[Fwd: IP: Cyborg Seeks Community]

Brian Atkins (brian@posthuman.com)
Sun, 16 May 1999 20:40:03 -0400

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Well Gina you made it onto the IP list :-)

"Knowing the path is not the same as walking the path."
          -Morpheus _The Matrix_
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Date: Sun, 16 May 1999 07:17:56 -0400
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From: Dave Farber <farber@cis.upenn.edu>
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>\From: "James D. Wilson" <netsurf@sersol.com>
>To: "Dave Farber" <farber@cis.upenn.edu>
>To quote Mr. Spock, "Fascinating!"
>James D. Wilson
>"non sunt multiplicanda entia praeter necessitatem"
>William of Ockham (1285-1347/49)
>-----Original Message-----
>From: owner-extropians@extropy.com [mailto:owner-extropians@extropy.com]
>On Behalf Of Gina Miller
>Sent: Saturday, May 15, 1999 3:38 PM
>To: extropians@extropy.com
>Subject: Cyborg Seeks Community
>May/June 1999
>Cyborg Seeks Community
>Meet one of the creators of wearable computing and join him in his search
>for like-minded folks to live in an augmented reality.
>By Steve Mann
>People find me peculiar. They think it=92s odd that I spend most of my
>hours wearing eight or nine Internet-connected computers sewn into my
>clothing and that I wear opaque wrap-around glasses day and night, inside
>and outdoors. They find it odd that to sustain wireless communications
>during my travels, I will climb to the hotel roof to rig my room with an
>antenna and Internet connection. They wonder why I sometimes seem detached
>and lost, but at other times I exhibit vast knowledge of their specialty.
>physicist once said he felt that I had the intelligence of a dozen experts
>in his discipline; a few minutes later, someone else said they thought I
>mentally handicapped.
>Despite the peculiar glances I draw, I wouldn=92t live any other way. I=
>melded technology with my person and achieved a higher state of awareness
>than would otherwise be possible. I see the world as images imprinted onto
>my retina by rays of light controlled by several computers, which in turn
>are controlled by cameras concealed inside my glasses.
>Every morning I decide how I will see the world that day. Sometimes I give
>myself eyes in the back of my head. Other days I add a sixth sense, such
>the ability to feel objects at a distance. If I=92m going to ride my
>I=92ll want to feel the cars and trucks pressing against my back, even when
>they are a few hundred feet away.
>Things appear different to me than they do to other people. I see some
>as hyperobjects that I can click on and bring to life. I can choose
>stroboscopic vision to freeze the motion of rotating automobile tires and
>see how many bolts are on the wheels of a car going over 60 miles per
>as if it were motionless. I can block out the view of particular
>objects=97sparing me the distraction, for example, of the vast sea of
>advertising around me.
>I live in a videographic world, as if my entire life were a television
>And many people assume that by living my life through the screen, I do
>exactly what television leads us to do=97tune out reality. In fact,=
>has quite the opposite effect: Visual filters help me concentrate on what
>important, heightening my sensitivity and setting my imagination free. I
>of course have occasion to remove my computational prostheses, as when I
>sleep, shower or splash around in the ocean.
>In addition to having the Internet and massive databases and video at my
>beck and call most of the time, I am also connected to others. While I am
>grocery shopping, my wife=97who may be at home or in her office=97sees=
>what I see and helps me pick out vegetables. She can imprint images onto
>retina while she is seeing what I see. I hope to add to the population of
>similarly equipped people; last fall at the University of Toronto, I
>what I believe to be the world=92s first course for cyborgs (see sidebar
>=93School for Cyborgs=94).
>Much of my passion has been fueled by a desire to restore some balance of
>privacy in a world where individuals are increasingly affronted by
>government surveillance and corporate encroachments. In fact, one goal of
>work was to challenge the notion of totalitarian video surveillance=97the
>now-common practice of a corporate or governmental establishment wishing
>know everything about everyone in the establishment while revealing
>about itself. Many department stores, for example, use large numbers of
>hidden cameras and yet prohibit customers from taking pictures.
>I attempted to draw attention to this phenomenon of unreciprocated video
>surveillance in Shooting Back, a documentary I made during my day-to-day
>life in several different countries over a period of many years. Whenever
>found myself in a store or some other establishment with electronic eyes
>perusing the premises, I asked its management why they were taking
>of me without my permission. They would typically ask me why I was so
>paranoid and tell me that only criminals are afraid of cameras. Of course
>was covertly recording this response using my own hidden eyetap video
>camera. Then I would pull an ordinary camcorder out of my satchel and give
>them a chance to explain their position for the record. (The camcorder was
>simply a prop, of course, as the eyetap camera had been capturing the
>scene.) The same people who claimed that only criminals were afraid of
>cameras had an instantly paranoid (and sometimes violent) reaction to my
>camcorder. Shooting Back was, I believe, the first documentary to be
>transmitted in real time to the World Wide Web while it was shot.
>portions of Shooting Back may be viewed at
>Ahead of My Time
>Growing up during the 1960s and early 1970s, I always seemed to be
>things before their time. I grew up in Hamilton, Ontario=97a city on the
>western tip of Lake Ontario about 100 kilometers from Toronto. I came by
>this inclination naturally; during the early 1950s, my father had built
>was perhaps the first wearable radio. (He had pursued radio as a hobby
>his childhood.) He had taught me quite a bit about electronic circuits by
>the time I started kindergarten. As a young child, I removed the head from
>portable battery-powered dictating machine and replaced it with the head
>from a high-fidelity audio cassette deck. From this cassette transport
>mechanism, I built a system that enabled me to listen to music while
>around. While many people scoffed at this invention, I found it nice to be
>able to drown out background music while shopping, to assert my own idea
>personal space, and to defend myself from theft of my solitude by the
>department stores with their Muzak.
>In my teens I founded a concept of mediated reality, which I called
>=93lightspace.=94 The goal of lightspace was to experience an altered
>of visual reality by exploring a large range of possible forms of
>illumination while observing a scene or object from different viewpoints.
>work with lightspace led to the invention of my wearable computer. My
>to create photographic instruments that would function as true extensions
>my mind and body=97and my desire to control these photographic instruments
>new ways=97created a need for the ability to program complex sequences of
>I began to take this matter seriously, building a digital computer from a
>large number of electronic components salvaged from an old telephone
>switching computer. I did much of this experimentation in the basement of
>television repair shop where I spent much of my childhood as a volunteer,
>fixing TV sets. In this shop I built up a great deal of knowledge about
>electronic circuits.
>The result of my early efforts was, in the early 1970s, a family of
>computers I called =93WearComp0.=94 Sometimes I took these cumbersome
>outside in search of spaces dark enough to explore the altered perception
>visual reality I could create using portable battery-powered light
>People would cross the street to avoid me, not knowing what to make of
>must have looked to them like an alien creature. The rig was physically a
>burden, weighing as much or more than I did. After wearing one of these
>encumbrances from sundown (when it got dark enough to use them) to
>my feet would be swollen, blistered and bleeding.
>I continued to refine WearComp0 and its evolutionary successor, WearComp1.
>After much tinkering, I came up with WearComp2=97my first system that truly
>qualified as a wearable computer in the sense that it was not just a
>purpose device. WearComp2 was field programmable, with a full-function
>device (a keyboard and joystick for cursor control both built into the
>handle of an electronic flashgun), text and graphical displays, sound
>recording and playback (crude, home-brew analog-to-digital and
>digital-to-analog converters), and a wireless data connection to provide
>links to other computers. I completed this system in 1981, before most of
>the world realized that computers could be portable, much less wearable.
>Though an advance over my earlier prototype, WearComp2 was still a burden
>lug. I wanted to reduce its bulk and make it look more normal. This goal
>me in 1982 to experiment with building components directly into clothing.
>learned how to make flexible circuits that could be embedded into ordinary
>fabric. This work enabled me to make versions of WearComp that were not
>more comfortable to walk around in but also less off-putting to others.
>In spite of these advances, my life as a cyborg remained mostly solitary.
>did connect quite literally (by serial data cable) with an understanding
>woman during my freshman year at McMaster University in my hometown of
>Hamilton. We faced unusual challenges in this configuration, such as
>to choose which public restroom to use when we were joined. Thinking back,
>imagine we must have made a comical sight, trying to negotiate doorways
>without snagging the cable that tethered us together.
>Such relationships were rare, and it was seldom that I could get others to
>wear my seemingly strange contraptions. Many people were unable to get
>my technological shell, which they apparently found more than a little
>Still, multimediated reality had provided me with a unique vision of the
>world, and by the mid-1980s I had a following of people on the fringes of
>society who shared (or at least appreciated) my vision. I was invited to
>shoot pictures for album covers and hair ads. By 1985, I began to realize
>that it wasn=92t just the finished photographs people wanted; they also
>to enjoy watching me take the pictures. Often I would be shooting in large
>warehouses, with audiences of hundreds of people. I began to realize that
>had become a cyborg performance artist. By the end of the 1980s, however,
>found myself yearning to return to my more substantive childhood passions
>for science, mathematics and electrical engineering.
>While at McMaster, I added biosensors to the WearComp so that it could
>monitor my heart rate (as well as the full EKG waveform) and other
>physiological signals. I also invented the =93vibravest=94=97a garment=
>with radar transceivers and vibrating elements. Wearing this vest made
>objects at a distance feel as if they were pressing against my body. I
>close my eyes and walk down the hallway, confident that any wall or other
>obstacle would be felt as warning vibrations on the appropriate side of
>vest. By sparing myself from the cognitive load of processing all that
>visual information, I found I was able to think more clearly.
>In 1991, I brought my inventions to MIT as a PhD student. As a cyborg,
>uprooting myself from Canada was a formidable task, since I had installed
>cyberbody in Canada over a period of many years. Going to MIT was a sudden
>move of my extended self.
>First, I secretly climbed up onto the rooftops of buildings around the
>to put in place the wireless data communications infrastructure I had
>brought with me from Canada. I had to quickly deploy my base stations at
>top of elevator shafts or anywhere else I could find warm dry places. This
>way, whenever I wanted an Internet connection, these gateways would be
>to send the data to me, no matter where I was=97even if I was in a basement
>riding on the subway.
>Although I kept in touch with my family through cyberspace, my first two
>years at MIT were lonely times IRL=97in real life. I was, after all, the
>person there with a wearable computer. Then in 1993, at the request of a
>fellow student, a local engineer named Doug Platt built a wearable system.
>was no longer the only cyborg at MIT.
>It took some years to get other cyborgs at MIT, thus enabling the
>of a sense of community. Although I never succeeded in getting a large
>community outfitted with my high-speed packet radio systems, the cellular
>telephones that began to emerge provided another answer to the problem of
>By the end of 1995, my work was attracting serious academic interest. I
>asked to write an article about my work for IEEE Computer, a publication
>the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers=92 Computer Society.=
>also proposed an academic symposium on wearables and was referred to T.
>Michael Elliott, executive director of the Computer Society. I figured
>such a conference would legitimize the field, which until then had
>in many people=92s minds of =93Steve, that crazy guy running around with a
>camera on his head.=94 Elliott was enthusiastic about the idea and in 1996
>Computer Society responded with an overwhelming =93yes.=94 This marked a
>point in my acceptance by my professional peers.
>More than 700 people attended this first IEEE-sponsored symposium on
>wearable computing, held in Cambridge, Mass., in October 1997. A gala
>=93Wearables=94 event the following day drew 3,000 people. In that same=
year I
>received my doctorate from MIT in wearable computing. This was a
>culmination: I had turned a childhood hobby and passion into an MIT
>the topic of a conference, and a PhD dissertation.
>This past year I returned to Canada to pursue my work at the University of
>Toronto. Why Toronto? I had lived there in the mid-1980s, and the city had
>seemed very =93cyborg-friendly.=94 I had sensed there a cosmopolitan=
>as well as a genuine warmth and openness that contrasted with the more
>cyborg-hostile and tense atmosphere of some large U.S. cities.
>Wearing Well
>Although I spent many years developing WearComp in relative isolation, I
>welcome efforts to commercialize wearable computers. At the vanguard is
>Xybernaut, based in Fairfax, Va. Xybernaut=92s latest model is being
>manufactured by Sony, indicating that the Japanese electronics giant has
>interest in what some believe will become the Walkman of computing. Last
>May, Xybernaut organized its own conference on wearable computing (and
>invited me to give the keynote address). I may also begin to license some
>embodiments of my original WearComp, as well as many of my more recent
>innovations, to companies who want to manufacture commercial systems. I
>think it will be especially important to make the cyborg outfit less
>cumbersome=97something that=92s long been a goal of mine. My latest version=
>quite sleek, and looks just like ordinary bifocal eyeglasses, with the
>eyetap point hidden along the cut line. Even when fully rigged, I can
>play an acceptable game of squash.
>I realize that some people see me and my invention as a potential
>threat=97like the Borg of Star Trek fame: =93You will be assimilated.=94
>there are important philosophical issues to be explored. Not only is there
>the danger of the technology being used to monitor people to make them
>obedient productive cyborgs, but there is also the potential that people
>will become too dependent on this technology. My goal as a responsible
>inventor and engineer, however, has always been to encourage the
>and manufacture of wearable computers as a means of personal, not
>institutional, empowerment. That will make worthwhile all the obstacles
>challenges I have faced during my more than 20 years of developing this
>I hope that if I bring WearComp to market, anyone who wishes to will
>eventually be able to become a cyborg. We=92ll live in a collaborative
>computer-mediated reality that will allow us to no longer need to
>distinguish between cyberspace and the real world. And then this cyborg
>have lots of company.
>Steve Mann is a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the
>University of Toronto.
>Gina "Nanogirl" Miller
>Nanotechnology Industries
>Web Page
>Alternate E-mail
>"The science of nanotechnology, solutions for the future."