016 Hyperspatial

Nir Arieli’s Tension evokes images of the hyperspatial self—ubiquity that binds us to the past and each other—exploitation of bodies etched in the now, recorded forever, somewhere, just out of reach. We are now everywhere and nowhere—trails blazed in code, crumbs from curiosity, seeding the web with our likeness. Regret betrayed, we seek reprieve from desire and the watchful eye that gazes from beyond the boundary of time.

Ryan

015 Genesis of possible worlds

At TEDxBrooklyn a few years back Karl Chu said “the future is literally a brave new world”, referring to how architecture, with the help of artificial intelligence and natural ecology, will transform the way we live.

The resurgence of why there is something rather than nothing and other existential inquiries suggests a growing preoccupation with space (i.e. the ‘outside’ vs. the ‘inside’ of a thing). The emergence of genetic architecture will influence urban projects across sectors as ‘space’ and other considerations collectively shape the dialogue.

Chu’s architectural practice, METAXY, inspires new design based on the genetic paradigm. Central to Chu’s claim is that architecture has always been governed by our changing views of everything around us, what he calls “the genesis of possible worlds”. To him we’re all just another part of an ever-expanding and evolving universe. The resulting ‘in-habitation’ (architecture that reflects individual lifestyles) implicates us in natural and artificial systems alike. What could this mean for the 21st century city?

As life becomes more connected, reflexive and adaptable, we’ll see more science principles at work in our urban structures and systems flows. How exactly this will play into city planning has yet to be seen, but I’m guessing the advent of the Internet of Things might also affect how we approach urban development post 2015 and beyond.

Watch Karl Chu’s TEDx Talk here.

014 Cyborg, posthuman, universe

I scribbled this in my Moleskine while driving through Appalachia last year. It fits well with something I’m currently writing, which will be my first post on Medium. The exquisite photograph of an artificial heart is by Jack Thompson.

jack-thompson

Cyborg.

Having both cybernetic (mechanical, electronic) and organic parts, the cybernetic organism (cyborg) is the technologically enhanced human. The cyborg is not necessarily bound to the consciousness or conscience of the individual organism (e.g. loss of autonomy within a mindplex). Any living thing can develop into a cyborg; likewise, non-living things may one day develop into cyborgs, creating a new framework for bridging natural and unnatural environments (e.g. mindware). ”The cyborg is resolutely committed to partiality, irony, intimacy, and perversity. It is oppositional, utopian, and completely without innocence” [Haraway].

Interplay between man and machine has subsumed the collective consciousness, shaping industries, identities and societies, as interfaces informed by ones and zeroes entice the flesh and organic process with the promise of immortality.

The most sensational example of this interplay is found in the biohacking space, where applied biology is combined with a hacker ethic, in this case employing the human body as the “problem” or “field of application”. DIY science is gaining popularity worldwide. It was apparent several years ago that the number of amateur scientists carrying out genetic experiments in DIY spaces was growing. In his primer for The Verge, Ben Popper introduces grinders, the emerging class of “homebrew biohackers obsessed with the idea of human enhancement who are looking for new ways to put machines into their bodies”.

Posthuman.

Congruously, the transhumanist movement embodies the mode of existence between human and posthuman, where body, conscience, and consciousness are shaped by ascendant forms of technology. Posthuman refers to a distinctive state of post-human existence as yet undefined — meaning the mind, body and state of the species will transcend the current paradigm so as to alienate any current understanding of what it is to be “human”. Because the concept remains open to speculation and criticism, it continues to spark controversy over its intended meaning and scope.

The essence of posthumanism is the implicit knowledge that humanity is “no better” than the creatures and processes of nature once subjugated and exploited. Where previous modes of self-awareness regarded the human condition (psychology, physiology, anatomy) as a set of “divine acts” insulated from logic and reason (and thereby exonerating us from the burdens of inquiry and accountability), science enables us to understand the human experience as merely a part of nature — demystifying role and responsibility, and situating us within a greater universal scheme of existence.

Where the plurality and skepticism of postmodernism deconstructed (and eventually supplanted) modernist concepts of unity and authority, posthumanism confesses the fallibility of human reasoning, further decentering our constructed identities by fusing radical contradictions together, thus making the unpredictable and disordered (both ordered and subversive) body an essential part of individualization. As such, the posthuman state is regarded by some as the logical end to cosmic enlightenment.

Universe.

Technological determinism, meanwhile, defines a new form of human supremacy (anthropocentrism), where artificial systems are made to mimic humans and the organisms we subjugate, including whole ecological systems. In this way the cybernetic organism represents a new collaborative paradigm where organic, non-organic and digital substrates coalesce into one central existence through which to rule time and place, and explore the universe.

image: Artificial Heart, Jack Thompson via PopSci; to cite this article: Delatorre, Christopher. “Human, cyborg, posthuman, universe.” Urbanmolecule, 11 Oct. 2013. Web. [access date]

013 Doc of the Dead

The slow yet relentless onslaught of the zombie horde—or in The Walking Dead, the “swarm”—represents a subtle yet deliberate encroachment of human bodies on the 21st century city; something that seems to mimic advancing technology. But to what extent, if any, is this all happening at the expense of individualism? And is lucid dreaming a way to alleviate the anxiety of losing oneself in the horde?

Read the entire post on Google+ here.

012 Two faces of data

Markets For Good published my latest blog on philanthropy and data ethics. The website is an effort by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the progressive financial firm Liquidnet to improve the system for generating, sharing and acting on data and information in the social sector.

It’s an honor to share a critical thought space with the minds of Beth Kanter, Buzz Schmidt (GuideStar, Nonprofit Quarterly), Daniel Ben Horin and Sheetal Singh (TechSoup Global), Darin McKeever (Gates Foundation), Jacob Harold (Hewlett Foundation), Jay Nath, Lucy Bernholz, Nick Deychakiwsky (Mott Foundation), Sunand Menon (Reuters) and others whose passion for data, technology and collaboration drives their work.

“The Two Faces Of Data” looks at the conflicting sides of data progress and the need for a code of ethics in the social sector and beyond. Anyone who can sympathize with Batman’s Harvey Dent is sure to get the headline. Please give it a read and feel free to weigh in here or at the Markets for Good site.

011 Selfies

Joan Rivers said it best when she joked about being shown pics of other people’s ugly kids. Selfies, well, they might be about narcissism but there’s a lot of loneliness out there, and studies show that oversharing via social networks makes lonely people feel more connected. The more selfies, the lonelier the person. Narcissism seems a typical sign of insecurity anyway. We all get a good selfie in now and then, but there’s a line between normative behavior and mental aberration. It’s just creepy to see a person, pretty or not, post so many selfies, day after day after day. God I hope they don’t post my selfies when they find my phone.

010 #susdev

First, a big thanks to my new followers! If you’re in the North I hope your summer was a blast. If you’re in the South, I’m jealous. (I love the seasons but hate saying goodbye to summer.) It makes me feel good to connect with people out there writing, creating, exploring—questioning their world, looking for answers in new ways.

I’m enrolled in The Age of Sustainable Development with Columbia University’s Jeffrey D. Sachs, which started last week. The course looks at the interdisciplinary field of sustainable development, which draws on developments in social, policy and physical sciences.

Sustainable development is the most urgent challenge facing humanity. The fundamental question is how the world economy can continue to develop in a way that is socially inclusive and environmentally sustainable. The course offers a broad overview of the key challenges and potential solutions to achieve sustainable development in the 21st century (syllabus).

The course excites me for two reasons. First, massive open online courses (MOOCs) are revolutionizing higher education, and I enjoy seeing this new mode of learning take shape. If you’re familiar with some of my work you’ll know that remote learning and collaboration are big interests of mine, so I’ll probably write more about MOOCs as I get deeper into this new experience.

(This aggregated MOOC list gives an idea of what’s on offer across the interwebs, including the course I’m taking.)

So far I’ve watched an hour’s worth of lecture, spread out over five manageable chunks, which follows the conventions of a textbook—chapters, subheadings, intermittent quizzes that promote engagement. The videos are nicely edited. If you’re into documentaries like I am, you’ll love this format. I downloaded the main texts and started the reading assignments, which are manageable. The first Google Hangout on 9/11 had thousands of participants from all over the world. During the live session, Sachs gave a course primer and took questions. My first question followed a blog I drafted last week on data and cities:

By 2050 2/3 of the global population will live in cities. Are ‘data ethics’ an important part of ensuring resilience + sustainability for our cities long term, + what is the global #susdev community doing right now to advance the ‘ethical data’ agenda?

The chat window is character limited, which encourages brevity (hence the + signs). Sachs didn’t get to my question this session but we’ll see about next time! This is Coursera’s second offering of The Age of Sustainable Development. It’s about 5-10 hours of work per week. Syllabus info here. Students are using the #susdev hashtag to connect on Twitter. My blog on data and cities will be out soon.

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