Thursday, August 12, 2010

Out of town

Sorry I haven't been updating much this week but I have been out of town. When I have some time later this evening I will be sure to post some new and MIND BLOWING things and get back to the update a day schedule.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Disposable culture

My girlfriend and I live in a house on a relatively busy street corner for Gainesville. Because of this I occasionally find rubbage in our front yard that has been discarded by degenerates, laggards, or bums. Typically its just a beer can or a Styrofoam cup but what i found today reminded me what type of society we live in. While I was cleaning the front porch i noticed a wal-mart bag idling on the outskirts of our yard. When I picked it up to dispose of it I discovered that inside it contained the ripped up packaging for a new cell phone AS WELL AS THE OLD PHONE, battery and all! This asshole was so eager to get to his new piece of technology that he couldn't even wait to get back from the store to discard of his old phone properly, much less to be bothered to recycle or donate it. 20 years ago cell phones were a breakthrough not to mention extremely expensive. 10 years ago cell phones were a convenience and a still a luxury for some. Today they have the same value as a beer can or Styrofoam cup. Disposable culture.

One of my paintings

I just felt like putting this up here. This is an oil painting I did about three years ago. It is one of my first attempts at painting but I still really like the finished work. Painting is something I would really like to get back into given the time...
The painting is a depiction of one of the vistas of The Void Castle, This is the terrace of the banquet hall of the bodhisattva.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Top secret: work in progress

Here is some top secret pics of one of my works in progress.
I used some of the foam block you saw in the last post to carve this. It will be a housing for an arm mounted radio frequency locator used to track down my radio emitting guerrilla sculptures. After carving the foam I than began to smooth it out and add texture by skinning it in plasticine. When It is done I will make a silicone rubber mold of the positive and make a polyurethane resin cast. After the resin model is made it will house the LCD, Arduino, and Radio receiver you see in the pic below. The LCD and speaker let you know when you are getting close to one of my radio frequency emitting sculptures. You will be able to wear the piece on your forearm.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Mold making!

I recently made myself some plexiglass mold walls and got to mold making!

I like using plexi-glass for mold walls so that you can see that whatever material you are pouring is getting even distribution (but really it just looks cool).
I decided to pour a block of rigid polyurethane foam so that I could carve it into positives for other sculptures, specifically for my line of wearable arduino enabled reactive sculptures which I will show you some progress on in tomorrows post!

I really like to carve in foam because you can use all of the wood carving tools like gouges and never have to worry about the grain. Foam carving is easy breezy baby.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Local Art Show

Went to a local art show this last weekend in Gainesville with Francesca. Some of our friends from undergrad turned this old church building into a gallery and host shows about once every month. Every time they have a new show they completely repaint the interior of the gallery turning the space itself into an art installation.

Here are some pictures of the gallery walls and the paintings. The gallery used to be called Daacha but I believe they are now calling it "The Church of Holy Colors".


Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Techno-shamanism and Augmenting Human Empathy Pt. 2

(continued from yesterdays post).
The desire to become augmented is an appealing one. The issue arises when we examine the socio-economic conditions under which human augmentation would occur, which brings us back to our quote at the beginning of this essay. Under the current world economic system wealth is distributed extremely unevenly with a small fraction of the world’s population controlling a vast majority of wealth and resources. It is important as artists and designers that we begin addressing these issues now before it is too late for the digital future.

The extremely wealthy already exploit the world’s poor and middle class for labor and production of services off which they profit immensely. It is this class of people that will be able to afford the best and most advanced augmentations to their beings (the robotic hand for Pierpaolo Petruzziello cost 3 million dollars), under a capitalist system, allowing them to become hyper-intelligent and live to near immortality.

It quickly becomes easy to imagine a dystopian future in which these super-augmented individuals may not even consider themselves human any longer, viewing the rest of human populations as mere live stock, similar to H.G. Wells “The Time Machine”. Or in Jaron Lanier’s latest book “You are not a gadget.” A new reign of digital feudalism will come into effect, with most of the worlds labor force replaced by robots controlled by the ruling elite, middle and lower class humans will become digital peasants, working for free just to be allowed to exist (Lanier).

These possible outcomes are frightening to say the least which is what brings me to the crux of my work as an artist and designer in the digital realm. We seem very interested in increasing the power of our bodies, or the intellect of our minds, or the length of our lives all through technological means, but I see very little interest or research in augmenting the things that make us most human, when a warm cat sits on our lap and we smile, when we lovingly laugh at a toddler who stumbles while learning to walk, when we feel sad because we see a lonely man eating a sandwich by himself in a park. It is our ability to recognize the universality of our human condition within each other that makes life most rich.

It is empathy that I am most interested in augmenting. I believe that we can invent technological means to enhance the empathetic response in each other, allowing the world to see that we are all reflections of each other. This would foster greater understanding and cooperation among humankind allowing us to achieve the level of unison that will be necessary in conquering global problems such as climate change, environmental degradation, world hunger and eventually interstellar travel and the next phases of our evolution.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Isadora patch

Here is a snapshot of an Isadora patch I made last night using Isadoras Blob tracking "actors" to manipulate live sound and video by moving an object around in front of my webcam.

I connected the tracked objects vertical position to a send note "actors" pitch and the horizontal position to the notes velocity. SO when you move the object up and down pitch goes up and down and when you move it left and right the volume increases or decreases. I also added a sound watcher "actor" and connected the volume output to the size parameter of a dots effect "actor" and lastly connected this to the video input of a projector "actor". SO when you view stages you get a live video feed with the "dots" effect applied and the louder the notes being played get, the bigger and more spaced out the dots in the video get.
It was really super simple and you have any questions please post to comments

Techno-Shamanism and Augmenting Human Empathy Pt. 1

“The future has already arrived. It’s just not evenly distributed yet.” The quote is by William Gibson the visionary science fiction author of Neuromancer. This statement captures the essence of what is at stake here in the digital age. If Ray Kurzweil’s presupposition of “The Law of Accelerating Returns” holds true and technological progress is increasing exponentially rather than linearly than the next few decades will not only see great technical achievement but the very redefinition of what it means to be human.

Ever since proto-man began flint knapping hand axes millions of years ago human-kind has been inexorably intertwined with technology. Our ability to shape the world to our choosing is what has allowed humanity to inhabit every landmass on earth. For millennia the lens of technology has been used to sculpt the exterior world, now for the first time in human history the lens is being turned inward as we alter our very selves.

Every day new breakthroughs are being published in the realms of genomics, robotics, nano-technology, quantum computing, etc… that we don’t even bat an eyelash at achievements that would have been unthinkable 20 years ago. Once the stuff of science fiction is now becoming common place. In 2008 Junichi Ushiba and his colleagues at Keio university, using brian-computer interface technology, developed a way for people to control their avatars in the three dimensional world of second life via thought alone.

Brain-computer interfaces can already do far more than just allow us to control characters in second life. In December 2009 Italian amputee Pierpaolo Petruzziello received a robotic hand that he could not only control with his mind but that he could feel and receive feedback from as well. Combine this technology with the video that’s been circulating the web of Ishikawa Komuro Lab's high-speed robotic hand, capable of pitching a baseball or dribbling a basketball exorbitantly faster and more accurately than a human hand, and things really start to get interesting.

The military, not to be out done, is investing heavily in new technologies of human augmentation in their never ending quest for the perfect killing machine. A 2009 blue-ribbon committee of the National Academy of Sciences is recommending that the Army expand its research into how a soldier's brain, blood and nerves work so it can develop futuristic applications that can increase performance in combat. The study describes one application of augmented reality, to provide a virtual overlay associated with the trigger of a soldier's weapon, which provides a sensory feedback when it locks on a target identified as a foe. The soldier can be trained so that he pulls the trigger without thinking, "decreasing the time between acquiring and engaging the target," .
In addition military defense contractors such as Lockheed Martin have unveiled recent advances in human-robotic interfaces such as their 2009 presentation of the HULC or human universal load carrier (you got to love a good acronym) which is a robotic anthropomorphic exoskeleton. An onboard micro-computer senses the user's actions and ensures the exoskeleton moves in concert with the operator enabling the user to easily lift over 200 pounds.
We are seeing voluntary enhancements and augmentation to normal human performance even in the mainstream such as pro athletes like the golfer Tiger Woods or the MLB pitcher Mark Henderson undergoing elective Lasik surgery to improve their vision beyond that of normal 20/20. Woods was already seeing 20/20 with contact aided vision but after the procedure improved his vision to 20/10 he won five straight tournaments.
Already humans with prostheses composed of advanced materials are outperforming their non-augmented counterparts. On January first 2010 Amy Palmiero-Winters was the first woman with a prosthethic leg to place first overall (men and women) in a competitive running competition. She outran the second place finisher in the 24-hour ultramarathon by a whopping 36 miles.

The Italian runner, Oscar Pistorius, a double amputee with two specialized prosthetic legs, was blocked from competeing in the 2008 Bejing Olympics after the International Association of Athletic Federations (IAAF) introduced a rule banning competitors that were deemed to benefit from artificial help in competing. It was determined that Pistorius’s legs were able to move through the air fast than that of an “able-bodied” athlete. One spokesman for the IAAF claimed they did not pass the new rule to discriminate against the “disabled” but that “The point here is what's going to happen in 10 years? What happens if it continues to evolve?" Very good question.
Obviously these runners did not choose to be amputees. However, it is not too much a stretch of the imagination to see how in the near future, advancements in the speed, utility and more importantly the aesthetics of the prosthesis will become so sufficiently overwhelming that an “able bodied” human athlete would willingly swap out their biological legs they were born with for the chance to be as fast as a cheetah.

Enhancements and augmentation abound, with these previous paragraphs being a slim survey of what’s already happened. To take current technologies and advancements that are in the pipeline and try to imagine the future is staggering, almost anything seems possible. Sherry Turkle an MIT psychologist believes that AI and robots will reach a point in which we will prefer to spend our time with robotic counterparts over our human relationships. Techno-determinist forecasters such as Ray Kurzweil believes that in the near future we will be able to scan our brains and reconstruct our personalities digitally, living forever, encased in silicone.

It’s hard to say what will really happen, as I find people in the sciences and technology sector put a lot of blind faith in progress. Automatically assuming that technology will set us free, they scoff at religious individuals seeking immortality for their soul while they clamor for the “singularity” with the same fervor as a zealot. However, if progress is to continue at the accelerating rate that it is today it is almost inevitable that future generations, through technological augmentation, will be much smarter, stronger, and longer lived than we can imagine today.
(To be continued...tomorrow).