Digitalization of culture
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Hi! My name is Nishant and I’m here to scare you. No not really, but Hi my name is Nishant and I have to begin by telling you that I’m not a human being. And by that time we end a stock I’m going to convince you that nor are you, ja? Ehm we going to begin by saying that I am a cyborg. Is that a word that you are familiar with? Cyborg? Cyborgs are cybernetic organisms. Part human part machine and completely science-fiction. Cyborgs are very popular in science-fiction attitudes, Hollywood, Fantasy and so on but there are not many people in this room for example who would be able to get up and say: Hi, I am a cyborg. This is largely because and this are the institutes of cyborgs that you are familiar with right? Arnold Schwarzenegger from Terminator, The Matrix, Lara Croft Tomb Raider, what have you. Ehm the reason why none of you can’t easily think of yourself as a cyborg, is because we have used to make a separation between the human and the technological, right? Human beings create technologies and once the technologies have been created we use them for specific codes and ambitions. And as masters of the technological who are completely in control then we revise reiterate and reinvent technologies so that they improve the quality of our life.
How is it possible for a being to say: “I am not X?” Who is the I that speaks the body we see here? Or rather, what, if not a human that is able to claim to be this but not that?
#futurehuman - On the future of cybernetic organisms and their human factor
"I am a cybernetic organism, living tissue over metal endoskeleton", the Terminator is part machine, part human: the Terminator is a cyborg. In the movie it came from the future, in order to act in the present. In the present it is an act, that shall describe an image of the future.
The image of the cyborg dissolves the usual conception of the human. It blurs the vorders between, the realms of what is human and what is technical.
But have we ever been purely human?
The writer Frank Swain has investigated this question in the BBC series "Beyond Human". In his article "Cyborgs the truth about human augmentation, he comes to realize that humans are actually using technology in order to augment their action capacities since the first human beings were strolling over the earth. The only difference from then til today is, that "the tools we are using, are simply getting smaller und less cumbersome to use."
But when transhumanism means "to constantly and fundamentally transform the human condition", then that´s the thing humans are actually doing all the time.
Be it our language,our glasses or the toaster: human technology was made to expand our possibilites of action even towards these realms wherein we are usually impaired.
For example glasses are restoring limited eyesight, or our diving equipment is making it possible for us to stay underwater for hours.
Following the argument, that human augmentation through technology is a practice humans are applying since the dawn of their time, this would mean that becoming superhuman beings is just a matter of time: in fact its just a question of in how far our technologies have eveolved and what capacities of action they are allwoing us to do.
But is this true? Will we one day just become godlike, superhuman creatures, as this article states: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/hay-festival/11627386/Humans-will-become-God-like-cyborgs-within-200-years.html
In order to answer this question, Swain has interviewed the researcher Gabriel Licina, who simply stated: "Transhumanism often suffers as a form of whish fulfilment: a lot of people will tell you they`d like to fly, but the very same people can rarely be bothered to go running.", by which he simply meant that human enhancement is still boun dto biological barriers: Augmentation does not mean infinite gain of abilities, but in order to gain some abilities others will have to regress. Licina names as an example his research subjects, which were able to gain better nightvision but suffered a loss of blue/green perception.
So once again augmentation may not be the calling of the gods, but just another step in human technology development. Until humanity hasn´t found a switch which turns of the limit of biological adaptation, superhumanity will have to wait in its starting boxes.
Til then the Terminator, not in its capacity, but in its typology, may point towards a direction of cyborgtechnology, which seems to be more in our grasp: a metal endoskeleton would overcome the biological barriers, since it has none in itself. Actually the U.S. Military was researching on overbridging the organic-nonorganic barriers: http://www.businessinsider.com/the-military-just-put-out-a-research-request-for-what-amounts-to-cybernetic-organisms-2012-10?IR=T
So maybe the next generation of SIRI may not just be talking to you, but also capable of pointing its finger towards the direction of your requested object.
The term cyborg was first used
Freud states that it’s hard for humans to be happy and satisfied. There are existing three reasons for this misery: firstly the superiority of the nature, secondly the infirmity of the human body and the inadequacy of institutions which settle the relationships of humans in families, state and society. Referring to the first two problems, it’s clear that we have to accept them. We will never be able to have total control of the nature and our body won’t be immortal, but valued by its adaption and performance. Those facts leads us to do something, we might not be able to “solve” every obstacles, but we learn to improve things like medicine and technology. Due to Freud humans become prosthesis gods, because they perfect and improve their motor and sensory organs and remove the barriers of their function. Humans attributed qualities to their gods, that seems to be unreachable, but by bringing up science and technology, humans are getting closer to this ideal of deity. Therefore humans become mind of prosthesis gods, who put on their artificial organs that do not grow together with the human body. Freud suggest that the future will bring new progress in science and technology, which will increase the deity of humans.
But within digital cultures we like to think of the human-technology relationship slightly differently. We want to say that the separation between the technological and the human is not really very clear. Yes, human beings do create technologies but once the technologies have been created they in turn affect the ways in which we think of ourselves. And from this perspective, I'm going to try and look at not particularly three mega trends but three different ways of thinking about being human, being social and being political. Yeah? So let's begin with a simple excercise. Let's build a list of all the technologies that you are sitting with right now. Like, take this moment to think about it. I'm sure if you make a mental checklist the more obvious ones will make themselves visible immediately. You probably have a cellphone in your pocket or in your bag. There is a portable computing device, mabye your iPad or your laptop, that's floating around somewhere in this room. You will realize that there is electricity and light and audio and video recording technologies which are making this conversation possible. And if you start thinking beyond the obvious you will realize, for example that the clothes you are wearing are also technologies. There is nothing natural about clothes.
But, within digital cultures we like to think of the human- technology relationship slightly different. We want to say that the separation between the technological and the human is not really very clear. Yes, human beings do create technologies, but once the technologies have been created, they in turn affect the ways in which we think of ourselves. And from this perspective I am going to try and look at not particularly three mega trends, but three ways of thinking about being human, being social and being political. Ja? Let´s begin with a simple exercise: Let´s build a list of all the different technologies that you are sitting with, right now. Like, take this moment to think about it. I am sure if you make a mental checklist, the more obvious ones will make themselves visible immediatly.
To be a cyborg isn’t just a matter of humanity and technology, it’s also a matter of gender. Cyborgs are by nature neither male nor female, but still both at the same time. They can’t be related clearly to a specific category or a specific way of life. These characteristics show that there is no gender-specific behaviour or at least creature. In the gender discourse cyborgs are likely taken as example to show that gender roles are constructed by society and it is no shame to act out attributes from the other gender.
The science-fiction novel “He, She and It” written by Marge Piercy is an example for this cyborg-gender discourse. Amongst others there are two cyborgs in the story. One of them is man-made and physical male, the other was a female human and has been transformed into a cyborg. The male Cyborg has been programmed by to woman and because of this has much female features like sensibility and patience, whereas the female cyborg behaves very manly. The lines between male and female become blurred.
The two quintessence’s of the text are that human learn to behave gender-specific and that the apparently gender not always determine behaviour and declare something about the lived and felt gender.
Are the people in the Matix cyborgs? Their lives are contingent upon the technological assemblages that feed them in the ‘real’ world. However, the Matrix-people live within a narrative that keeps them distanced from the ‘real’ world. Does it not makes us human that we do not live in the world as it is itself, but that instead we live inside narratives? So following this argument we are humans precisely because we live with and through technology.
What is this mythical genius slumbering within the human that allows her to ‘create’ intentionally and purposefully something like technology? Is not our ‘making’ of the author function a technology par excellence?
"There is nothing natural about clothes."
What is natural/nature? We are conisdered higher mammals so what is it that makes us human? Technology? But what about the ape that uses a stone to smash fruits, the bird which builds a nest out of sticks and leaves or the hermit crab that uses a shell as a house? It is very difficult to draw a clear line between the utilization of nature's gifts and human inventions.
So is the human, imbrued with the technological, set up against the natural? How does that which is not natural relate to that which is? What do we suggest when we say that something is created, produced, contracted or performed? Is it human agency that carries out these verbs?
But let´s try and think of what I am calling "invisible technologies", yah? Technologies that are so deep wihtin us, that we don´t realize that they are an essential part of us. Let me ask you this question: Without looking at your watch, right now, can you tell me what time it is? It´s possible, right? We don´t spent all our live looking at watches to constantly, to figure out hat time it is, but you generally have a sense of what time it is right now. Let´s say you are disoriented, but you´ll still be able to tell me whether it´s morning or afternoon or evening. If you partied really hard over the weekend and you still can´t answer that, you will at least be able to tell me what day of the week it is. What week, what month, what year, what decade, what century. The accuracy of the answer is not important, what´s important is, that it´s impossible for anybody in this room to think of themselves as people who live outside of time.
So what is human afterall ? If even time is a human-made technology? What are the characteristics of the human part of us being "cyborgs"?
The media of time
If we assume, that (physical) time is just another technology of human beings in order to bring structure in their time-bound perceptions, then time would be indeed an amazing device. #timeandmind
Interestingly enough, according to this video: http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/videos/the-invention-of-time/
our ancestors were actually discovering time by investigating the cycles of the universe, which stand in close interrelation with the cycles on earth. The best example would be the Sun-cylce itself, which is holding its pace steadily since billions of years, assuring a clockwork-like realiability for the metabolism of the organic beings on planet earth, which is again in itself clocked to outer natural cycles, the suns amongst others.
The huge invention of humans was probably then, to make these natural cycles visible by their adaptation to a proper device: at first in form of the sundial and in preceeding centuries then in form of the clock, both cycle-shaped devices as well.
If we assume the clock then as a device, that was invented due to the discovery of natural cycles, while likewise adapting these, how could a device then look like that is being invented in order to measure the underlying principles of time?
Time is always relative in accordance with the prerequisites of its physical environment; e.g. in areas of huge gravity, times passes by more slowly.
So what if we had a kind of clock, that would be able to display relativity as a measure?
Our modern society is based on the cycles of nature, that are being represented through the clock. But what is it that comes after the cycle? What is the reason for the cycle to evolve? And if we would invent a device that is displaying the underlying priciples of the natural cycles structuring live on planet earth, while at the same time structuring our lives according to these newly discovered principles, would we then live in a society that is able to perceive the natural cycles all at once in parallel manners?
What is it, that happens with our time as a technology, when we discover a new technology that is even better than time? #prothesisgod
There is not just the one definition of time. There are at least three different types of time: physical time, biological time and psychological time. Physical time is public time and the time clocks are measuring. It helps us to understand our shared experiences and gives us orientation - as a human technology. This is also the ‘time’ Nishant is talking about in this video. But there are two other meanings time can be described. Biological time is normally regulated by sunlight and darkness. It is indicated by an organism’s circadian rhythm also known as body clock. It normally provides us for getting tired when it gets dark and to waken up in the morning, when the sun comes up. Thirdly, psychological time is private time. It is also called phenomenological time and can be understand as our awareness of physical time. Psychological time is relative and can pass in different speed, at least we felt so. So when we enjoy an activity, for us time passes swiftly. But if we are waiting for something, for example waiting for the school to end, time slows dramatically down and lasts for ages.
More information about time you will find here: http://www.iep.utm.edu/time/
In times of imperialism effective coordination of data and resources was very important. Therefore it was useful to have a standardised time, because the different local times were chaotic. The idea of similar time was also a project in Germany, which was mainly pushed by the astronomer Wilhelm Julius Foerster (1832-1921). Until the atomic clock was invented, star observation was used for exact timekeeping. Foerster wanted to determine exact timekeeping which citizen should use for free. In 1787 the first “Normal-clock” was set-up in Berlin and therefore time was controlled by science. Due to Foerster public clocks were supposed to be exactly on time. Therefore the “main-clock” in the observatory was connected to the “normal-clock”. On the pendulum of the “main-clock” was an electric contact which connected the electric cable every two seconds to the “normal clock”, but the clocks were very sensitive referring to the weather and this is the reason why the system didn’t worked for long time. Later the clockwork mechanism of the “normal-clocks” were replaced by an electromagnet, so that the clocks were on time. In this case time was a technology people were working hard on to bring more structure and order in society and business-life. It shows that time is made by humans.
source: Johannes Graf: Uhren im Gleichtakt, 2013
First of all the term DNA stands for desoxyribonucleic which contains every important information for the structure of our body and is found in every nucleus. The DNA double helix consist of several elements: a sort of sugar, rests of phosphate and the four basic parts: Adenine, guanine, cytosine and guanine. Each two basic parts can build a connection to the main hanks. Humans receive the DNA-information equally from both parents. The DNA hank can be taken apart to specific genotypes, which contain specific genetic information. Every human has 30.000 to 40.000 genes, which are existing in every nucleus, but not every gene is active.
In general human DNA is special and also is every genome unless in the case of identical twins. But there are similarities between human DNA and DNA of other life-forms. It is known that our DNA is to 99% similar to the DNA of chimpanzees. Nevertheless, humans share 50% of their DNA with bananas. This similarity exists because the process of metabolism is similar by several organisms.
Technology not just allows transforming human into cyborgs, it also gives the chance to create clones. Especially the creation of “designer babies” is a controversial topic in society. Adam Nash is the first world known ‘designer baby’. Using a ‘pre-implantation process’, scientists genetically selected his embryo, so that he would have the right cells to save his sister’s life.
Several methods for genetic selection are already possible or will soon be possible. Parents may then have the opportunity to select their children’s eye-colour, sex and other traits. Would this still be human? Where does humanity starts, where does it end? And are then clones and designer babies also cyborgs because genetic selection is a human technology?
More facts about designer babies and the ethic issue about it will find in this article: http://www.livescience.com/44087-designer-babies-ethics.html
So you tought the practice of sharing content, would be a practice that really became trend in the 21st century with the rise of social network platforms?
Nice guess, but actually the first one to share content ever, was nature - once again billions of years ahead - and the huge difference on the content that you are sharing with your friends, when using facbook, and the content nature is sharing with your friends, always, is, that the digital content is being displayed on your computer screen, while natures content is being displayed as your body.
True story: the one content- thing nature likes sharing most, is genetical information. And it´s getting even better: Did you know, that humans share 50% percent of their DNA with bananas #halfmanhalffruit, and around 98% percent with chimpansees?
Or that, as stated in the video on your left, the human body is actually of 97% percent of bacterial RNA?
Actually the human body shares so much in it´s essence, that its pretty hard to determine which part of data is yours and which part belongs to another species.
Imagine nature is a child with lots of bricks and an extraordinary feeling for composition and harmonies - then, being human could just mean to be the one nice toy that was constituted during kindergarden play-time, between morningbreak and mid-day sleep, from all the handy- looking stuff that was just laying around. (This kind of stuff, that at other times may be used for focused nibbling or for the purpose of throwing at kindergarden- mates.)
Then it actually makes no sense at all, to ask whom your various kinds of genome information is corresponding to, since its all actually the property of the kindergarden.
Long story short: What actually makes us human are these 2% of DNA we don´t share with the chimpansees. These 2% percent sound like an incedibly small number, but actually the human genome is constituted of 3,234.83 Mega- base pairs. 1 Mega- Base pair equals 1.000.000 base pairs. So 3,234.83 Mega- base pairs are actually a incredibly large number and 2% of a incredibly large number is still a pretty large number.
And it´s not even a static number: all these Genes can be extracted in various kinds and in various combinations. So what makes us human are actually [(2% times an incredibly large number), squared x] (whereby x is the number of possible combinations),
which equals in the end again an incredibly large number.
So what makes us actually human, and explains the rather larger difference between human occurence and that of chimpansees, is the possibility of multiple combinations within these 2% of the genome, that are described as solely human.
And again nature is being revealed as a master of sharing: since its not only the DNA that is being shared, but as soon as you may could have thought, that this DNA is restricted to one specific function of extraction, again nature comes into play, showing you that even specialication of function works best when exchange of content within the specialized realm is possible; as it is the case when 2% of human genome can cause (2%)^x possibilities of expression.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
In the age of Facebook and Twitter, the definition of who is a friend and who you love has changed quite dramatically. The emergence of the world wide web and the Internet are constantly connecting us with strangers which is a fantastic thing! Because we are learning about and learning to care about people who are very different from us. But more interestingly we are forming now relationships with technologies which are new. If you are like me than you understand this particular slight. Because let’s face it you probably go to sleep with the laptop on your side of the bed, you check your phone every 20 minutes to talk to somebody on the other part of the world and you know that when you lose your phone you feel like a part of your limb is missing right? And we are also learning to speak to technologies and care about them. We are constantly interacting with technology gadgets in internet platforms and we’re also learning how to document our lifes so that these technologies actually understand them. Is there anybody in this room who has never pulled out the phone and taken a selfie of themselves like that? Really there is one person there somebody teach him how to do it. Ehm haven’t we learned how to document our parties and gatherings and trips and everyday-life in strange ways so that people on Facebook can consume them? We are mastered now the art of writing in 140 characters so that our entire life philosophy fits in to a tweet. In short we not just talking through technologies we are also talking to technologies. But let’s think of the digital friend again. Just try and think about who you talk to most when you are online. Take three seconds. Think of the five people that you talk to most when you are online let’s say on Facebook, ja? And the minute you come up with that list I’m going to tell you that your answer is wrong. Because the thing that you talk to the most when you are on Facebook is Facebook. Look at how much it talks to you constantly. How are you feeling today? Your friend has updated a status message, somebody has apply to your comment, somebody has liked your comment, somebody has liked the fact that you liked a comment, somebody has liked that you liked a page, somebody has invited you to a game, somebody has invited you to join a course, the chapter is constant and it is endless. Weather anybody listens to you or not, you can be sure that when you make that one status update Facebook is always listening ja? That there is somewhere out there deep in some server an artificial intelligence life-form, an algorithm that is designed to listen only to you, to monitor everything that you do to gather your data and to create profiles of you that you never had idea of. This leads to new ideas of friendship. If friends are objects that we talk to the most than is Facebook your new best friend. And is Facebook the only collect you common best friend. In that case how do we think about the people and our relationships with them and who do we trust, can you make friends with people who are not on Facebook? How do we know who is who? Are all of our friends cyborgs? Part technology and part human beings? Where does the human end and where does the technological begin?
If you don't live in the technological world its kind of not living at all.
What does listening mean here? How is the human life form different from the algorithmic one? Does Facebook understand what we write to each other? The hard question at this point is if giving an answer is all there is to listening. And what constitutes an answer is also at stake. Let's suppose a robot speaks just as humans do. If it would insist on not being killed, would it be a human?
If Facebook creates a profile of you that you cannot even cope with or experience in its entirety, what does that mean for the information you offer or rather send and produce? How important is the information that escapes our minds and our friends' minds and is simply "stored" on some social media website's server. Is there any knowledge hidden within this gigantic confusing accumulation of information and can we find a way to extract and reflect on it?
This new shift in conceptualisation in being human and being social ehm also goes hand in hand with the ideas of being political. Through the advert prints, through the occupy movements, through what’s happening in Spain and in Italy, in Brazil, in India, in China, in South Africa and in Egypt and Syria. We already have seen how the emergence of the digital technologies have dramatically changed the ways in which we are thinking about governments and how we want to be rules by them. We have no longer to accept indignities or violations of our rights in silence. We are no longer even depending upon traditional structures like civil society organizations or citizen action groups or even political parties to shape our future.
Across the world, every day there are people who are your age, sometimes they are younger than you. Remember this year’s contental for the nobel prize is a sixteen year-old girl from Pakistan. There are people who are realizing, that the digital technologies are offering them new ways of expressing themselves. These are the tools that allow them to act and intervene tendency problems immediate environments. This army of digital natives has now overthrown governments, created new structures of equality, wage wars against censorships and exportation and have engaged in guerrilla warfare through global social movements like wiki leaks and anonymous when they use digital tactics to bring down material governments. And they do this politics in a different way. They are not just walking down the street anymore. They do it through fun and creativity, games and irreverence. In India for instance, a few years ago there was some right-wing political parties that went into a pub and started up beating up young women who were drinking beer and hanging up with their friends , because they thought that this ‘goes’ against Indian culture. As a response to these cd attacks on women there was the facebook-campaign called the pink-underwear-campaign, yeah? And this campaign invited hundreds, up on thousands of people to buy pink underwear and send it to the houses of the leaders of the political party, as a sign of protest. And they did. There were mountains of pink underwear being bought across the nation and being sent to the people who were supporting these kinds of activities forcing them to apologize and redraw support from fundamentalist who were waging this particular war, right?
The new technologies open up unimaginable possibilities of interconnectivity and knowledge production. By granting a widely-accessible platform to share information, the unification of the global society is massively enhanced. Still it encourages us to act as individuals in the collective, since it becomes easy to expresss our thoughts, emotions, opinions. A problem might be that through the worldwide connection an information overload can emerge, so we are obliged to filter the massive amount of information. But in fact it is the very contingency, the massive collection of more information than needed or intended to be captured, that is the only way to access all information and create knowledge. One tiny person is able to move mountains, help us shaping knowledge into wisdom and seeing the bigger picture.
And on this note I will end, because there is surely nothing more joyful than pink underwear. And I hope that it has helped you to think of the digital human and the digital in different ways. As we live through the digital term we are recognizing that these technologies are a part of us. We are all cyborgs, we live in cyborg societies, we love our technologies and we love each other through the technologies that surround us. And we are in the process of shaping our families, communities and nations through these new technologies. Understanding that digital as an identical part of who we are is the first step towards understanding and predicting the future worlds we are going to dream, build and inhaled. So welcome once again to Leuphana and I hope that in your time here you will help us identify research, understand and map the different technological and human relationships and how they are changing the world around us. And I hope that from today onwards you will always think of yourself as part human, part technological, part mortal, part superhero, part hardware, part software, part wetware and completely cyborgs, okay? Thank you!
"We love our technologies and we love each other through our technologies"
What kind of influence on our relationships and our feelings do these technologies have? In which way do these technologies manipulate us?