Overview: In the first of many cyberpunk (hopefully) movies to come out in the next year or two, we see Wolverine (aka Hugh Jackman) trying his hand at some futuristic Robot Wars/BattleBots action. Make that Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots, as these machines are boxers as opposed to the spinners, flippers, etc. of the former TV programs.
The movie is based on Richard Matheson’s short story, but you will find it more closely mirrors another famous boxing movie.
The Story: Charlie Kenton used to be a prize fighter, but that was before fight fans wanted more violence and bloodshed leading to more extreme fighting like MMA and WWE wresting done for real. Before long, robots entered the arenas and forced humans out to the sidelines. It is now 2020 and Charlie is roaming the countryside with a beat-up rust-bucket robot called Ambush that gets destroyed by a bull in a county fair. He finds out his son’s mother died and he is to get custody, but wants the boy’s aunt to take him instead. He blackmails the woman’s rich husband to take Max when the couple return from Europe at the end of summer, and uses the money to buy a former world-champion robot. Charlie’s ego and inexperience with the robot’s voice-command system causes his new robot to be destroyed as well. While raiding an industrial junk yard for parts, Max finds a second generation sparring robot named Atom and believes he can be a champion fighter. Charlie is reluctant at first, but when Atom wins his first underground fight, he begins training it for bigger matches, including a World Robot Boxing title match with the champion, Zeus. All the while, he learns how to be a better father for Max.
“You’ll be able to spit nails, kid. Like the guy says, you’re gonna eat lightning and you’re gonna crap thunder. You’re gonna become a very dangerous… um, robot.”
Yo, Adrian! If you feel like you’ve seen this movie before, you must have have watched Sylvester Stallone in the original Rocky series. From IMDB’s Real Steel trivia section: You might recognize the moves in the championship fight coming from Rocky IV. The basic plot of Rocky is also present here. Even the champion robot’s name is an indirect reference.
All this similarity to Rocky has to make you wonder if Hollywood has run out of original ideas. Then again, Matheson’s short story has been turned into a Twilight Zone episode which in turn was parodied by The Simpsons.
On the ropes. Calling this movie cyberpunk wasn’t an easy decision. Themes like technology’s negative effect (the robots taking over a career path), man-machine fusion (the various robot controls, the autonomous Zeus), underground focus (the underground fight clubs), and the visuals are present. Themes of control over society and ubiquitous data access are not there, though a couple of times I felt like the all-mighty dollar was all that mattered to anyone. This might be the result of Levy’s decision to set the story in 2020 as opposed to further into the future:
“The whole reason it’s 2020 and not further in the future is because I knew this movie was going to be an underdog story and I didn’t want the distant futurism of extreme sci-fi. I wanted the world to feel really familiar, so that the characters would feel really relatable.”
USELESS FACT: The Crash Palace is actually an old Ford Model T assembly plant in Highland Park, Michigan. Sean Levy thought it was perfect for the movie.
Speaking of the characters, they do work for this movie. Of course, it’s the robots who steel… steal the show, but the estranged-father-son-trying-to-reconnect story should give the non-robotic a few laughs and tears.
Conclusion: If you’ve watched Sly’s work, you’ve already seen this. Boxing-movie fans might find this worth adding to their video collection. For cyberpunk fans, it’s not a complete knockout, but those unfamiliar with Rocky might give this underdog their decision.
Note from Mr. Roboto: I need to get playing. The past couple of months will see the release of at least three cyberpunk games: E.Y.E. - Divine Cybermancy, Deus Ex: Human Revolution (now up for review), and soon Hard Reset. I was hoping to get a review of DX: Invisible War up before Human Revolution. I’ll keep working on it.
Zecalvin beat me in reviewing DX:HR on our still active Reviewer Forums. You’ll have to pardon his French in the screencaps since he played the French version. Here’s his take on the DX prequel…
Adam Jensen, main character of Human Revolution, and the latest fashionable sunglasses
Overview: Deus Ex is an FPS RPG taking place in a 2027 dystopian world. 3rd game of the DX Saga, Human Revolution was expected by the fans of the first episode (2000). At the time, Deus Ex created a new genre of FPS gameplay, including RPG and infiltration parts and where shooting everything you see was rarely a good idea. This was really rewarding and it’s still considered as one of the most awesome PC game. the sequel, Invisible War (2004), was really disappointing because of many simplifications in the gameplay to fit to gamepad. However, the cyberpunk atmosphere and the story were still great. Let’s see if Human Revolution can match his elders.
Visuals: The Deus Ex franchise was never known for it’s breathtaking graphics and I have to admit that you can easily find better visuals. the engine is limited and many characters have angular faces. In addition, you often have lipsync issues, it can be very disturbing due to the high frequency of the dialogs. Nevertheless, the cyberpunk atmosphere is really immersive, with so many cool designs. the places you visit have each their own graphic identity and you will never confuse Detroit streets with Hengsha market, or top secret Megacorp lab with military facility harbor. Besides, the light and fog effect are really cool, and the world is covered by twinkeling neons and giant ad screens like in Blade Runner.
Hengsha market … I advise you to holster your weapon
Story: The story is one of the greatest success of Human Revolution. I don’t want to spoil, but the main plot includes a lot of the greatest cyberpunk themes like conspiracies and transhumanism. Each character has it’s own opinion and you can either make them change their mind or make enemies of them, through dialogs depending on which attitude you choose. Every single one of your actions will affect the reactions of the characters. Each key moment of the plot is shown through CG cutscenes, maybe less immersive but often much more spectacular… Besides the main story, you can learn a lot about the plot and the universe while reading emails, newspapers and security reports. In addition, you can follow many colorful side quests which make the world more consistant and the pleasure much longer… In the end, you can reach one of the 4 different endings.
Welcome to Deckard’s … I mean Jensen’s appartment…
Gameplay: A huge part of the success of Deus Ex was the gameplay and Human Revolution has learned its lessons. Each situation can be approached by several ways depending on what augmentations Jensen has developped, your inventory, and your own preferences. For example, if you have to go through a locked door, you can either hack the electronic lock if your hacking augmentation is powerful enough, or sneak through air duct to find your way to your objective, or, if you’re in a bad mood, you can blow up the door on the condition of having explosives… It’s the same for the gunfights. You can choose to fight straight, but you will die quickly eventually, or you can decide to take the enemies down silently one by one, or hack a security bot remote device and make it kill every foe savagely. By the way, in order to hack terminals, you have to win a mini strategy game where you must take security nodes before the firewalls detects you. It requires both reflection and speed, and hacking the top security terminals is really rewarding. In conclution, Deus Ex gameplay is really rich and it’s a real pleasure to control Jensen all around the world and try new strategies as you grow stronger through augmentations and weapon upgrades.
The hacking mini game screen … You will soon dream about it at night
Conclusion: I have to admit I was both enthusiast and scared at the idea of a new Deus Ex. We could have feared that a cross platform project would have a poor gameplay, but Eidos Montreal has listened to it’s fan community to bring you a total masterpiece. Of course, everything is not perfect, but Human Revolution has kept the strength of the first game : rewarding gameplay, well written plot, excellent global design … This game is definitely worth playing. And for those who played the other games, Eidos has taken care of the fan service, so you’ll find a lot of easter eggs …
“Hasta la vista … baby”
UPDATE: It looks like Stormtrooper has intel that Eidos Montreal had been in contact with our little community for ideas about the latest DX. I’m going to grep and forage through the forums to find the links/threads…
Was it worth the effort? Zecalvin believes it to be so. It goes to show that not all corporations are evil, and they can make stuff people would want to buy. All they have to do is listen to their customers.
io9’s Charlie Jane Anders is looking for the most cyberpunk places in the USA. Think you know of a place that qualifies?
Cyberpunk is no longer the future. We’re living in an age in which many of the visions of creators like Bruce Sterling, William Gibson, Pat Cadigan and Ridley Scott are invading our world today. (Opening paragraph from io9 article)
But you already knew that. Right?
We’ve been following the technologies and events that show how we are rapidly advancing to a cyberpunk world, even if some of it is by accident. Hacker wars, cybernetics, the Internet, megacorps, … these are now part of everyday life. And io9 is looking for places in America that show the country hasn’t devolved into an ultra-conservative tea-fag-party run by brainless rape magnets. There are people who do read Gibson and Sterling, opting to use Ayn Rand for kindling for their oil-barrel fires. While other cities of the world have already made such the conversion, and inspired the cyberpunk vision, io9 wants America to join the party, whether it’s a private hackspace or a major metropolitan sprawl fulfilling the cyberpunk prophecy.
From theory to practice. The sudden interest in finding cyberpunk places can be traced to an essay, Cyberpunk Cities: Science Fiction Meets Urban Theory by Carl Abott that was published in 2007. You can download the essay from here via the Pasta & Vinegar blog. P&V found the essay interesting, but this particular paragraph caught his attention:
Because the cyberpunk subgenre draws on ideas that ascribe power to technological change and global capitalism as all-encompassing forces, it offers relatively little direct guidance for planners. However, it does suggest the need for flexibility, for seeing plans as reflexive processes intended as frameworks for responding to inherent instability. It also suggests the value of creating opportunities for spontaneous and informal social institutions by loosening building codes, preserving low-rent commercial spaces, and making information infrastructures as ubiquitous and cheap as possible.
In other words, planning should be less like “planning” and more like “adapting”. Are there any places that are like that in America?
Vegas, baby! You want to focus on the underground? Las Vegas would be the place to start. Beneath the glitz and glamor of the strip…
… lies a very different reality of Vegas.
More pics like these can be found on the Place Hacking urban exploration blog, where they find not only a moment of clarity regarding their activities, but an underground economy that could very well be the definition of cyberpunkness:
Given that our crew has now started squatting space in London, are we really all that different? And if we are bridging the gap between urban explorers and hobos, tramps and bums, following Anderson, what are we? Does that dreaded monstrosity the prohobo – the hobo that chooses to be homeless yet retains the ability to photograph, blog and scam the internet for money as well as picking pockets and robbing Liddle for fixtures to BBQ vegetables looted from the skip actually exist? Is this Donna Haraway’s cyborg, neither nature nor culture, human nor computer, neither employed nor homeless? Are we becoming as liminal as the spaces we increasingly reside in? Are we finally getting close to the meld? I hope so, cause I can’t wait to pop.
OmniCorp Detroit. (Official OCD website/blog) The former Motor City has been one of the U.S.A.’s most cyberpunk cities for some time now.
Just a couple of minor details to make it complete.
OCD is best described as a group of artisans and tinkerers who are into, as they put it, making, breaking, reshaping and hacking all sorts of things! They hold events like Maker Faires and Open Hack Nights. Sound like the kind of group that could be helpful in an urban wasteland.
Microsoft’s House of the Future. Touch-top tables? Refrigerators that can order food when you run low? A hot tub with an underwater music system?
A full-size model already exists, complete with digital devices for walls and tabletops in the kitchen and living room. It’s the kind of pad that only corporate-type cyberpunks - like Bill Gates - can afford. Dare to dream.
Other points of interest. Some other spots include a hackerspace in New York City, a latino art gallery in San Francisco, and a converted Los Angeles warehouse.
Think you know of a place that qualifies? Shoot an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, and if it does, it just might appear in io9’s next issue of The Most Cyberpunk Places in the U.S.A.
After our outage last week, there’s been concern about what what to do and where to go should it happen again.
Now there’s a solution: The Cyberpunk Directory. Just push the button to get there… or to activate your computer’s auto-destruct system.
Special THX goes to Seph, Tonehog, and all the sites now listed in the directory… including us. Further details can be found on the directory site as well as Seph’s forum post about the project.
But wait! There’s more! There’s also a community forum in case ours is not available. The link is in our header along with our local forum link. Better go register and say hi.
Now to RTFM…
The first three rules for all computer users:
1) Backup your data.
2) BACKUP your data.
3) BACKUP YOUR DATA!
Before I wasn’t certain if my access level would allow me to backup CPR, but after RTFM (read: poking through the menus) I just needed to activate a plug-in, and now I can backup the site… or at least the database “tables” that power WordPress. Whether or not that would also include the front-page posts and the pics uploaded for them… I’ll find out this weekend when I try the first backup.
In the mean time, feel free to cruise the neighborhood, and watch out for drive-bys!
Today (18-Aug-2011), IBM researchers unveiled a new generation of experimental computer chips designed to emulate the brain’s abilities for perception, action and cognition. The technology could yield many orders of magnitude less power consumption and space than used in today’s computers.
This is your brain on a chip. Last Thursday IBM announced the development of a new computer chip that works like a human brain (press release here). Not content with pwning Jeopardy!, Big Blue is now looking to take artificial intelligence to the next level… or at least another step closer to human.
The chips are part of the DARPA funded project SyNAPSE (Systems of Neuromorphic Adaptive Plastic Scalable Electronics) and their production is completion of phase one.
Dharmendra Modha, principal investigator: “This is the seed for a new generation of computers, using a combination of supercomputing, neuroscience, and nanotechnology,” Modha said in an interview with VentureBeat. ”The computers we have today are more like calculators. We want to make something like the brain. It is a sharp departure from the past.”
Think about this. The idea behind the SyNAPSE project is to create computers with human-like abilities; Computer chips that accurately mimics the operations of the brain. IBM’s chips can do things like navigate and identify objects and patterns, but the ultimate goal would be to analyze more complex systems and learn. Yes, learn. All while using less power than current technologies can.
But this is a DARPA project. DARPA, as in the Mad Scientist division of America’s DoD. The same people who made the Internet possible. Most likely, this is being developed for some sort of military analysis and strategy generation system, like a high-stakes chess machine.
But isn’t that how Skynet started?
Alex Trebek: “The answer: The human race… Watson”
Watson: “What is screwed?”
Coming off his successful interview of Bruce Sterling, Gunhead has scored another interview. This time, an artist known as Max Capacity gets to play Q & A. Some of Max’s work is shown below as Gunhead felt they were relevant to the conversation.
If you want to see all of Max’s work, head on over to his Flickr page. Just make certain you have plenty of time to check his 4000+ pieces of work.
GH - First off, since we’re a pretty technical bunch at CPR, how exactly do you make this art? I’m seeing circuit-bent game cartridges, distorted VHS tapes, and pixel art. How did you end up settling on these media?
MC - I use lots of different techniques. For me, the most interesting part is the crossover from analog to digital and vice versa. Lots of my pixels start out on a VHS tape, which I capture digitally and then convert using mostly homebrew and open source software for converting things to old computer formats, like C64 and ZX Spectrum. Then I usually do some post processing frame by frame and recompile as a video or animated GIF. Then I might send that back out into an analog TV and record it to a VHS and then recapture that VHS tape and make a new AVI or GIF. the process is endless, and I get all sorts of interesting by-products along the way. the serial degradation is extremely enjoyable to me
the reason I choose these materials is mostly a budget issue, in the case of the VHS and video game stuff. Everyone is throwing away their old VCRs, tapes, Nintendos, and I can’t stand to see those things thrown out. Lately I’ve been lucky enough to have nice people sending me their old video tapes rather than toss them.
For pixels, I suppose it’s another lo-fi medium but in a digital environment. One fascination of mine is the (my) inability to rip the pixel data from the cartridges. I need to learn how to dump the rom chips from cartridges. But in the meantime, I use lots of emulators to source my pixels.
GH - Now this would all be fascinating enough, but you tend to choose some pretty interesting base material, like the 1995 Johnny Mnemonic film, and the subject of your “Degrading Sex” set. How do you choose which films to process, and what do you look for in a movie when it’s being considered for your work?
(caption: 0341 from Degrading Sex)
MC - I honestly don’t choose much at all. I process any tape I can get my hands on. I recently did Sleepless in Seattle. I might not end up taking anything out of a particular movie, but I almost always at least capture it. Sometimes I might skip Star Wars or something everyone’s seen a million times. My favorite TV and movies, I almost hoard and try to go through them when I’m really motivated. I’m always worried I’ll miss something great.
GH - You seem to have a dualism of styles, where one is the more popular, colorful retro style involving a lot of pixel art; and the other is the darker, more futuristic look mostly concerning tape manipulation. Is this a conscious difference, or just one that’s kind of developed organically?
MP - I think it was something of a divergence. I started out doing more pixel work, but that lead to circuit bending NES cartridges and consoles. Then I wanted to capture what I had done in a cleaner more efficient way than taking pictures of the TV. Someone suggested an analog capture card. So that lead to the VHS work. I guess it’s the aesthetic. Both in pixels and tapes, I’m drawn to the degradation and entropy. A glitched NES cartridge, or an old damaged tape. I end up mixing the styles and processes to some extent, but there is still that divide.
I guess maybe it’s the duality in me, or the duality of humans. I’m anxiously awaiting the downward spiral of human civilization, but at the same time I’m secretly optimistic about the future.
GH – Aren’t we all! Well, all of us here. So being a prolific artist and having contact with stylish, influential young people with great drugs, would you say that Cyberpunk Culture is exerting greater influence these days? If so, could you speculate on the reason for this?
MP - Oh definitely. When I was younger, the entire cyberpunk genre was like a vision of the near-future that I was really hoping would come to pass. And I feel like it’s all happening now. I mean, I’m pretty much doing the same thing I did when i was 15. Drinking and smoking in my room on the computer. But now everyone else is too. I’m a big William Gibson fan, and it seems to me like reality gets closer to his version of the world all the time. I think maybe it’s the stale economies of the developed world, and the growing economies of the developing world, and Moore’s law regarding technological advancement. I still don’t know how the internet became cool though.
GH – Lastly, we keep hearing about how popular culture has lost all originality and is instead settling for bad remakes and sequels. What, if anything, do you see as saving us from this terrible fate? Do you think we need to go around spiking producer’s Pellegrino with LSD, or will something show up on it’s own?
MP - That’s not a bad idea! I think that we’re probably doomed for now. But I figure there will be some kind of reactionary movement eventually. Like the way realism was a reaction to romanticism. It’s probably going to get way worse until it’s so bad it forces a change. One small positive sign I’ve noticed is that Netflix streaming has introduced a huge number of people to old science fiction and horror movies they might not have been aware of. I’m hoping that will increase the general appetite for genre movies (and books). Maybe people will stop going to see X-Men sequels because they’re not worth the price of going to a theater, and they could stay home and watch Mutant Hunt or Short Circuit. Then the money might talk the executives into taking some risks.
GH – I’ll definitely be looking forward to that day. Max, it’s been great talking with you, keep doing what you do and stick around on the forums if you have the time.
In HacX, you’ll get to do two things; Kick ass and chew gum. You did remember to bring gum… right?
Overview: Released over a year after Quake, HacX (pronounced “hacks”) was pretty much Doomed from the start… along with every other Doom-like game. Banjo Software spent $5K US for a license to market HacX as a Doom II TC, but it was rushed to market in the wake of the technically advanced Quake… and failed faster than you can say “nailgun.” There was supposed to be a 3D version called HacX 2, but rapid advances in gaming engines, and other forms of interference, kept that project on hold.
With retro-gaming popular these days the original HacX has since been released as freeware. Additionally, version 1.2 is available that no longer needs Doom II to run, just a supported source port like ZDoom. Plus, a version 2 is being worked on with improved graphics and better level design. Hopefully, the end result will be what HacX should have been when it was first released. While no Quake/Unreal/Halo/Whatever killer, HacX looks like it had the potential to hold its own against the more advanced shooters. At least, it could be on par with Marathon.
Whole cities lie in ruins. Entire countries laid waste. Over 5 billion people dead, used for food, or for genetic mutation experiments. Situation: Hopeless.
Get over it!! You’ve got work to do.
The Story of Danny Evanger, Written by Holt Satterfield
Okay. So you’re going along, minding your own business, which just happens to be hacking into other people’s databases, when your latest hack, some hi-tech company, catches you on-line and sends over some government jerk to arrest you. Mother said there’d be days like this. You broke a few national and international laws. So what’s the big deal?! Hacking is what hackers do! But seems like you hacked into the wrong database this time. Ultra-secret and all that. Genemp Corporation. Some biotech something or other. Database called itself GENIE. Something peculiar in that. Awfully sophisticated database. Especially if it caught you in the middle of hacking, and you’re the best, it’s eerily sophisticated. Like it can actually think, or something.
So they send you packing… to the federal pen. For the rest of your natural life. No computer, no gear, nothing. Total drag. Cement and bars, and the other guys inside aren’t exactly your average beefcakes. They catch a glance at your cyber-jockey derrière and get a wet gleam in their eye. So what you do for the next twelve months is hit the weight room–hard and fast! You pump iron like your life depended on it–and it does. You learn to sleep with one eye open. Punching the heavy bag becomes your breakfast; tae-kwon-do your lunch, and for dinner… well, you gotta eat sometime. And practice? Plenty. ‘Cause these boys got a gleam in their eyes that won’t go away. But how you’ve changed! Over once scarecrow arms, muscles wrap tight and heavy, and you’ve got a fu-kick that makes the boys call you “Sir”. Before you were just an average pencil-necked geek, now you could grace the front of Muscle and Guns Magazine. And just in time, too.
Because one day you return to your cell to find a tight-lipped, little man in a black suit with a bad haircut. Won’t give his name, but says he’s a Government Agent with the Subcommittee. Which subcommittee? The Subcommittee. The guy’s a regular riot; just one clown shy of a circus. But you listen, ’cause heck, you’ve got all the time in the world.
And so he tells a tale…. of world-wide communication blackouts, computer network shutdowns at governmental and military installations, international stock market crashes, and what might seem unbelievable…. armies of cannibal zombies roaming the globe, laying waste to everything in their path! Nothing fancy, just your everyday global chaos. The President has declared martial law, but they’ve lost contact with parts of the armed forces, and some of these rogue military units are assaulting urban centers. The country is being decimated!
And you thought you had it rough! So, why tell you? Because you’re the best Hacker in the business. And they think they know who’s behind this weirdness–a consortium of powerful, international hi-tech conglomerates, but they can’t get close enough to be certain. So far every government agent they’ve sent in has yet to return. They need you to infiltrate these corporate databases and find out what’s going on.
This looks like a clue.
What’s more, they want to surgically install a military-grade Genemp Microtel into your frontal cerebral lobe. A what, where? A new, experimental cyber device that allows you to cyberleap from one terminal to another using cyberspace as if it were a taxicab.
So what’s in it for you? You get to keep the Microtel and have lunch with the President. You laugh, ’cause you’ve heard better offers from the guys with the gleam in their eyes. Oh, he adds, there’s $20 million in gold. Suddenly you feel patriotic. Ah, why not?
There’s only one hitch to getting the gold, the Agent says. What? You gotta stay alive.
Pick your poison. Currently, there are three versions of HacX currently available online. Version 1.1, the original retail version, can be found most any-warez (pun intended) and requires Doom II, at least the WAD file, to work. Version 1.2 is a complete IWAD, meaning the only thing required to play is an appropriate port of Doom II. A version 2 RC 55 is available from the HacX developer’s forums, but I should warn you that it is still a work in progress.
A quick comparison of how the downtown part of Digi-Ota looks (v1.2) to a possible v2.0 vision.
Unfinished Business How much of a work-in-progress is v2.0? Map 06 (”Digi-Ota”) doesn’t have an exit yet, or the exit is inaccessible in the map’s current form. Be prepared to cheat, unless you can hack the map from v1.2.
Also, several maps don’t exist in the RC version (actually, they use a rather small, quick-and-dirty default map). Currently, they’re working on those maps.
Hopefully, they’ll be done faster than Duke Nukem Forever. But after some 13 years of development so far, I wouldn’t hold my breath just yet.
Conclusion. Killed before its time, HacX is one of those game mods that should have been bigger and better than what we got. Even with its few fans devoting themselves to elevating HacX to what it should be, it’s taking longer than Duke Nukem Forever did in development hell.
Despite its development problems, HacX is definitely one Doom 2 mod for cyberpunk fans, or anyone bored with the whole Doom/Heretic/Hexen demon-slaying fare.
People as Data. Imagine having your body wired 24/7/365 to collect data on what you eat, how you move, when you go to the bathroom,… when (or IF) you get laid…, and that data is used to tweak your body and mind through organic or cybernetic means. Orwell revisited? Google’s or Apple’s business plan?
Financial Times’ April Dembosky reports on a growing group of bio-hackers, or “self-quantifiers,” who are doing just that, and they even have a website where other would-be bio-hackers can find more info (Quantified Self) and meat - er, meet - each other. They held a conference in late May in California to explore the possibilities and discuss the effects of self-quantification not only on each other, but on society as a whole (link for more info).
“We like to hack hardware and software, why not hack our bodies?” says Tim Chang.
Past is prolog. The idea of self-quantification isn’t new, as a paragraph on Benjamin Franklin shows how he kept track of 13 virtues that he would check off when violated. This would help him keep his moral bearing straight. Modern self-quantifiers see themselves doing something similar, only with modern implantable equipment like pacemakers and insulin pumps. And the medical community is also taking notice. Modern medicine has always had a “magic bullet” or “one size fits all” mentality for treating ailments. With the data gathered by willing self-quantifying patients, doctors can better tailor treatments for those cases where the standard issue treatments can cause adverse side effects… like killing the patient. That could save lots on insurance and lawsuits.
Already these self-quantifiers are comparing themselves to a group of 1970s era computer geeks: Early-adopters and hobbyists with visions of everyone in every household quantifying themselves to tweak their meat for optimum performance. One possible system described is the Sprout:
The self-tracking equivalent of an early model, 30lb, four-part desktop computer is Fujitsu Laboratories’ Sprout, as worn by software engineer Alex Gilman at the Quantified Self Conference: a maze of sensors and wires send data from his ear, chest and arm to the pocket-sized computer clipped to his belt – the Sprout. The Sprout synchronizes the physical data from the body sensors and from the apps on his iPod Touch where he records his moods and drowsiness levels. What is now a mess of raw, useless data can be calculated and translated into a neat graph that will eventually be used to measure stress and fatigue, manage weight loss, even predict illness.
The potential of the Sprout is intriguing, but mass appeal will only come when such devices are consolidated into small, wireless, all-in-one products that make data collection completely passive, says Chang. Most will require little to no human effort and some will even be “game-ified”, he says, made as fun and addictive as Angry Birds.
“… and right here is where I farted.”
Speaking of games, I can already see athletes at ALL levels wanting to use self-quantification and bio-hacking. They probably already do, with a poke of ster… I mean “vitamins.” But using this system is not considered cheating… yet.
The Bigger Question: Do you REALLY want to be tracked and quantified? Self-quantification may sound pretty cool, until you need to find a place to put all your biometrics. Not only do you need large enough space, but that space needs to be secure from unauthorized access:
The implications for privacy are dramatic. Advocates and politicians were in an uproar when they realised the kind of access that Apple and Google have to geographic data derived from phones. Imagining three years worth of heart rate data or depression symptoms travelling through mobile devices – potentially being offered for sale to drug or insurance companies, exploited by advertisers or hacked by cyber criminals – puts watchdog groups on alert.
“What consumers need to realise is there’s a huge, huge demand for information about their activities, and the protections for the information about their activities are far, far, far less than what they think,” says Lee Tien, a privacy attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “A lot of these cloud services fall outside the federal and state privacy regimes.”
To put it another way, do you want to hear from Lulzsec that you are genetically predisposed to being gay or homicidal?
Most, if not all, self-quantifiers do it of their own free will, in the name of self-improvement. To many outsiders, they can’t get over the feeling of orwellianism mixed with a bit of narcissism. Even former self-quantifiers admit to taking the quest to perfection to the extreme:
“People thought I was narcissistic. What they didn’t see was the self-punishment, the fear, the hatred behind the tracking,” writes Alexandra Carmichael, one of the founders of CureTogether.com, in a poem about why she stopped tracking herself. “I had stopped trusting myself. Letting the numbers drown out my intuition, my instincts.”
Despite the perils, the self-quantifiers are willing to continue the tracking and tweaking in hopes of making humans a better species. Will they become Friedrich Nietzsche’s ubermensch, or just a bunch of skin-eating mutants roaming the streets? Nobody has come up with an app for that, and that leads to the most important question:
Haven’t we been here before? With the war in Iraq winding down and the Afghanistan front becoming less relevant since Osama Bin’s termination, the Pentagon… and their corporate masters… are now looking for new battlegrounds to make a profit. They have plenty of choices: Korea, Iran, Canada, cyberspace,…
The Pentagon, which was penetrated by a computer virus in 2008, wants to take cyberwarfare to a new level. In essence, they want to use conventional military force to counteract cyberattacks:
“If you shut down our power grid, maybe we will put a missile down one of your smokestacks,” said a military official.
Equivalency test. How to scale a response to a cyberattack is but one problem the Pentagon has to deal with.
They want to send a nuclear-tipped cruise missile up this guy’s ass because he posted a comment about how Sarah Palin deserves to be raped in public and in front of her family.
They already have an idea as to how to make a scale work:
If a cyber attack produces the death, damage, destruction or high-level disruption that a traditional military attack would cause, then it would be a candidate for a “use of force” consideration, which could merit retaliation.
“A cyber attack is governed by basically the same rules as any other kind of attack if the effects of it are essentially the same,” Gen. Dunlap said Monday. The U.S. would need to show that the cyber weapon used had an effect that was the equivalent of a conventional attack.
For instance, if computer sabotage shut down as much commerce as would a naval blockade, it could be considered an act of war that justifies retaliation, Mr. Lewis said. Gauges would include “death, damage, destruction or a high level of disruption” he said.
Got ‘em in our sights… we think. Finding where to aim those bombs and missiles will be the biggest challenge to the Pentagon. Most cyberattacks on US systems “originate” in countries like Russia and China. That could mean that someone from those nations, with possible government backing, actually did the hack. Or it could just be zombie systems from those nations, with the actual master somewhere else.
Overview: Billed as a “Tribute to the cyberpunk genre,” Perspective gives us a rather unique… perspective… of a cyberpunked future, where VR is the drug of choice to escape the harsh reality of… well, reality. Mehmet Can Koçak shows us one person’s escape to a VR fantasy by not just following him with a camera, but with the person AS the camera as we look through the hobo’s eyes. It’s perfectly understandable if you suddenly feel like hunting shamblers, cyberdemons, or zombies with roast-turkey headgear…
After all, it’s called “Perspective” for a reason.
We “watch” as the hobo purchases a cartridge from a shady dealer then heads into a wreck of a building where he jacks into his Commodore 64T…
64 Terabytes of RAM… on a Commodore 64… it can happen.
… and dives into a fantasy encounter with a redhead girl. Until an apparent glitch causes more than a program crash.
There once was a girl named Alice… At a running length of only ten minutes, Perspective doesn’t have much time to present in-depth themes. The one main theme is the mirror; How we see ourselves in reality and fantasy, and how the two can suddenly become fused together to cause no end of confusion. Or as Friedrich Nietzsche put it, when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you.
Conclusion: Short-n-sweet. ‘Bout all I can really say. Koçak’s piece shows some potential for something more like, let’s say, a whole series of first-person movies; Short, interwoven films showing life in this future, and the viewer gets to choose what character’s eyes they would like to experience it. Might be a challenge to make, but it would a radical new way to “watch” movies.