23C3 Body Hacking
August 23, 2008 12:47 AM   Subscribe

What happens when we leave behind cosmetics and societal norms to modify our bodies and minds to enhance who we are and what we can do? In this talk, journalist Quinn Norton explores how technology and flesh are coming together.
posted by Hypocrites (10 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Horrible public speaker, but interesting in spite of *giggle* her shortcomings.
posted by Hypocrites at 12:49 AM on August 23, 2008

Lordy she was irritating. Good subject but her reading seemed pretty superficial, I didn't get far though - the level of incredulity (Furries are freaks!! IUDs?!! OMG!!) was so very grating I wasn't interested in what else she had to say.

Was there any mention of Orlan?
posted by freya_lamb at 1:37 AM on August 23, 2008

I agree, she seemed rather hypocritical in that sense. I wish there had been a better messenger, that being said it was very thought-provoking regardless. It's tough to get through, but worth it if you have the time and patience. Also, no mention of Orlan.
posted by Hypocrites at 2:12 AM on August 23, 2008

I thought the magnetic implant thing was pretty damn amazing, but, I've found live circuits the hard way before.

(Hint: when you buy a house assume the previous owners were DIYers who made up for their ignorance with enthusiasm. Just saying.)
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 3:34 AM on August 23, 2008

A very interesting overview in several regards, but also somewhat bewildering in how much seems to be missing from the topics she's looking at. No real mention of controlling robotics via implants, which is a classic sci fi idea that's becoming a reality rather quickly. She also doesn't seem to address the question of what replacement parts could theoretically be better than what you are born with. Steroids are a non-invasive enhancement which she spends a fair deal of time on, but what about something drastic like replacing your legs below the knees with prosthetics to gain an advantage as a runner? That's just an example since I don't know enough about that beyond a quick spin at wikipedia to say how plausible that is, but I almost feel like she isn't thinking big enough in some regards. More realistically: Hip replacements for the healthy if we ever get to the point that there's an advantage to it? We have vision upgrades, will hearing be next?

Here's the part that irked me the most. She completely dismisses sex changes by placing them under the heading of "sexual superpowers" when in reality they align nicely with what she's talking about. She addresses cutting as a coping mechanism but overlooks the functional aspects of a sex change? Looking at the total package involved there for a second, hormones will change brain chemistry and body physiology quite drastically. This is also an area where some people take a very hacker style DIY attitude and circumvent the medical establishment. Steroids and hormones go hand in hand when it comes to the effects they have on the body, but she is interested in athletic steroids while totally ignoring the effects that can be created by adjusting hormone levels. As an aside, consider the advantages it would afford people if they could easily optimize their thyroid levels. Then there is the catch twenty two that while gender identity disorder has been pathologized and the treatment aims to bring patients in line with societal norms, the mere act of seeking treatment is in and of itself a very transgressive action. It ends up resting in a sort of bio-ethical gray area for many people. And finally, obtaining sex reassignment surgery itself often requires medical tourism since Thailand has established itself as a leader in that market in terms of price and technique. It also brings up the specter of black market medicine, which does prey on the transgendered occasionally since they're more likely to be desperate and, at least in the US, shut out from receiving financial assistance by their insurance companies. I guess I'm kind of baffled, does she not know about these connections, doesn't care to talk about them, or has it simply not registered that this is another variation on the theme of taking control of ones own body?

Going beyond the scope of her interests, what about things that can be worn to give a person expanded senses but can't necessarily be implanted yet? As the saying goes, you are what you wear. It was posted here a while ago and I can't find it, but there was an article that talked about a device that physically pulsed at different rates as it detected the strength of wireless signals in the area. That's just one example out of many. Some of them are so trivial you wouldn't want an implant anyway, but they're still interesting from a technical perspective. What about powered exoskeletons, have we made any progress in that in the past year? I don't mean to be overly critical. I suppose I have more than a passing interest in these types of topics, but the information is all very disjointed and there isn't anyone I know of who is pulling the different pieces together convincingly and drawing connection between them in a useful fashion. More than that I guess, I really just want a safe finger magnet already.
posted by CheshireCat at 3:40 AM on August 23, 2008 [3 favorites]

I can't stand watching youtube links of people talking. Isn't text-to-speech good enough yet that we can transcribe this stuff auto-matically?
posted by ®@ at 4:49 AM on August 23, 2008

comedy option: I can't stand watching youtube links of oral presentations that involve talking.
posted by ®@ at 4:50 AM on August 23, 2008

Thirding the 'transcription would be great.' Sometimes a presenter is interesting, knowledgeable and full of new ideas but has an annoying verbal tic or some other distraction.
posted by fixedgear at 5:27 AM on August 23, 2008

A short summary of the talk (which opens with a comment about Norton's habit of laughing at her own jokes, which is exactly what stopped me from watching all the way to the end).
posted by jack_mo at 6:25 AM on August 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

If you really want to interest me in recreational body modification, you need to offer pockets, even when I am naked.

Cause that would be super cool.
posted by paisley henosis at 2:23 AM on August 24, 2008

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