Readings 10: Technology and Body

28 07 2011

A Soft Spot for CircuitryParo, a personal robot designed to respond to specific human emotions, is gaining popularity as a companion for elderly people coping with dementia.  The same technology has been applied to helping dieters, drug addicts, etc. but I don’t think it will be as effective in these other areas.  I think it works for the elderly because they are more likely to have a void to be filled; sadly, many of the people who were close to them are probably now dead (friends, relatives, spouses, etc.)  In their case, they need a sense of companionship.  For dieters and addicts, I think they need to turn to themselves before resorting to others for help.  There is a very low success rate for making substantial lifestyle changes, so I genuinely believe that self-discipline is a much greater factor in making healthy life decisions than the support of others.  That’s not to say that the support of others isn’t important; it is, but the ‘turn-around’ starts at a personal level.  That being said, I think robots would probably do a better job of providing emotional support for a dieter/addict than a human.  The robot is programmed to give support and offer help unconditionally; a human may have ulterior motives.  For example, a fat person begins dieting and her fat friends initially support her efforts; to their surprise, she actually begins to successfully lose weight. The fat friends stop supporting her out of jealousy or hoping that she puts the weight back on so that things ‘return to normal.’  The same would hold true for drug addicts who are surrounded by enablers.

Is this Man Cheating on his Wife? – The quote from the disgruntled wife at the end of the article sums up a lot of what the article explained.  She explains, “This other life is so wonderful; it’s better than real life. Nobody gets fat, nobody gets gray. The person that’s left can’t compete with that.”  I think this mentality is centered in the desire to live the life we know we can’t.  Guys go to action movies because the idea of being James Bond is exciting, though impossible.  Gangsta rap appeals to suburban white kids because they know they can’t live that dangerous lifestyle; the music makes them feel like part of it though.  In Second Life, there are husbands who know they can’t cheat on their wives, so they do it in a separate digital world.  To them, they feel it is better to indulge in fantasy realm than to embrace real life.  They’re clinging to the idea that they can never grow old and die in Second Life, but in reality, they are slowly deteriorating.  I’m obviously talking about the people in the article who play upwards of 10 hrs./day; for most it’s just a recreational escape from day-to-day drudgery.

You Are Cyborg – This article made me think of Tiger Woods’ eye surgery.  He now has vision that is better than 20/20, something a human can’t be born with.  In the sports world, athletes are constantly under scrutiny for giving themselves unfair advantages (steroids, cheating, new supplements, new training methods, etc.) and this adds a whole new dimension to those debates.  Usually the human ‘cyborg’ is created out of a repaired handicap like artificial hips, cochlear implants, etc. but now it’s part of the most elite level of competitive athleticism.  Cosmetic surgeries are also becoming increasingly popular, so the idea of ‘human cyborgs’ is really more commonplace than it is farfetched.

Better Vision, With an Implanted Telescope – Healing the blind, something once considered ‘miraculous’ or impossible is now a legitimate medical surgery.  I mentioned Tiger Woods’ eye surgery in the previous article, but it’s astounding that beyond enhancing a functioning eye, doctors can repair some forms of blindness to a functional level.  Might this technology progress in the same direction for other types of blindness (or even deafness, touch sensitivity, etc.)?

Filmmaker plans to shoot with tiny camera in eye – It’s like on a whole new level!  The idea is obviously unconventional and groundbreaking, but I think the effect will be similar to any ‘point of view’ film style.  If the average person had access to this technology, it could change the validity of eye-witness evidence; in a sense, everyone would have a ‘photographic memory.’

Wearable computing/ 6th sense – Well that was probably the coolest gadget I’ve ever seen.  Everything was ingenious: the projection; dialing a phone on your palm; drawing a watch on your wrist; analyzing books/products through photo recognition; even getting information about people by looking at them.  I couldn’t believe the video was 2 years old; I haven’t seen anything like this.  It really adds a whole new definition to the ‘human cyborg’ we’ve been discussing.

Twitter Telepathy: Researchers Turn Thoughts Into Tweets – At first I thought that the computer was recognizing what letter the person was making eye contact with, but apparently it’s actually reading the thoughts of the person ‘typing.’  It’s astonishing; will this be the ‘norm’ in the future?  The image of a person on a Bluetooth seemingly talking to himself might disappear because everyone will be able to communicate via thought!  Will we stop speaking altogether out of convenience? Scary!

In Korea, A Boot Camp Cure for Web Obsession – Perhaps this would be effective treatment for the Second Life users spending 10+ hours/day online.  I think it’s a good idea in theory, but in practice, I think most of the people who attend the camp will probably go back to their old ways when they return home.  To want to give up an addiction is something a person has to decide for him/herself.  The Korean gaming addicts are entering the camps, thinking that a change of pace/environment will have a lasting effect.  It’s definitely a good start, but history would show that people fall back into the same habits when the pressure to change disappears.  Simultaneously, some boot camps are more effective than others depending on the style;  I think a treatment centered on the consequences of addictive behavior would be much more beneficial than a boot camp that only forces them into physical activity.  The boot camp in the article seemed to focus on teamwork, too, which I think is an excellent method to aid in the recovery of an addiction.

Digital Nation – Chapters 6, 7, and 8 covered the ugly side of how we use advanced technology.  I don’t want to be insensitive, but World of Warcraft addicts make me cringe.  I understand that for many, it is a hobby, but for the obsessed,  it is a dangerous lifestyle.  It encourages countless hours of inactivity; lack of movement/exercise leads to obesity which causes heart disease and is the leading cause of death in the United States.  So it may be fun to take on a new identity in a fantasy world, but it should not be prioritized over real life.  The last chapter on military use of technology made me miserable.  I hate war.  It’s hard for me to discuss it as it makes me doubt the progress of humanity.  It is obviously wrong to kill people by pressing a button, even if you think they’re the “bad guys.”  In any discussion of war, I like to refer to Carl Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot. The Reflections of Sagan quote towards the end of the wiki page is one of my all-time favorite pieces of literature.




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