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Ugh, stop twitching
functional body modification
life Posted 2008-08-26 23:27:52 by Jim Crawford
Quinn Norton's 2006 talk on functional body modification. She's one of the people who implanted rare earth magnets in their ring fingers so they could sense EM fields. The talk has me bursting with ideas. Some takeaways:
  • The talk took place at 23rd Chaos Communication Congress in Berlin. Some of the talk may be “Not Safe For Germany.” She's not sure about the laws, and BMEzine is banned in Germany.
  • 23C3 is a hacker conference. She points out that hacking your own body crosses a lot more taboos and breaks a lot more laws than hacking your electronics. She applies the Make Magazine credo to body hacking: “If you can't open it, you don't own it.”
  • Tangent: Pain releases endorphins and dopamine, which results in a generalized “I can cope with it” signal, which affects emotional distress as well as pain. Thus, cutting yourself functions as an antidepressant. She relates an anonymous conversation with a therapist to the effect that it's so hard to find an antidepressant that works for an individual, the therapist would rather they cut themselves safely than take antidepressants.
  • She implanted a rare earth magnet coated in a bioneutral sheath in her ring finger. The magnet moved in response to EM fields. “I had six senses. Well, seven if you include proprioception.” She could sense electrical motors, live wires, security devices in shops, phone cords and hard drive activity.

    “You know how when you beta test, things can go wrong?” The bioneutral sheath broke and the magnet disintegrated into her bloodstream. Then over the next few months it reformed in her finger because it's magnetic. Since the magnet is now fused with the tissue and can no longer move freely in the sheath, now all it's good for is the parlor trick of holding a magnet with a single finger. Also with the stray magnetic particles in her body it's not safe to use an MRI.

    As a journalist the magnet was helpful once: she was able to call bullshit on a demonstration involving sending data over a phone line; she could tell that they were putting more power into the line than you could in the wild.

  • Upcoming tech: implanted glaucometers that transmit data wirelessly to a reader up to 6 inches away. Intended for diabetics to measure their blood sugar. She wants one so she can put a blood sugar feed on the web.
  • She points out that athletes are not permitted to use steroids to improve upon their natural strength, but they are permitted to get laser eye surgery to improve upon their natural vision quality.
  • Current medical guidelines seem to be that modifying towards societal norms is considered ethical, but modifying away from societal norms is considered unethical (“and you can lose your license”). Medical professionals and plastic surgeons both tend to agree with these guidelines.

    But if you reclassify a problem, such as obesity or impotence or depression or being the incorrect gender, as a disease, medical professionals are allowed to treat it.

  • “They started giving soldiers, in various experiments, 100mg of Provigil every 8 hours instead of sleep. At the end of 72 hours, their performance was better than it was at the beginning.” Another experiment gave Provigil to rats in lieu of sleep for weeks on end, and they all died simultaneously from bacterial infections.
  • During a section on IUDs -- dealing with the disease of having kids when you didn't want one -- someone in the audience asked what IUDs were, and she brought up a web site of a company that makes them. The home page had a photo of a bunch of smiling women. “See all the happy women? All cyborgs.”
  • “We have changed ourselves into superbeings on a mass scale all around the planet, unthinkable superbeings who would've been burned as witches [...] and we have defined it as 'treatment.'”

    Slide: “Vaccination: Every child a superbeing.”

    “Having half your siblings die of childhood diseases was just a part of life, and I'm sure we've lost some valuable experiences in giving that up.”

  • Historically, every one of these “treatments” used to be thought of as “unnatural” and “going too far.” Unfortunately, “research is outstripping the lifespan it takes to redefine [enhancements] socially.” We can invent enhancements much more quickly than they become socially accepted.
  • The guy in Hawaii who wants to use the bone-implanted-hearing-aid technology to install a permanent bluetooth headset in his skull can't find a cooperative doctor.
  • Deaf culture is dying. By curing deafness we are destroying the culture. We are coming close to curing blindness using neural implants. We're looking at treating depression with neural pacemakers. We're working on tailored pharmaceuticals to boost intelligence and emotional fortitude. To bring these enhancements to the mainstream, we must first pathologize the lack of said enhancements. Being dumb must be seen as a disease.
  • To acquire enhancements when your culture that does not approve of them (yet), you have to go illicit, either in the form of “medical tourism” -- currently people go to Mexico for dentistry and India for heart surgery -- or black market backroom medicine -- San Francisco police recently discovered a fully-equipped operating room underneath a meth lab.

    There's a large market for used medical equipment from hospitals and medical schools on eBay. A lot of it is unaccounted for -- she suggests that this is going into black-market operations. She's expecting laparoscopic vascular brain surgery equipment to show up on eBay in 5 or 10 years, then underneath meth labs shortly after that.

  • We are close to creating a vaccine for addiction. “Have all the crack you want -- because it's not that much crack, as it turns out.” But: “addiction is a disease of volition.” Vaccinating addiction changes what you want, and ethical considerations ensue.
  • The magnet in the fingertip would be tremendously useful for electricians. “We've always modified ourselves to be able to do our jobs, both physically and neurologically.” But this sort of thing can happen via the medical industry, or it can happen on the black market, in which the rich go out of the country and the poor go to meth labs.
  • Transdermal implants -- implants that poke out of the skin so you can interact with them and power them -- are tricky to maintain, because the body doesn't like having open wounds. Microdermal implants may solve this problem.
  • Finally, she makes the point that everybody is going to have their own opinion on what counts as human. Everyone but the most hardcore Libertarians (she actually just says “everyone,” but I think I know better than she how hardcore Libertarians can be) is going to have a breaking point, a line past which they will say a particular modification is “too far.” By way of example, she relates “I find furries horrific.”
  • [link to this] [See more on “life”]

no subject
Posted by Anonymous (Adam) on 2008-08-27 02:02:23
Fascinating. The video doesn't add much over the summary. This is only tangentially related, but it's also interesting:

We seem to be on the cusp of incredible things. Hopefully our society won't collapse before they come to fruition.
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