Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Teledilonics, euthanasia coaster, cumspin....what scientists are up to?

This post is going to sligthly differ from my previous blog entries. It is not about art and artists per se but about some amazing scientific projects and proposals. It is not about artistic creativity but about products of scientific creativity. I am wondering why scientists do not usually have a reputation for being very creative. In my opinion scientific and technological inventors are creative thinkers. We rely heavily on creative science whether we realize it or not. Science is rapdily changing quality of our lives. If you think science does not matter much to you, think again. Science affects us all, every day of the year, from the moment we wake up, all day long, and through the night. Your digital alarm clock, the weather report, the asphalt you drive on, the bus you ride in, your decision to eat a baked potato instead of fries, your cell phone, the antibiotics that treat your sore throat, the clean water that comes from your faucet, and the light that you turn off at the end of the day have all been brought to you courtesy of science. The modern world would not be modern at all without the understandings and technology enabled by science.Just imagine what would happen if the Internet shut down today? Hmmm?? CHAOS. Total CHAOS.

With works by around fifty artists and pioneering proposals in research, exhibitions at the CCCB explore the possible future pathways for our species. From assisted reprodction techniques and incipient experiments in synthetic biology, to the possibility of perpetuating ourselves through the digital sphere, our lives are conditioned and defined by the implosion and convergence of new scientific and technological fields. 

All of these resources represent changes of major scope that raise ethical questions about the appropriation of life and the alteration of identity: Will virtual reality be the new reality? What will happen if a robot knows what we want before we do ourselves? How should we modify ourselves to adapt to an environment that we are drastically transorming? Longevity: is it a noble aspiration or a devastating threat to the planet? In the future, who will hold the ownership of genetic materials? CCCB exhibitions take an in-depth look at the scientific, ethical and legal boundaries of these possible transormations of the species. We should all have access to tools enabling us to influence the design of this new scenario. 

Emerging technologies are changing the ways we encounter others: family, friends, co-workers and even pets. Are the personalities we interact on our devices living, artificial or some combination of the two? While some humans yearn for a future of robotic lovers that can predict and respond to their every desire, other are simply hoping not to get run-over by a self-driving car or accidentally killed by unmanned aerial vehicle. The social technologies that are made can be creative, expressive and deepen our connection to others, but they can also replicate the inequality and violence present in our society. 

If you want to learn about new technologies and find out what the scientists are up to, book a trip to Barcelona and visit CCCB - Centre de Cultura Contemporania de Barcelona. CCCB is a great place that aims to explore the changing nature of human, technological and social relationships and what that says about our needs and desires as inherently social creatures. CCCB is one of the most eye-opening, awe-inspiring, mind-stimulating, thought-provoking and informative places I have ever been to.  CCCB will catapult you to the world of extraordinary ideas, unbelievable proposals, fantastic innovations and cool technologies. It will make you think about the future world, future society and future civilizations. It will fill your head with many futuristic questions e.g. Would you have an intimite relationship with a robot? Would you buy an orgams enhancing machine or furniture? If doctors and scientists enginneer  assisted suicide that could be a potently exciting and thrilling experience would you be willing to test it? And many, many more. I would like to share some of the most extraordinary proposals and inventions I came across at CCCB with you. Ready for a leap into the future? Fasten your seat belts, relax and off we go!


Cumspin is a proposal for an orgams enhancing funfair machine. Based on the principle of a centrifuge, it exposes the love riders to variable gravitational forces. Spinning in one of the eight spherical capsules, the lovers may control the centripetal force by changing the distance between the axis and the capsule. The farther from the axis, the greater the force that psuches them agains the wall. Coordinating movements with the forces could enable controlled blood flow, which could heighten sensation. Directing blood to the lower extremities would cause the sudden loss of oxygen in the brain accompanied by euphoria. The latter in tandem with orgasm creates a sensation beyond any definition of pleasure: Hypergravitational orgasm! I begin to envy future generations all luxuries and fantabulous equipment that we can only dream about!

Teledilonics for long-distance relationships

Our social lives are increasingly meditated by technology, is it inevitable that our sexual activities will be as well? Kiiroo is a company that hopes to bring teledildonics to the mainstream  - enabling tactile sexual relations from separate locations via computers. Their interactive sex toys connect to tother users to create "a new kind of internet experience". Kirroo claims: "You'll be able to intimately connect to anyone, anywhere." The risk of contracting STDs and pregnancy are eliminated, but notions of a network enabled 'free love' movement might be tempered by a new suite of risks. Fears of being hacked and privacy concerns might spoil the mood for increasingly intimate online activities. As these networked intimacy proliferates, how will social codes be re-defined?

Euthanasia Coaster, 2010

We like andrenaline-pumping experiences, don't we? We like balloon flights, roller coaster rides, cable car trips, sky diving...andrenaline-pumping experiences make us feel so energized and so full of life. Euthanasia Coaster might sound like an oxymoron now. John Allen, former president of the Philadelphia Toboggan Company, once said that "the ultimate roller coaster is built when you send out twenty-four people and they all come back dead. This could be done, you know". Euthanasia Coaster is a hypothetical euthanasia machine in the form of a roller coaster, engineered to humanely take the life of a human being. The coaster is designed to to subject its passengers to a series of intensive physical motions that include a range of experiences from euphoria to thrill, tunnel vision to loss of consciousness, and eventually death. Drawing on research in aerospace medicine, mechanical engineering, materials technology and of course, gravity, the fatal journey is made pleasing, elegant and meaningful.

 True Love, 2008

 A painting made by Harold Cohen’s computer program, AARON

If a computer composes a symphony, should the resulting musical piece be considered a work of art? And how does a computer-generated work affect our perception of human-made works? Can a computer write a book? Can an artificial author write a love story? Can a computer generated book become a bestseller? Would you read it? I think I would - out of sheer curiosity.
In 2008 headlines were made when Russian publishing house Astrel SPb claimed they were releasing a book written by a computer. The book is called True Love and is a variation of the classic novel Anna Karenina written in the style of Haruki Murakami. The publisher states that a group of developers and philologists collaborated to create a computer program that generated the manuscript. Once compiled, the text went through editorial corrections like any other novel. Can a computer accurately represent through language an expression of 'True Love'? The implications of cultural artifacts being authored by artificial inntelligence (AI) are wide ranging, and raise some fundamental questions about how we define ourselves as humans. 
Computers are incapable of empathy and sympathy. They may form sentences and write novels, but how much emotion are they capable of imbuing in the prose? The honest answer is none; no matter how much Artificial Intelligence we may load a hard drive with, it will always lack emotional intelligence. Wires and code are poor substitutions for heart and experience, for flesh and bone.


Misbehaving: media machines act out, 2002-2015 

What is expected of robots? How do they enact or defy expectation? Can a robot be polite or misbehave?
This project features two robotic, female performers who represent women and girls who disobey or resist expectations. Each intimate installation focuses on translating "unseen"  information (data from proximity sensors, sound data) into tangible activity such as erratic movement or "incorrect" behaviour. 
Unlike machines designed for perfect job performance, these machines declare their fallibility, impatience, approval, and disapproval through small gestural acts. In contrast to the precise technique and tireless efforts of a robot that plays chess or constructs automobiles, these robotic performers "act out" and misbehave. Fancy seeing a robot that is temperamental, emotional, irregular, throws tantrums and kicks out? Go to CCCB :-)

Eat the Sun

So-called "breatharianism" promotes the false belief that human beings are capable of living without eating any food and that necessary nutrients can be obtained from the sun. Synthetic biology offers the possibility of actively intervening in evolution. Could we, then, became breatharians in the future?
In the field of speculative fictiona, DiyBioBcn has founded Synthetic Biology Systems Inc (SBS) which is postulted as the first comapny to introduce into the market products capable of endowing human beings with photosynthetic capacities. Will SBS guarantee access to this technology for towns in areas with endemic hunger? Will photosynthesis allow the first ever explorers to go beyond the solar system?  

Foragers, 2009

The world is running out of food - we need to produce 70% more food in the next 40 years according to the UN. What if we could extract nutritional value from non-human foods using a combination of synthetic biology and new digestive devices inspired by digestive systems of other mammals, birds, fish and insects?
Foragers imagines a group of peoplte into their own hands and start buildying DIY devices. They yse synthetic biology to create "microbial stomach bacteria", along with electronic and mechanical devices, to maximise the nutritional value of the urban environment, making uo fir any shortcomings in the comercially available but increasingly limited diet, These people are going to be new urban foragers.   


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