We're All Cyborgs Now


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My talk from Playful 11 in London where I argue we all might be cyborgs already. I talk about how we cognitively project ourselves to our surroundings and possessions, and why everything will be about software, designed behaviour and superpowers.

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We're All Cyborgs Now

  1. 1. We’re All Cyborgs Now. Playful ’11: The Shape of Things to Come sami@nordkapp.fi @saminAaaaand this would the cover slide. Carry on!
  2. 2. Hi.Hello, Playful. My name is Sami and it’s a honor to be here. Im a designer and — as probably most designers are—endlessly fascinated about the near future and the new things it brings upon us.Let’s have a show of hands- how many of you wears contact lenses? Had a laser surgery? Dont worry, Im not going to ask about artificial hipor limbs.- how many has an iPhone?
  3. 3. We’re all cyborgs now.So, I think were all cyborgs already. Consider it done, lets move on to other things like quantum levitation, hoverboards andso forth.What I am going to share with you today is a collection of insights, ideas and some open ended things about where we arenow and where we might be heading. Bit of layman cybernetics, interaction design, superpowers we have and all that.Theres three main themes Ill be going through:- Cybernetics and the future that didnt quite arrive- Designing behaviour- Our new found superpowers
  4. 4. What I’m not talking about here is the usual, shiny science fiction future.In 1985 Professor Donna Harawaypublished the essay Cyborg Manifesto where she argued that the the metaphysical and physical attachmentshumanity has with even the most basic technologies have already made us cyborgs.Some people do indeed claim simple mechanic medical implants such as pacemakers and even contact lensesmakes a cyborg. I am not sure if this is the case but recent developments in biomechanics is definitely somethingto watch.Transhumanists — a philosophical movement—predict that us human beings may eventually be able to transformourselves into beings with such greatly expanded abilities as to merit the label "posthuman".
  5. 5. paro http://www.parorobots.com/What I’m interested in is more like this: more abstracted behaviour and artificial beings that we find comfort,mirror ourself and humanize. The borderline between cybernetics and robotics is fairly fuzzy here so bare with me.
  6. 6. paro http://www.parorobots.com/Things that interest me are the questions like can we define minimum viable cybernetics here, for example. This isTengu at he’s lovely. More about him later on.
  7. 7. Let’s have a peek into the future that didn’t quite arrive.The idea of cybernetics, artificial intelligence and all that is not new. In the 1950s, British cybernetic researchersestimated that designing and building a real replica of the human brain is actually just a matter of time.Not quite so. Despite them actually managing to build a circuit board modelled after a turtle’s brain, 60 years later,it turns out artificial intelligence is super hard.Its very deceivingly simple if-this-then-that logic, but the systems are very complex. The OG big data.
  8. 8. Even though we though the future would be shiny and designed, it’s not and won’t probably ever be. Instead it willremain be wonderfully broken, seams bursting out the weirdness. When the seams get mixed with the projectionsof ourself, sometimes things get a bit odd.
  9. 9. Post-physical? spotify radio Jordi Parra, http://zenona.com/And its going to get more weird. The border b/w physical and digital is fading, really fast. Were in the eye of thestorm of convergence right now.Digital eats the analog in our lives. Direct interaction on touch screens o er more emotionally engagingexperiences. Our world is already full of pieces of digital prosthetics, in our possession and in the environment allaround us.
  10. 10. Like Chris before me wonderfully demonstrated, if youve ever watched a baby interact with an iPad, you havewatched a massive behavioral paradigm shift in action.My two year old is completely fixated to the iPad, and therefore all glowing rectangles are touch surfaces to him.To him, glossy magazines are just simply broken screens.
  11. 11. In the first world, we can now access almost anything from anywhere.This basically makes the iPhone the augmentation of your life—past, future and present. It is basically an extensionof yourself. Leaving it home means sudden isolation from the routines and the world you live in.Digital services transform into just things that are there 24/7. Some possibly come with a weird, physically printedartefact attached.
  12. 12. image credit http://tinyurl.com/6yo36sbUs humans are very good on finding humaniny elsewhere. We are hardwired to empatise with inanimate things —for example see faces everywhere.In a way, these objects around us are becoming cognitive avatars of ourselves. We project them personality,emotions ja behaviour. We make them our friends… or enemies.
  13. 13. The new world that talks back to us.What’s happening in larger numbers, the world around us talks back to us. What is important to understand here isthat1) these objects increasingly respond to our dialogue.2) all that behaviour will be—needs to be— fabricated, in other words — designed.
  14. 14. Lets look briefly in robotics. Obviously there are quite a bunch of robots around, doing the things robots do.Cleaning, carrying heavy weights, shooting things from long distance and playing ping pong, for example.So far, most of these robots are very simple, almost analogue. They have a one or a few simple tasks to take careof.Physically they seem to be either from somewhere between a broomstick, mechanical bull or stolen from a ChrisCunningham music video. In the deep utilitarian end of things this works just fine, but when they try to behave likehumans, things get a bit weird. Its basically the uncanny valley of behaviour right here.
  15. 15. ERICSSON SOCIAL WEB OF THINGS CONCEPT http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i5AuzQXBsG4 ERICSSON SOCIAL WEB OF THINGS CONCEPT http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i5AuzQXBsG4Making inanimate things behave like humans is actually pretty damn hard. There are some fairly provocativeexamples out there what might happen.Should every single thing at your house would have needs and feelings? Would you like to have an emo couch orthe more rational one. Is this a question you want to think about?
  16. 16. The Larger Context(s) graph Ville Tikka / wevolve.usAnd the thing is, as a designers, makers, we have to realize the cultures always adapt slower than technologyadvances.
  17. 17. Most often its the physical products that fail in this.Domestic applicances like microwaves, cars and so forth. Physical products that come out at the end ofmanufacturing like somewhere.
  18. 18. Not surprinsingly, the best examples of designed behaviour so far are the simple, almost analogue things thatallow us to freely project ourselves into them. Kids love Roombas. For many families it’s like an artificial dog thatdoes the cleaning instead of just making a mess.Electronic toys are wonderful at this— Tengu is lovely. This is our designer Kate meeting Tengu for the first time.
  19. 19. At the same time, consumer electronics are really becoming fairly ubiquitous in our lives and actually driving allkinds of development right now. For example, cars will be mostly of and about software. This is basically Mooreslaw in action: todays consumer electronics are massively more powerful than, say, enteprise systems ten yearsago. Massive change (on enterprise scale).The UIs, along with most of the system will become instances on a screen, a detached manifestation of whatactually goes on under the hood. Completely upgradeable. Already there are cars that recognize you by the keyand adjust accordingly. Think of this, wireless sensors, passive NFC and multiply it by ten.
  20. 20. And what worries me ever so slightly, the things we’ve designed tried so far haven’t really caught up just yet.It’s not that we havent tried. All of a sudden, websites and software want to be our friends and talk back to us.
  21. 21. To be fair, all is not lost. One of the most recent, best, and talked about examples of designed everyday behaviour isApples Siri. But even it’s magic is actually based on a killer speech recognition— the rest is just a lot of hard workin the form of manually typed answers to multiple keyword triggers.Machines just dont have the quick social intel to figure this out themselves yet.
  22. 22. The new cybernetic http://img.cheathappens.com/walls/incredibles_2_8.jpgSo I think were facing a new kind of cybernetic here.Its not bad at all. The new cybernetic gives us special powers, before unseen and -experienced. We can now take apeek behind the streetcorner or another side of the world with Google Street View. MS Photosynth and itssuccessor, Read Write World takes this even further. We can now dive into panoramas inside a 3D view. We cancontrol objects through the view from their own eyes.
  23. 23. SUWAPPU http://www.getsuwappu.com/Even Augmented reality can be thought as a form of very rudimentary cybernetic. It quite e ectively usestechnology and the internet to reveal things concealed from us before.
  24. 24. 1995‘s cyberpunk cult classic Strange Days introduced us to the idea of Superconducting Quantum InterferenceDevice, aka SQUID. It was based on a idea that you could record, play and share back someone elses experiencedirectly in and out of your cerebral cortex.Were getting there — digital cameras are becoming the primary tool to augment a past experience.
  25. 25. GOPRO http://gopro.comThe best example of this are the first person sports action cameras like GoPro. They basically are magic rabbitholes into someone else’s experience.
  26. 26. HELSINKI CITY PUBLIC TRANSPORT VISUALIZED http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qGllzWt0acUAs we all know, there are a few significant macro trends:The data we produce as the byproduct of our lives increases.The data our environment produces increases.Opportunities to use it increase, too.Ubiquitous computing makes our possessions aware of their surroundings, and the other way around. And thatsnot all, we can already replace a lot of physical things with just an iPhone app.
  27. 27. It is already possible to mechanically construct a bionic arm. At some stage, the manufactured—or modifed partsof our body will become aware. Of our gadgets, maybe of themselves. Evidently, things start to talk to each other.With this in mind, Singularity will probably creep up on us. It might even happen without anyone noticing. Like,damn, my left elbow is actually making decisions now but I like it.
  28. 28. © Paramount PicturesThe upside of this all is that we all become superhumans. We might already have.We can access all the information of the world, anywhere.Our tribes are cultural, not local. I would love to be at high school right now.
  29. 29. But as they say, with great power comes great responsibilityit will be ever so important to remember there is and will not be such thing as seamless. Instead, things will bebeautifully broken, with seams visbile everywhere.
  30. 30. “The future belongs to those who prepare for it today. ” —MALCOLM XBut I believe the payback is well awesome. It’s going to be all all right. In those seams lies opportunity to makegreat things. Were literally on the verge of a third industrial revolution, smart grids and real distributed computingand intelligence. This new new opens up all kinds of opportunities for serious and not so serious play. The future isas bright as we make it.I’d like to end with a quote by Malcom X that fits this quite well. The future belongs to those who prepare for ittoday.Game on. Let’s do it.
  31. 31. Thanks sami@nordkapp.fi @samin — www.nordkapp.fi — @NordkappThanks all!