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Class Notes 4/11/11

aybala50's picture

Class Notes (4/11/11)

Course keeping- watch Teknolust for Wednesday

Anne: “Thinking through the diaspora: Call centers, India, and a new politics of hybridity.” ----this essay is about the phenomena of US companies hiring ppl in India who’s accents can be trained to sound American. These ppl take on American identities and when you call them to complain about a product, they will perform this American identity. They are performing selves that are comfortable to you or me…it talks about the virtual disciplining of the worker (all the way to voice). The result of this training is a disappearance of the self and a real confusion of temporality and where they are living.

**There was more of a conversation going while responding to the MIT class—

According to MIT student Kami, Frankenstein’s creature is not a cyborg at all.. Go to discussion board for responses.

Go to GIST discussion board for more responses to MIT student’s postings!

Prepping for Michael---what are some of our questions? Come up with some if you don’t have any…


Michael: You’ve read the beginning and the end of the book, but I think I’ll just take questions and see where things go!

Isabel: Cochlear implants, how it’s like learning a new language. Can you offer any insight as to what it was like to learning a new language? Was it a difficult transition for you?

Michael: I have 2 cochlear implants. (Michael shows us one, then describes, as in the reading, how the implant works).  Without it I am completely deaf. It taught me that you really can put a computer inside the human body that will communicate with the nervous system. Can we elaborate with this kind of technology and communicate with the brain?

Yes, learning the new language was very different. I turned the radio on, and it sounded like gibberish. Environmental sounds were normal, but other sounds were very unclear. I had to learn how to hear all over again. It took me about 3 months to have basic phone conversations. Over time I re-mapped the stimulation that my brain was used to hear over a lifetime.

Hillary: If the internet is integrated with humans…are we thinking that this implant of the internet will happen at birth? Will surgeons have more power because they can control information that can be put into a person’s body?

Michael: Whatever surgical method would have to be safe, inexpensive, a couple of decades maybe we can have a way of injecting a couple of million nanobots that we could just put into the brain, without the process of cutting someone’s brain open.

All that said, I think that our society really wants that kind of thing. There’s a hunger for the constant communication, the next text message, e-mail…we are wired in a deep way to crave this constant communication. If it ever became available, people would really want it. I was the first person in my dorm to have a computer (1983-1987 college).

Hillary: What about the cultures that are not so connected to technology such as the US culture?

Michael: Technology presents new possibilities. You can’t predict what’s going to happen, there are so many possibilities. I think that it’s kind of impossible to predict the effects of technology.

Kate: It’s all kind of a material connection…it’s like immersing yourself into the digital world. Does this play into why people seem to be averted by the idea of moving forward?

Michael: Think of the things we do today that would seem creepy in the past. Like breast implants? Face lifts? Things may seem weird now, but this may not be the case in the future.

Kate: So you think people are adaptive enough to use this technology?

Michael: People are very adaptive to new technology! People will think it’s the devils work at first, but then it will become normalized.

Sadie: Physical presence v. electronic communication…I had highlighted a passage in the reading about physical presence and touch being crucial to humans. I was wondering what you would say to my question of whether eloctronic communication can strengthen human bonds?

Michael: A lot of people worry that e-mail and texting make people less willing to communicate face to face. Is there any way we can solve this problem? It seems like we are getting more and more bound to the machines and we are not going to stop to do this…I was thinking of a middle way solution. We’re all going to become one big happy cyber family? When you pick up your phone and look at it, I stop looking at you and you stop looking at me. If the technology is integrated into the human body and is a part of your brain, you don’t stop looking at someone. So, it might improve it?

Mirella: If you integrate technology in your body, how would you define a public figure? I’d be curious to see whether or not the internet has the ability to create a public figure as public as a politician…?


Michael: When I was growing up, the only way to broadcast ideas was on the radio. No way to put out your words on a large scale and now there is. Twitter, for example, allows you to broadcast your thoughts to a very large and public audience. The availabiilty to broadcast your ideas publically exists now like it didn’t before. We are certainly much more visible to other people than we used to be.


Mirella: If you have this integration in the brain, how would you distinguish between public and private?


Michael: If your thoughts become public in whatever sense then the last little bit of privacy you have would seem to go away. What’s going on inside the brain is private, and having the technology that could broadcast your thoughts sounds very public. In other parts of the book, I talk about how you would have control over who would have access over it and who would publish it. To layer it, I think that the notion of privacy has changed quite a bit in the last 15-20 years.


Anecdote: Anti-depressants and Brown students…we can tinker with, medicate, adjust, modify our brains…technologies can do that, too. The more open you are about yourself, in a very general way, the more you allow others to see you as human.


The concept of privacy itself is different than it used to be. Back in prehistory, very few people had any privacy because everybody lived in small communities. Privacy came around with wealth, concept of privacy is a modern construction. Wouldn’t be surprised if it continued to change radically in the future.


Aybala: Hi Michael. I was hoping you could talk a bit about the human learning process and how it would change with an already unlimited amount of information present in one’s mind. How will learning occur? Will it still have to, in regard to facts?

Michael: Learning is a very complicated thing…There’s this false conception of learning that was popularized in The Matrix. The brain is not a computer, the brain is a very different kind of machine than the computer. What you can do is it expose it to different kinds of experiences. I do not see these brain-to-brain technologies as changing the ways we learning, because still done by observations and experiences.

Even with the internet era, learning ahs changed very little. What has changed is the media by which information is delivered.. Dialogue, for instance, hasn’t changed.

Aybala: How about education in a schooling context? You are being tested on something factual like Hamlet, for example, how does a teacher control for what they are actually testing for?

Michael:Not a very likely outcome. You can get on Wikipedia and look up Hamlet, we’ve got that covered. Reduced the need for memorization when you could look it up in 3 seconds. Back in the middle ages, lecturing consisted of a lecturer reading outloud and the students transcribing what instructor said. The transmitting of facts was extremely important because it was so difficult.

You can imagine other scenarios, you can look around a classroom and see who’s asleep and who’s awake. So these technologies could possibly allow a teacher to look around and figure out who is actually getting this—allow the teacher to be more in tuned. Another possibility, come back to the idea of empathy. Awareness to other people’s feelings is a very teachable skill. I would like to see a more empathetic and emotionally engaged type of learning, which we don’t really have right now with formal lectures—no real two-way engagement there.

Alex: I was wondering about incorporating internet in the brain, and as a person who has experienced the implantation, how difficult would it be for people to get used to the change?

????Sorryyyy I was walking back to my seat…

Apo: Super hypoththetical question: Brain isn’t a computer, you have to go through a process of learning…what do you think of the possibility of a digital world existing…the minds connect two bodies, two machines? The survival of cyborg’s surviving in a human world? (Tron Legacy?)

Michael: I would love to be able to think what I’m going to say and it will just show up on the screen and I can see it happening in the next 20-30 years. The current keyboard layout has a weird layout…the early type setters, the keyboard were layed out alphabetically, and the keyboards would break often…so they re-arranged the letters in a non-sensical order and yeah so that’s why keyboards are weird.

There’s this gigantic robot that can see what surgeons can’t see….robots can do or are starting to do what we can do. We can attach a camera feed directly into your visual cortex…at this point though we don’t know enough about the visual, auditory cortexes etc.

Mel: What can we do to help make the internet self-aware?

Michael: The basic anology that I drew was the ant hill…The ant hill does intelligent things like having wars, finding food…the collective interconnection between humans and machines…will have it’s own sense of self-awareness…is this even possible? The brain has about 100 billion neurons, so you need at least a 100 billion neurons to have a conscious human brain. We don’t know how these neurons are connected…how many neurons are on the internet? There are about 2 billion computers on the internet and 2 billion people on the internet…so 4 billion entities on the internet…there’s a huge difference between 4 billion and 100 billion. We are not even close to getting 100 billion to get to the conscious I rule that out as a present possibility. We also know so little about how intelligence emerges. The internet is just not big or complex enough to have it’s own intelligence. I don’t think anyone knows the answer to how to do that.

But, if it was, how would we know that the internet is conscious? We would start seeing things happening that we could not explain…unexplained stock market crashes, odd internet behavior…if that ever happened then maybe we could say maybe there is a level of consciousness to the internet that we do not know about.

Liz: We only have a couple of minutes left. This notion of how would you know if a highly interconnected set of human beings with the nanobots, how would you know if collectively this distinct intelligence was emerging. Could we do experiments on our community to look for signatures? This reminds me very much of the mystery of God…this thing of events happening without an explanation.

Michael: There is no physical evidence for it…if you think about evolution in the broader sense…the earliest cells, the simplest single cell organisms, after a while turn into multi-cell organisms. Huge leap. The issue is that the multi cell organism is beyond the understanding of the single cell organisms. The chimpanzee has no idea what a human does.

It might exist, we might know about it, but we may just not be able to communicate with it, just have no access to it.


Anne reminds Michael of Serendip, please post!!! Michael offers to put up answers to any questions we put up!!!!!  So, any left over, unasked questions, should be posted on Serendip!!!





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