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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’

  • eyeborg

    Deus Ex: The EyeBorg Documentary

    Back in 2009 Rob Spence, a cyborg film maker, worked together with a team of ocularists, inventors, engineering specialists on a prosthetic eye which can capture and stream video. He then started the project: EyeBorg.

    Commissioned by the makers of ‘Deus Ex: Human Revolution‘, a game which tells the story of the year 2027 where cyborgs are the norm, he needed to figure out how far we currently are from that future. In his 12 minute documentary he meets leading scientists in biotechnology and fellow cyborgs. It shows we are not far from a future where cyborgs are the norm.

    Rob says: “People are going to have the option of having superior arms, superior eyes at some point. People say no one would ever cut off their own arm and replace it, but if the technology gets there – and it looks like it will – people will think about it. They might be early adopters.”

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    Via EyeBorgSky News

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  • NextNatureIsNutsButILoveIt

    Drugs are Nuts

    Thinking about Next Nature can sometimes result in a feeling of vertigo. Normal standards are eroded and slowly replaced by next natural ones. A bewildering example can be found in a letter the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sent to a manufacturer of walnuts.

    Based on claims made on your firm’s website, we have determined that your walnut products are promoted for conditions that cause them to be drugs because these products are intended for use in the prevention, mitigation, and treatment of disease. The following are examples of the claaims made on your firm’s website under the heading of a web page stating “OMEGA-3s … Every time you munch a few walnuts, you’re doing your body a big favor.”

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  • northern corn rootworm

    Monsanto’s Technorhetoric Kills Corn

    Mega-agro-biotech corporation Monsanto recently denied that insects have developed resistance to their patented Bt corn. Injected with a bacterial gene toxic to corn rootworms, Bt corn has proven so successful with farmers that it now makes up 65 percent of the corn planted in the US. Fields of wilting, dying corn are now following years of massive popularity. Bt-resistant worms have been found in Iowa, Illinois and Minnesota, and are likely to continue spreading.

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  • handwriting_530

    Why Handwriting Must Die

    Associate professor Anne Trubek argues that handwriting will soon be history, because writing words by hand is a technology that’s just too slow for our times, and our minds. A copy-paste summary from her essay:

    “Handwriting has been around for just 6,000 of humanity’s some 200,000 years. Its effects have been enormous, of course: It alters the brain, changes with civilizations, cultures and factions, and plays a role in religious and political battles.”

    “Most of us know, but often forget, that handwriting is not natural. We are not born to do it. There is no genetic basis for writing. Writing is not like seeing or talking, which are innate. Writing must be taught.”

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  • YouTube Preview Image

    Let the Algorithms Roam Free

    In this TED talk, Kevin Slavin explains how computer algorithms are breaking free of their virtual habitats and changing the physical world to their liking. Through algorithms, humans are starting to understand the physics of culture. Can we use that knowledge to our advantage, or are we just spectators of a game we don’t quite know the rules of?

  • YouTube Preview Image

    Human Augmentation™

    As a gamer, I come across many visions of possible futures. But this trailer from the upcoming video game Deus Ex: Human Revolution, the third part in the Deus Ex series shocked me with its convincing message.

    Prosthetic limbs have been perfected, and in this world people are exchanging their completely functional limbs for better and improved parts. But what are the dangers of doing this? Except for the many ethical questions it proposes, it also lays our humanity in the hands of corporations. What if, just as the trailer suggests, we need to take drugs to keep our bodies from rejecting the augmentations? Will we start to despise those who give up their organic ‘parts’ for better ones? Or look up to them?

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  • Retro-futuristic Weather Machine

    Retro-futuristic Weather Machine

    Geo-engineering avant la lettre. This is what 19th century people thought a 21th century weather machine would look like. This retro-futuristic postcard was produced around 1900 by Hildebrands – a leading German chocolate company of that time. Unsure whether the device was envisioned to run on steam. Via Paleo Future.

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  • YouTube Preview Image

    Nano Supermarket @ TEDx

    Last week our NANO Supermarket was presented at TEDxBrainport in Eindhoven. A good opportunity to show some of our speculative nano products and explain a bit of the why & how of our supermarket noir.

  • hiking using cell phone

    Humane Technology #6: Improve the Human Condition

    And now for the sixth and final principle: Humane technology improves the human condition and helps people realize the dreams they have of themselves.

    No matter what your government might be telling you, we probably don’t need better defense technology. Instead of killer robots and city-leveling bombs, we need tech that adds to the very best in ourselves- our health, our minds and our dreams for the future. Naturalist E.O Wilson’s notion of biophilia should not be limited just to humans. Technology should love life as much as we do.

    Humane technology, as a concept, can be tricky to pin down. What is humane in one circumstance is irritating or destructive in another. A cell phone may be more humane than a landline, permitting the talker to wander around, free to conduct business or call home from the far side of the globe. But cell phones may be inhumane for precisely this reason. A Blackberry or iPhone can seem less like an indispensable fifth limb than a second mouth that just won’t shut up. A technology can never defined as entirely humane or entirely inhumane. There is no end point that makes a certain device ‘humane.’ We may not know it by how it looks, but we will know it by how it feels.

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  • 2001

    Trips to the Moon

    When watching a science fiction flick, it can be hard to determine what time in the future it is set, although this is a usually an integral part of the movie. However, it is often obvious in which year the movie was made. The combination of costumes, cinematography, CGI, and content create an overall feeling that immediately makes you aware of when it was made. The celebrity actors are a dead give-away as well. Even the CGI capabilities of this post-Avatar-era are not enough to fool us- compare Jeff Bridges in Tron and Tron: Legacy.

    The future depicted in these films always seems to follow the present in a linear fashion, while the actual future turns out to be wild, chaotic and unpredictable. Instead of an overview of correct predictions, the legacy of science fiction movies represents an interesting insight in the thoughts of people throughout the years. How the moon is depicted can be particularly telling of a given era’s mindset.  In Le Voyage dan la Lune, for example, the moon is shown as having a lush Earth-like ecosystem that makes for a grand adventure.  In Duncan Jones’ Moon, the moon has become much more like a true wilderness, isolated and uncaring.

    It makes me wonder how will the moon be presented in science fiction movies over the next decade.  Will it be overrun with nanotechnology, restored to a next natural landscape, or be another base for Jeff Bridges?

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  • oscar

    Humane Technology #5: Empower People

    Principle number five: Humane technology doesn’t outsource people, but instead empowers them.

    How healthy or humane is it to have an escalator to the gym?  Humane technology should not aim to replace the human mind and body.  Rather, it should be used as a tool to augment existing capabilities.  The Cheetah Flex-Foot, a prosthetic foot and lower leg, integrates with a user’s existing knee and upper leg to enable comfortable walking and running.  Users are at least as fast as those with flesh-and-blood feet, and may even be faster thanks to the mechanical efficiencies of springy metal.  The initial design was closely modeled on the human foot, but evolved into a sleeker blade-like shape that’s more cheetah than person.  The Flex-Foot is therefore not an exact replacement for the human form, but a way to radically re-imagine it.

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  • 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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