lab rats than higher, thinking beings, Koyaanisqatsi invites us to consider just how mechanized, depersonalized, and out-of-control many aspects of our modern lives are.

    Although many critics have interpreted the film as a tirade and a call to action, it is better understood as a demand for awareness on the human position on our planet as catalysts of evolution. If we get better attuned to our job description in the larger scheme of things, we can perhaps moderate Koyaanisqatsi and obtain a finer balance between the old nature we originate from, and the next nature we are causing.

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    Passed: Baraka (1992), Manufactured Landscapes (2006)

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  • blade-runner-pris_530

    Next Nature Movie #4: Blade Runner

    Look around you and try to find the most natural thing in the room you are in now. It is you. Now, you wouldn’t be so sure in the apocalyptic Los Angeles of 2019 depicted in Blade Runner (1982), where a Craig Venter–like entrepreneur called Eldon Tyrell, and his Tyrell Corporation create human clones, called replicants, used as servants to do work unfitted for humans.

    “More human, than human” is Tyrells motto, but when four replicants are out on the loose in a quest to expand their lifespan, which has been genetically programmed to a maximum four years – to avoid they will develop emotions of their own – Blade Runner Rick Deckard (Harrisson Ford) is assigned to ‘retire’ them.

    During his detective journey Deckard finds it increasingly difficult to draw the line between people and products. He falls in love with replicant Rachel, is saved by Roy and finally even doubts whether he might be a replicant himself.

    Blade runner is one of the best science fiction films ever made. It explore themes like the 1) dehumanization of people through a society shaped by technological and capitalistic excess. 2) The diminishing border between people and products. 3) The roles of creator and creation, their mutual enslavement, and their role reversal. 4) The nature of humanity itself: emotions, memory, desire, purpose, cruelty, vulnerability, self–awareness and personal identity.

    Is the quest for humanity a crime? Find out for yourself.

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    Passed: Frankenstein (1931), Metropolis (1927), The Stepford Wives (1975), Gattaca (1997), X-Men (2000), Children of Men (2006), Surrogates (2009)

  • the_Matrix_530

    Next Nature Movie #6: The Matrix

    In the last few decades there have been numerous films that take the struggle between mankind and its increasingly intelligent and autonomous technology as a leitmotif. Ranging from Stanley Kubriks magnificent artwork Space Oddysee 2001 (1968), which is better defined as a posthuman than a nextnature film, to Disney’s cartoonish Tron (1982), to the Terminator series (1984, 1991, 2003).

    The notion of technology becoming competitive with the people who created it, is clearly a thankful movie subject. Pity though, the issue is always projected in the future – at distance from our everyday lives – as this limits the opportunity to reflect upon the co-evolutionary state people and technology have been caught up for a long time already.

    Apparently this is a movie law difficult to get around, and one that directors Andy and Larry Wachowski willingly accept. Yet they do something brilliant. They have a philosophical idea that they want to get out, but they are aware their idea is difficult to sell. If they had made it too explicit their movie would have been an art house film, or a giant flop. So they took their idea and wrapped it up in a sci-fi story, in an action packed blockbuster.

    The subtle premises of The Matrix (1999), is that the people subjected by the machines aren’t aware of the artificial intelligence that is ruling their lives. Like the prisoners in Plato’s Cave they’re blind to the simulation drawn before their eyes – a situation only stirred up with the arrival of the manga style dressed Christ–like savior Thomas Anderson, aka Neo, aka The One, played by a perfectly casted Keanu Reeves. Postmodernity in the overdrive? That’s not giving enough credit.

    Through their syncretic cocktail of ingredients from western and non-western philosophy (*), art and religion, the Wachowski brothers manage to achieve exactly what they want. Like a Trojan horse, they’ve planted something into your mind, the seed of doubt, even if you have no idea it’s there, yet it’s there. That voice in the back of your mind that something is wrong. That feeling you got left with after seeing the movie that it wasn’t just about computers and artificial intelligence but about something else, something more important, something you’re familiar with but just can’t put your finger on.

    The Matrix is a philosophical film that has cut through an entire generation, which now thinks differently about the technology in their surroundings than any generation before them. They’re aware that there may never be a day that technology awakes, becomes conscious and – politely or impolitely – introduces itself to us. They’re aware that this doesn’t withstand that technology is a strong all-pervasive force in our lives: A force that is not only driven by us, but in turn, also drives us. What is the Matrix, you ask? Something closer to reality than you think.

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    (*) Prior to the start of the filming the Wachowski brothers required the principal actors of the film to read three books: ‘Simulacra and Simulations’, by Jean Baudrillard, ‘Out of Control’ by Kevin Kelly, and ‘Introducing Evolutionary Psychology’ by Dylan Evans.

    Passed: Alphaville (1965), Space Oddysee 2001 (1968), Tron (1982), Tetsuo the Iron Man (1989), Terminator 2 (1991), Ghost in the Shell (1995), Technocalyps (2006).