Automated Life After Death

GRUMPY CUSTOMER: Adam Robertson, 24, has been left $900 out of pocket after a company he bought a tablet computer from shut down following the death of the owner. ANDREW GORRIE/Fairfax NZ

It strikes me that this is a very cyborg/robot kind of story. Our automated lives continue after death. Who has the power to turn off your systems? What impact will your proxies and extensions have on the lives of other people. There are a growing number of online executor businesses like legacy locker (tech crunch article about). The focus is largely on social sites, photos and emails, as described in the special “Tools for Managing Your Online Life after Death” . This doesn’t take into account the trend towards independent single operator online businesses or even small startups. How do you shut turn the shopping cart off? What other cloud based services don’t die?

Hundreds of Kiwis have been left out of pocket because an import company continued trading after the only man at its reins died.

Tech Brands Pacific’s sole shareholder and director, Brian Isaksson, died on November 4, leaving no-one in charge of the business.

The company continued to sell technology products such as iPhones and iPads on sites like People were buying through the shopping cart function on the website until a week ago.

via Tech Brands Pacific | Hundreds lose money after… |

We are entering a new space

I am fascinated by the changes in our situated awareness made possible by the merges in gaming and personal technology. Chris Chesher discusses the impact of gaming on sat nav systems in the journal Convergence and how we are entering a new space as we share our control systems with our game environments. I’d like to go further and suggest that our self awareness is shifting as we incorporate visual displays onto mirrored surfaces, ranging from the rapidly becoming pervasive rear view mirror/backup monitor/sat nav, to these newer technologies in R&D.

There is a qualitative shift from the ‘shopping’ style magic mirrors, which show you with different outfits, watches etc. Shopping mirrors function as a ‘paper doll’, you are selecting outfits for yourself much as you would in real life. However, the use of mirrors as channels for other information changes the space that you (in a mirror) are in. The more you switch modes the more you are changed. All the way to the complete carnival mirror changes below!

Via Pop Sci | An Augmented Reality Mirror That Alters Your Appearance

excerpt… Using a webcam hooked up to custom PC software, a pair of researchers at Queen Mary, University of London, have created an augmented reality “mirror” that morphs your facial features at will.

Unlike existing applications that overlay virtual features onto real-world video, this program doesn’t add any synthetic elements to the video feed. It creates a 3D model of the user’s face, tracks their features, and then subtly warps the video. The user can then see how they would look with a smaller nose, wider mouth, or Powerpuff Girl eyes.

Via Mashable | via Augmented Mirror of the Future Reflects You and Your World.

excerpt… The New York Times‘s R&D Lab has developed a digitally enhanced mirror that allows you to interact with personalized data during your morning routine.

Unfortunately, the mirror won’t be making its way into your local Restoration Hardware any time soon. Rather, it’s a proof of concept designed to explore “how the relationship between information and the self is evolving and how media content from the New York Times and others might play a part,” The Lab’s team explained on a page outlining the project.

Process Theory for Roboticists

An excerpt from Andrew Murphie’s Adventures in Jutland. (It’s how cultural theory looks at robotics, as a natural media platform in human communication.)

(Alfred North for those not living in the 1930s) Whitehead presents a little remarked upon but comprehensive ‘media theory’ that resituates media in the world, not “bifurcated” from a large slice of it. This theory is arguably more complete, if similar to, and yet predating, McLuhan’s. Indeed McLuhan read Whitehead extensively (see Douglas Coupland, Marshall McLuhan: You Know Nothing of My Work! 45, 59). In Whitehead’s theory of media there is no “bifurcation” between different types of signal (technical or natural, for example). Thus Whitehead’s philosophy becomes one in which the complexity of signal at the level of the world is paramount. Signals become “vectors of transmission” for the (“prehension” of) feeling which is central to his account of process. The world is a medium (Whitehead, Process and Reality, 286)—or a multiplicity of worlds (284) are mediums—for such vectors. For “the philosophy of organism the primary relationship of physical occasions is extensive connection,” (288) not simple extension of previously existing “things” (such as “us”).

Whitehead also preempts the very basis of both McLuhan’s thought–“the medium is the message.” He writes, “These extensive relations do not make determinate what is transmitted; but they do determine conditions to which all transmission must conform” (ibid.–see also Steven Shaviro, Without Criteria: Kant, Whitehead, Deleuze, and Aesthetics, 52). In a similar but again perhaps more comprehensive manner than McLuhan, Whitehead further understands the “the human body” as a kind of signal transducer or modulator, “…as a complex ‘amplifier’–to use the language of the technology of electromagnetism” (119). Even more than this, “the predominant basis of perception is perception of the various bodily organs, as passing on their experiences by channels of transmission and of enhancement” (119).

There is more to say on this on another occasion. Here I will just point once again to the undoing of the bifurcation of nature within Whitehead’s philosophy with regard to signal.

Douglas Coupland, Marshall McLuhan: You Know Nothing of My Work! [New York: Atlas, 2010]

Steven Shaviro, Without Criteria: Kant, Whitehead, Deleuze, and Aesthetics [Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2009]

Alfred North Whitehead, Process and Reality [New York: The Free Press, 1978]

via Whitehead’s Media Theory—a beginning | Adventures in Jutland.

Andrew Murphie’s take on Whitehead and McLuhan’s media theory is very succinct. McLuhan has become popular again but close examination of his work reveals sources including Whitehead and Innis, both of whom have more depth to their theories. Whitehead’s process philosophy seems increasingly relevant in understanding a world where the ‘original’ separations between animate and inanimate, human and non-human are shifting and “the relation is the smallest unit of being and of analysis”(Haraway 2008:156).
btw. I don’t know why Andrew Murphie’s blog is called Adventures in Jutland. More reading is called for.

GRB2011 – Global Robotics Brain 2011

GRB2011 – Global Robotics Brain 2011.

This is a great idea by Wolfgang Heller who has mindmapped the current state of robotics with a database with more than 36,000 robotics companies, robotics labs, robotics projects, robotics researchers, and robotics publications, all categorized, tagged, and linked.

It seems fitting that the study of robotics should utilize our cyborg selves and our extended intelligence as much as possible. I suggested something along these lines two years ago when I started my studies and did actually trial a Ushahidi then CrowdMap based collection. It became obvious fairly quickly that unless you were able to mobilize the crowd, as Ushahidi, CrowdMap and also WikiCFP (Wiki Call For Papers is another example that I really like), then you were going to be working full time on the project.

Keeping up to date in this area and aware of all the interesting new (and old) developments across so many disciplines is a challenge that is recognised as impoverishing the sphere. In the last two years alone I have noticed what seems to be an exponential number of resources, sites and publications about robotics, on top of robotics being one of the fastest growing global industries. It’s not hobby shop anymore.

Thanks to IEEE Spectrum and robots podcast for the rest of the article.

First Robot Manifesto of Rights

I call upon us to stop unthinking anthropomorphism of robots. Robots are still coming into being. Our casual humanising of robotics is colonising, reinforcing dominant social structures of gender, race and class. We see only what looks like us. We blind ourselves to potential. We should rather refer to all robots as ‘ze’, ‘zey’ and ‘zem’, unless there is a specific reason to imitate a gendered human response. Robot names should be more fluid, not fix identity as faux humans. Robots and non human organisms should have zer/their right to existence formally recognized as more than just the sum of our interaction with zem/them. Robots are uniquely situated, as designed organisms or mechanisms, to free us from the chains of humanity, not replicate them.

This is the seed of the first robot manifesto of rights. There are many people who have expressed these ideas in more nuanced ways, from Isaac Asimov to Joseph Weizenbaum, who created ELIZA in the 1960s and wrote Computer Power and Human Reason, to Donna Haraway’s work on covering the range of simians, cyborgs, women, engineered and companion animals. More recently, roboethics is the topic of many conferences, books and committees. It’s time to discuss our co-existence.

(image from wikimedia commons of Karin Schaefer’s art  and does not imply any endorsement of my opinion)

SEAM 2010: Agency & Action – Seymour Centre – The University of Sydney

Chunky Moves in GLOW

SEAM 2010: Agency & Action – Seymour Centre – The University of Sydney.

This year’s event will focus on interactive digital technologies in performance underpinned by groundbreaking artistic and academic research from Australia and around the world.

The two-day program will feature public talks, workshops, performances, and interactive installations, and will provide an opportunity for people to experience the cutting edge technology currently being explored in the performing arts.

Program highlights include:

  • Keynote presentations by Frédéric Bevilacqua (IRCAM, Paris), head of the performing arts technology research team at IRCAM, and Christian Ziegler (Germany) a media artist from the ZKM centre; two of the pre-eminent institutions in the world for research in performance and digital arts.
  • Gideon Obarzanek, the renowned choreographer and Artistic Director of Melbourne based contemporary dance company Chunky Move discussing the art/science collaborations in their works GLOW and Mortal Engine.
  • The ‘Articulated Head’, Australia’s first thinking robot that is able to recognise faces, identify voices and talk to people, as well as mimic human movement and expression.
  • Quartet the dancing robot, an Australian Council and Welcome Trust funded project which uses motion tracking technology to present an intimate duet between a 6 foot tall articulated robot and dancer.

People of Massachusetts to be Having Sex With Robots by 2012


David Levy is stirring the media up. I love it. Either Levy or MSNBC or gizmodo appear to have coined the phrase ‘robosexual’ as well. 10/10

MSNBC is running a report on the impending likelihood of legalized marital relations with robots. They have word from a leading researcher at the University of Maastricht in the Netherlands, Dr. Levy, who seems to think peeps will be getting freaky with their robots by 2012, with marriage following by 2050. One thing is for sure; Gizmodo shall be supporting the revolution all the way! Dr. Levy said:

“Once you have a story like ‘I had sex with a robot, and it was great!’ appear someplace like Cosmo magazine, I’d expect many people to jump on the bandwagon.”

We are thinking you could probably drop the phrase “with a robot,” as well as the blurb after the exclamation mark, and still have us convinced. Dr. Levy goes on to suggest that Massachusetts will be the first state to contain a robot-human sexing population. He justifies his theory by stating:

“Massachusetts is more liberal than most other jurisdictions in the United States and has been at the forefront of same-sex marriage.”

Though we aren’t too sure the reasoning is sound, we have already seen Roomba owners gaining an emotional attachment to their machines. Whether they will be putting their winkles in the Roomba’s dinkle and allowing it to have a tinkle, we very much doubt. However, if sexbots get this real (NSFW), well, perhaps the ethics of robosexuals is a serious debate, after all. If that was a bit too technical for you, don’t hit up the link for a more detailed overview of the human-robot emotional landscape and its likely evolution. [MSNBC image via What the Heck]

via People of Massachusetts to be Having Sex With Robots by 2012.