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"Basically, we are going to argue Professor Mann was discriminated against because he is a cyborg,"
March 24, 2002 10:13 AM   Subscribe

"Basically, we are going to argue Professor Mann was discriminated against because he is a cyborg," As was discussed a few days ago, Steve Mann is the first (?) cyborg. People at the airport did not seem to be impressed. After a stripsearch, he had to go to a hospital. So now we have the first 'cyborg rights' lawsuit.
posted by swordfishtrombones (13 comments total)

 
That was a remarkably poor article:
"So upset was the Prof, who henceforth we shall call 'The Toronto Terminator' that he checked himself into hospital on return to his home town."
That's just a lousy sentence all around. I think the lawsuit is interesting, though. I wasn't under the impression he needed the stuff for medical reasons.
Professor Mann's homepage is at http://wearcam.org/
posted by jacobw at 10:37 AM on March 24, 2002


From the description of him, he sounds much more like a gargoyle than a cyborg. But perhaps that's an artificial Snow Crash-specific distinction.

It seems that he and his gear were manhandled pretty carelessly, and if there's a case there, that would be it. The fact that he wears his camera all the time doesn't really seem to enter into it, does it?
posted by majick at 10:44 AM on March 24, 2002


I saw Steve Mann give a talk (virtually) at SXSW a couple weeks back, and he talked about this. There were a few things that happened.

- they damaged some of his one-off gear. He can file a claim against that damage, for sure.

- he was bleeding after they pulled electrodes from his body, and I think he kind of overreacted but it was only because the officials were so callous about his person.

- at one point in the ordeal, he was left in an Air Canada official's office for 30 minutes, unsupervised. He said there were plenty of sharp objects, things he could take from that room to initiate a real hijack, especially since he was past security. After final questioning, they let him on the plane finally, and if he took anything from that room he could have brought it on the plane. He made a point how this didn't improve security for anyone involved, and I think he wants to make a point about it.
posted by mathowie at 11:12 AM on March 24, 2002


I read in another article that Steve was left unable to properly walk after having his vision and equilibrium greatly reduced by the removal of his prosthetics, causing him to walk into a something (a wall, I think) and fall down, injuring himself (a gash in his head.).

What they did seems roughly analogous to taking a wheelchair away from a crippled person and leaving them to locomote about the station on whatever limbs they've got. If he doesn't have a case, I can't imagine who has.
posted by dong_resin at 11:37 AM on March 24, 2002


Unless he's gone through some body modifaction recently, I don't understand how he can claim any bodily injuries from this event. In the movie Cyberman, a documentary about him that was shown at SXSW a few weeks ago, the guy is swimming in some lake. He mentioned about how he recently learned how to swim, and how much he enjoyed it. I don't think lake water and electrodes mix, but then I'm not a scientist. At least at the time of the filming of the movie, Manning was completely capable of walking, swimming, what-have-you without his video/computer gear.

Also in the movie, he was very willing to cause a stink when New York City Police would not let him approach a politician's vehicle while wearing all his video gear, and he also made a scene when he was openly videotaping in a Walmart, which has a company policy that doesn't allow customers to film inside the store without company authorization, but that very clearly videotapes all patrons, without their permission, for security purposes. He got thrown out of the store.

It seems to me that for all his social ineptness, Manning is a master at reality hacking and social chaos. As Matt said, this is probably just another example of it.
posted by crunchland at 11:42 AM on March 24, 2002


Yes, he was very disoriented and dizzy when they took away his equipment. You have to remember that he's been wearing his special glasses for over 20 years now. There's another article that goes in to more detail about that here (NYT). At first I thought he was being whiny but then I started to realize how much his equipment has become a part of his lifeā€”to us it might look odd, but to him it's how he's come to perceive te world.
posted by gutenberg at 11:47 AM on March 24, 2002


er, Mann, not Manning.
posted by crunchland at 12:38 PM on March 24, 2002


It seems to me that for all his social ineptness, Manning is a master at reality hacking and social chaos. As Matt said, this is probably just another example of it.

And if his social hacking skills can get the asinine "security" measures changed, more power to him.
posted by five fresh fish at 1:56 PM on March 24, 2002


Mann is not a master at reality hacking and social chaos. Mann is a wiener. I know, I went to school with him.

He was the guy who would wait until a lecture was over, and then ask a question that revealed with the utmost clarity that he hadn't a clue what the hell was going on. I wasn't sure if he had what it took to graduate. But he did. And then he built his career which, as far as I can tell, is based on the idea that he wants to bring his computer with him everwhere he goes. Given the fact that computers have gradually become smaller and capable of drawing less power, and the fact that battery technology is constantly improving, I can't see this desire or its realization as visionary or revolutionary.

I don't think that taking his playthings away is anywhere near analogous to taking a wheelchair from a handicapped person. It might be more along the lines of stealing a metafilter addict's computer.
posted by websavvy at 2:52 PM on March 24, 2002


Another MIT cyborg (Thad Starner) came around and gave a talk around here. The coolest thing he did (that I saw) was send his eye display out to a projector so the audience could see what he was seeing. Which was more-or-less notes on the talk. Unfortunately I spent the entire time after that in consternation. A guy who wants to redefine, revolutionize (etc,etc) the human-computer interface looks at emacs all day long? I use emacs, but I don't really want to see it all the time. Maybe (unlikely), I'm being too hard on him. After all, the "giving a talk" mode/application appeared to mostly be "show me some text" for which perhaps emacs is the pinacle of human work.

On the other hand, this latest incident with Mann sounds freaky. A perfectly average, healthy person can't walk onto a plane without his computer aids? Does he want us to skip the part where the man-machines spread out and bring great prosperity and go straight to the part where we become their slaves?
posted by Wood at 3:58 PM on March 24, 2002


Mann is a known rabble-rouser for "cyborg rights" or whatever we're calling it. First, the he is not a cyborg, there are no electrodes in his body. They're attached with a sticky tac-gel. Second, there are numerous witnesses (old students, faculty, etc) and footage of him taking off his gear and having no problems getting about without his little LCD screen.

I think this is something that Mann wants. What better way to promote his agenda than walking into Walmarts and starting shouting matches with managers and walking into airport security and getting into trouble. I know he had all his papers and a doctor's note, but I think its obvious that the paranoid atmosphere at airport security would contribute to more of Mann's zealous mission and create a situation he can clearly exploit.

There might be a case here about how he was treated, but we've only heard one side of the story and from a very notorious fellow at that. I'll wait for the trial before calling this guy a victim and some great pioneer of cyber-rights.
posted by skallas at 6:15 PM on March 24, 2002


skallas, I agree. If I was truly encumbered by gear which was obviously not routine, I would have checked with the airline first to setup some procedure for getting myself on a flight.
The fast that this arrogant jerk expects the entire planet to adjust immediately to his personal 'condition' without making any attempt to deal with obvious and predictable questions shows him to be a rabble-rouser as you said, rather than a truly concerned problem solver.
posted by HTuttle at 8:35 PM on March 24, 2002


But he *did* check first with the airline. That's how he got himself out to Newfoundland in the first place. It was on the return trip, with the same airline that took him from Toronto to St. Johns, that he got hassled.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:43 AM on March 25, 2002


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