Surveillance Never Sleeps | 4. DIY Bodies

Blueshift Series

 Surveillance Never Sleeps

Arthur and Marilouise Kroker


4

DIY Bodies

There is a new DIY body in town, one which might not have the cultural pedigree of the shock tattoo, the slippery word, or the enigmatic yet subtle shift of modified bodily appearance, but a version of the DIY body that already belongs to the future for the simple reason that it comes to us directly from a future, dreamed about, obsessed over, but not yet practically realized. Visible signs of the new DIY body are everywhere: smart apps that track caloric expenditure, distances walked, miles run, rhythms of sleep, of sex, of friendship, of rage, of cheating lovers lost and won; dusty clouds of data that rise from the travelled earth of every footstep of the DIY body as it crunches its way into some unknown database along the way; and invasive but usually undetectable sociobots that break the surface of the skin, all the better to gently manipulate perception, to shape imagination, and, perhaps, even to take up permanent residency in the wasteland of the psyche. While the DIY body to which we have long been habituated represented the lovely unpredictability of individual choice playing itself out across the surface of skin, gender, and sexuality, the new DIY body comes to us with a self that has already split: part-human/part-data. In fact, the body that lives in the tension of this fatal split may be the only lingering remnant of the human, since the “self” seems to have recently departed towards the gathering horizon of artificial intelligence, synthetic biology, robotic technology–towards, that is, the larger movement of the “quantified self.” When the rising city of the quantified self breaks away from the wilderness of the unquantifiable body we can know for certain that those data clouds are also harbingers of troubles ahead for the question of human subjectivity and, with them, the eclipse of the intuitive, the ineffable, the instinctive, the numerically unintelligible but the emotionally knowable. Putting on the synthetic skin of the new DIY body with its extended sensors, creative apps, helpful prosthetics, and enabling augments is, of course, only the first step in modifying the body right out of itself in the direction of the Singularity Event.

Waiting for the Singularity

The streets of San Francisco are crammed these days with creative social media startups, many waiting, it seems, for technological rapture–the much-anticipated and longed-for singularity event when artificial consciousness finally undocks from human intelligence to usher in a new future of computers literally with (artificial) minds of their own and human minds as so many data points supporting the indefinite expansion of the lifespan promised by synthetic biology, nanotechnology, and artificial intelligence.

If biblical prophecies are any kind of guide, the triumph of artificial consciousness will initiate unpredictable, morphological changes of state across the fabric of space and time. The new force of ubiquitous computing may be violently rent with Big Data on one side and soon-to-be left behind Luddites on the other; relational processing will sweep across the land, and the body itself will finally be able to abandon its natural ties to flesh, skin, and bone in favor of the bliss of the fully quantified self.

First prophesied in the writings of Vernon Vringe, first digitally realized by Raymond Kurzweil, currently Chief Engineer of Google, and first given explicit social expression by Kevin Kelly and Gary Wolf, the coming of the technological singularity is at once the ecstatic promise and utopian hope of all those scientists, technologists, engineers, graphic artists, social media marketers, designers, and programmers who have dedicated their very bodily lives to the proposition that data is the new us.

Since its political inception, the theme of waiting for the messiah has long been the core eschatological trope of American society. From the first landing at Plymouth Rock by the early Puritans and the evangelical revival meetings that spread like prairie fire across the American midlands of the spirit in the nineteenth century to late twentieth-century invocations of religious visions of those to be either anointed or left behind in the days of apocalypse, the spirit of the messianic, with its troubled doubling of transcendence and despair, has long been native to American identity. Consequently, it comes as no particular surprise that in these, the early sunrise years of the twenty-first century, just when the dawn is lifting on the shadows of the past, Northern California is witness to the birth anew of the spirit of rapture, this time detached from previous concerns with religion and politics, and provided with a powerful digital expression in the form of technological rapture.

On the surface, the rhetoric of this latest American revival movement is delivered in the deliberately arid form of technocratic ambition–an “Internet of Things,” the “quantified self,” “A Data-Driven Life”–but scratch the surface of the covering rhetoric and what springs to mind are all those unmistakable signs of the spirit of rapture. Everything is there: a theology of technology driven by an overwhelming conviction that the vicissitudes of embodied experience are subordinate to digital transcendence; the will to extend life either by uploading the human mind into its AI machinic successors or by passionate faith in the born-again body of artificial DNA; the doctrine of data as a state of (code-driven) grace; and conversionary enthusiasm for the fully quantified life. While many different perspectives gather under the revival tent of technological rapture, one common thing remains: an abiding faith that technological society is quickly delivering us to a future inaugurated by a singularity event, that epochal time in which intelligent machines take command with promises of a mind-merger with a data world that is fluid, mobile, relational, indeterminate. Though skeptics standing outside the circle of technological rapture might be tempted to reduce its enthusiasm for data delirium to the larger figurations of the form of (technological) subjectivity necessary for the functioning of digital capitalism, that would surely overlook the fact that the contemporary will to technology is itself driven by a more radical eschatological promise, namely that the will to data has about it the tangible scent of finally achieving what the project of science has always promised, but never delivered–human relief from death, disease, and bodily decay. While Francis Bacon’s emblematic treatise Novum Organum may have been the first to so confidently link the project of science and the heretofore quixotic quest for immortality, it was left to a contemporary techno-utopian visionary, Raymond Kurzweil, (The Singularity is Near) to transform Bacon’s ontological ambition for science into a practical strategy for better–that is, extended–computational living:

This merger of man and machine, coupled with the sudden explosion in machine intelligence and rapid innovation in gene research and nanotechnology, will result in a world where there is no distinction between the biological and the mechanical, or between physical and virtual reality. These technological revolutions will allow us to transcend our frail bodies with all their limitations. Illness, as we know it, will be eradicated. Through the use of nanotechnology, we will be able to manufacture almost any physical product upon demand, world hunger and poverty will be solved, and pollution will vanish. Human existence will undergo a quantum leap in evolution. We will be able to live as long as we choose. The coming into being of such a world is, in essence, the Singularity. [1]

At first glance, this is only the most recent expression of the Greek myth of hubris, this cautionary tale concerning the ineluctable balance between excessive pride of purpose and mythic punishment meted out by always-observant gods. Adding complexity to this reinvocation of the myth of hubris, that vision of Singularity is, in actuality, a doubled expression of hubris. First, there is the sense of technological overconfidence involved in breaking beyond the traditional boundaries of the specifically human in order to speak of the new epoch of “man and machine,” that is, fully digitally interpolated subjects in which the specifically human merges with the extended nervous system of the cybernetic. Here, the merely human is replaced with the technologically enabled posthuman as the fundamental precondition for the Singularity. With the sovereign expression of technological posthumanism, the stage is set for the futurist release of all the pent-up excess of expressions of scientific determinism and technological fundamentalism that have been gathering momentum for some five centuries–transcending bodily limits, eradicating illness, ending poverty and hunger, and vanishing pollution. In its basics, this version of technological futurism, with its doubled sense of hubris and complicated alliance of recoded bodies, nanotechnology, genetic determinism and artificial intelligence is a creation myth–“the coming into being of such a world is, in essence, the Singularity.” With techno-futurism, we are literally present at a digital rewriting of the Book of Genesis with all that is implied in terms of (re)creating the body for smoother, and perhaps safer, passage through the often-turbulent event-horizon surrounding the black hole of the Singularity towards which (technological) society is plunging. While the DIY body may have the “Internet of Things” as its necessary digital infrastructure and the “quantified self” as its ideal expression, what drives it forward, animating its design and inspiring its constant creativity, is, in the end as in the beginning, the specter of the coming Singularity as its core creation myth. Curiously, in the same way that Heidegger once noted that the question of technology can never ever be understood technologically–that we must travel furthest from the dwelling-place of technology to discover its essence–the concept of Singularity, while evocative of the language of science and powered by digital devices, is something profoundly theological in its inception.

Of course, given the sheer complexity of contemporary global society with its mixture of recidivist social movements, global climate change, fully unpredictable human desires, economic turbulence, and, of course, changing rhythms of bodily health and the many diseases of the aged and the sick, Kurzweil’s vision is startling, less so for its naivety than for its feverish embrace of an approaching technological state of bliss–transcendent, teleological, and terminal. Transcendent because its overriding faith in machine intelligence, nanotechnology, and gene research is premised on the imperative of “overcoming our frail bodies with their limitations.” Here, unlike the Christian belief first articulated by St. Augustine in De Trinitate–with its division of the body into corruptible flesh and the perfect incorporeality of the state of grace–the newest of all the Singularities is intended to lead to a new heaven of computation. Teleological because this vision of the new Singularity invests the will to technology with a sustaining, indeed inspiring, purpose: overcoming the unknown country of death. And terminal, because this is also a philosophy of end times, certainly the end of the human species as we have known it, but also the end of easily distinguishable boundaries between the “biological and the mechanical, or between physical and virtual reality.” As Kurzweil states: “The Nanotechnology Revolution will enable us to redesign and rebuild–molecule by molecule–our bodies and brains for the world with what was interesting, going far beyond the limitations of biology.” [2] The end, therefore, of the biological body as we have known it and the beginning of something very novel: the merger of natural biology with its surrounding environment of technologies of the post-biological–artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, molecular science, and neurobots. As to be expected, in return for the sacrifice of a natural biological cycle of life and death, the creation myth framing technological rapture has promises of its own to keep: a fully realized future of “living indefinitely” with nanobots streaming “through the bloodstream in our bodies and brains,” telepathy in the form of “wireless communication from one brain to another,” improved “pattern recognition” by overcoming the inherent limitations of natural cognitive evolution in favor of “brain implants” [3] marking the inception, then triumph, of “nonbiological intelligence.” In effect, the vision of technological rapture is visualized as a marvelous, ready-made (AI) toolbox for constructing DIY bodies.

When Singularity Intersects with Human Multiplicity

While singularity theory provides a highly creative, futurist account of events likely to happen when machinic intelligence surpasses the biological limits of human cognition, the reality is that singularity is less futurist than something already deeply historical. One of the key tendencies of early twenty-first-century experience is that we may already be living in the midst of the predicted turbulence and exponential rate of change associated with the Singularity. With astounding advances in robotic technology, drones that are soon be invested with ethical autonomy in making closed (cybernetic) loop decisions concerning the “disposition matrix,” relentless mergers of the worlds of society, politics, and economy with artificial intelligence, genetic biology, and nanotech intrusions on the biological, the Singularity–the merger of the biological and the artificial–is a decidedly contemporary phenomenon, one that is complex, intersectional, exponential, and fractured: 3D printing is capable of virtually replicating the world of material objects; research labs have announced the emergence of synthetic biology premised on artificial DNA; robotics has shed its mechanical skin in favor of taking up habitation in the neural networks of information society; and the specter of a globalized surveillance network is made possible by the eerily animate presence of complicated systems of nonbiological intelligence associated with data mining. While narrowly technocratic perspectives may like to predict the approaching dawn of a new future of Singularity–with its decidedly unrealistic projections concerning new utopias of health, life-spans, wealth and unfettered knowledge–we, the first living subjects actually present at the fateful encounter between the biological and the artificial understand at the granular level the real-world consequences that follow the Singularity. When the information blast disrupts the social, when artificial DNA effectively resequences the story of natural evolution itself, when the triumph of code works to reinforce existing inequalities in labor, business and politics, then, at that point, we can recognize that the (technologically envisioned) Singularity actually expresses itself in the language of human multiplicity.

Scenes from the Event Horizon

Life by Numbers

Until a few years ago it would have been pointless to seek self-knowledge through numbers. Although sociologists could survey us in aggregate, and laboratory psychologists could do clever experiments with volunteer subjects, the real way we ate, played, talked and loved left only the faintest measureable trace. Our only method of tracking ourselves was to notice what we were doing and write it down. But even this written record couldn’t be analyzed objectively without laborious processing and analysis.

Then four things changed. First, electronic sensors got smaller and better. Second, people starting carrying powerful computer devices, typically disguised as mobile phones. Third, social media made it seem normal to share everything. And fourth, we began to get an inkling of a global superintelligence known as the cloud. [4]

Gary Wolf, “The Data-Driven Life,” The New York Times Magazine

Palpable signs that we are already living in the midst of the Singularity are provided by the growing cultural appeal of what has been described as the “Quantified Self Movement.” In this scenario, bodies strap on their mobile prosthetics, digitally tattoo themselves with an array of wearable electronic sensors, calibrate their social media lives by complex, flexible forms of digital self-tracking made possible by those new clouds of digital cumulus drifting across the global sky, and turn the previously unmeasured, untracked, and perhaps even unnoticed into vibrant streams of shareable data. Essentially, the surface of the body, as well its previously private interiority, is transformed into GPS data in the greater games of augmented reality. Except this time, data bodies are not so much using mobile phones to scan graphics that open onto a previously invisible world of graffiti, games, and advertising, but envelop the body in a big gif (graphics interchange format) of its very own–a digital penumbra of numbers about eating, sleeping, loving, working that provides an electronic shadow for tracking bodily activities. Suddenly, we find ourselves living in an age of the body and its digital shadow, this complex cloud of hyper-personalized data points not just accumulated by mobile bodies as they track their way through life but always spinning away from the body in fantastic reconfigurations of comparative data bases that may be perfect receptacles for social sharing but are also measuring points for better individual living.

Thought in purely astronomical terms, the quantified self movement is like a protostar–a dense concentration of “molecular clouds where stars form.” [5] Here, the newly emergent data self quickly throws off qualitative cultural debris from its past, thus committing itself to the daring gamble of seeking to quantify the unquantifiable, to literally construct a DIY body, one measurement at a time, that takes close account of lessons to be learned, data to be shared, measurements to be undertaken, numbers to be calculated, results to be reflected upon, activities to be improved, upgraded, overcome, by its digital double–life by numbers. In any event, for a society in which complex mergers between machine intelligence and human bodies are underway, one important adaptive response on the part of an always flexible human species is to transform subjectivity in the direction of that which is required for smooth admission to the end times of technological singularity. If the language of power is data, if the language of connection is convergence, and if the privileged value is speed, then what could be better than a coherent, comprehensive, and creative plan for reproducing a form of “self” that eerily mimics the etymological meaning of data as “thing-like”? Refusing the intuitive, throwing off the ineffable, and breaking forever with the imaginary, the quantified self movement reverses the traditional order of human subjectivity by making the thing-like character of quantifiable data both the precondition and goal of individual identity in the age of nonbiological intelligence. Unlike traditional Christian monasteries that provided physical shelter in good times and bad for the idea of the sacred and its associated religious institutions, the quantified self movement promulgates, in effect, a new order of digital monasticism that puts down roots in the psychic dimension of human subjectivity itself. With being data its primal act of faith, with the meticulous, even obsessive, calculation of life’s quanta–be it empathy, happiness, sex, or cardiovascular health–as its social practice, and with meetups of members of the quantified self movement as its mode of confessional, this new monastic order heralds the eclipse of traditional expressions of human subjectivity and the triumphant emergence of the thing-like–the “data driven life” as the form of (technological) self now taking flight at the dawn of the Singularity.

But wait. If you were to attend one of the global quantified self meetups–and they are everywhere now–the reality is most likely the opposite. The overall thematic might be the quantified life, but what resonates is the sense of individuals trying to find themselves, perhaps puzzled by the complications of daily life, and attempting as best they can, one self-confession at a time, to put the whole thing together for themselves by talking and sharing data. For example, each participant has five to ten minutes to discuss three core predetermined questions: “What did you do? How did you do it? What did you learn?” [6] It is as if network communications are not so much about the cold indifference of relational data points, but about its actual content, that whole stubbornly individual, always vulnerable, terribly anxiety-prone mass of highly individuated individuals. There is definitely a general yearning for self-improvement in the air, definitely a sense that the basic themes of Norman Vincent Peale’s The Power of Positive Thinking, with its homage to projected self-confidence and adaptive behavior, has escaped the power of the written text and taken up an active alliance with proponents of the quantified life. Or maybe it’s something different. Perhaps talking by data is the most recent manifestation of Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People, with its insightful strategies for winning other people over to your own way of doing things by first and foremost winning yourself over to yourself.

Indeed, if one of the key characteristics of contemporary times is the seemingly relentless progression of robots towards becoming more human, it is equally the case that many humans may be in pursuit of bodies suited for better robotic living, namely the “data-driven life.” In his visionary statement of life by numbers, Gary Wolf begins with the essentially theological insight that the uniquely human qualities of fragility, precariousness, and forgetfulness, while perhaps acceptable in the epoch of the pre-digital, should now rightfully be dispensed with as the original sin of the data-driven life. According to this visionary of life by numbers, “humans make errors. We make errors of fact and errors of judgment. We have blind spots in our field of vision and gaps in our stream of attention.. . . These weaknesses put us at a disadvantage. We make decisions with partial information. We are forced to steer by guesswork. We go with our gut. That is, some of us do. Others use data.” [7] Perhaps, but then maybe Wolf hasn’t read Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra, with its constant refrain about the cold indifference of nature, the absolute lucidity and absolute coldness of that indifference particularly in the face of rationally calculated human purpose. For the quantified self, data is the newest expression of nature. Which just might mean that the storytelling that data evokes also has about it a very real sense of lucid indifference even in the face of human intentionality. We might want things to be different, but data reveals the real story. It is the cold eye surveying the subjective messiness of human experience, the indifferent scale of values taking calculated measure of all things, from calories burnt and sleep cycles altered to the rise and fall of financial fortunes at the speed of high-frequency trading. Or is it? Maybe in the end what lends the austere concept of data such seductive power is less its pure etymological meaning as the “thing-like,” than something else entirely, namely that like everything else–feelings, body images, social connections, cultural knowledge, work experience–there really is no such thing as pure data, no empty signifier floating freely outside of a complicated, dense field of intersecting relationships. In this case, when data plunges into the posthuman condition, when data expresses its supposedly cold judgments in all those quantified self meetups, there can be such a powerful sense of yearning in the air precisely because advocates of life by numbers–whether from the tech community or not–are always complicating the numbers by private anxieties, specific intentions, and complicated feelings. That is what the confessional storytelling at all those meetups are all about–not so much, in the end, life by numbers, but life itself. It is perhaps precisely in the equivocal meeting of cold data and passionate yearning, in this strange mixture of human desire to control the complexities of social experience by numbered tabulations and data’s lasting indifference to the illusions of control, that we can also begin to discern future intimations of life by numbers, that we are committing ourselves anew to an approaching era of absurd data.

Tweaking Neural Circuitry

But why should the technological drive towards the “data-driven life” remain forever on the outside of the body, enabled by apps that create self-generating loops of information guiding behavioral modification? What would happen if the desire for self-tracking was finally liberated from the body’s exterior surface, migrating inside the body generally and becoming fully interior to the brain specifically? What if one day the human brain could be lit up from within by means of advanced bio-technological devices that would suddenly draw into visibility that which, until now, has remained the subject of intense speculation and passionate conjecture, namely the possibility of tracking the brain’s complex neural circuitry and thus potentially enabling a new era of the DIY brain–one that involves tweaking the human nervous system. An insightful report by Robert Lee Holtz titled “Mysterious Brain Circuitry Becomes Viewable” provides this comment:

At laboratories in the U.S. and Europe, scientists are wrapping the brain in soft sheets of microscopic sensor circuits, lighting it up within using cell-sized diodes, turning it into a wireless transmitter.. . . Scientists even found a way to make an entire brain transparent–all the better to study the weave of neurons and synapses that make up the scaffolding of the brain.

Scientists want to transform these comparatively crude brain maps into detailed renderings that can document how the human brain’s 100 billion neurons–as many cells as stars in the Milky Way–instantly link in circuits through trillions of pathways. [8]

As one scientist noted, the possibility of threading light-emitting diodes into the soft matter of the brain means that “tiny seeds of light can be injected to activate special networks of light-sensitive neurons.. . . It provides a recipe for delivering all sorts of advanced technologies, such as integrated circuits down in the brain.” [9]

The brain as a “wireless transmitter” or “integrated circuits down in the brain”? That seems to be a scientific prescription for a cinema of neural apocalypse in which technologies of behavioral modification move from the outside of the body to the core of its cerebral cortex. No longer, then, a requirement for quantified self meetups–with their contagious techno-enthusiasm for tracking metrics of all kinds–but, in this scenario, silent meetups of integrated circuits that are downloaded directly into the previously untrackable universe of human neurology. What possibilities yet undreamed, what future still unimagined would suddenly become viable if data tracking–presently focused on that which leaves only the “faintest measureable trace”–would deliver its advanced technologies in the form of integrated circuits hardwired to the motherboard of the human brain.

The overall goal of neurological modification, actually reshaping the neural circuitry of the brain, is the essence of the DIY bodies of the future. Light up the neural circuitry of the brain, use “tiny seeds of light” to “activate networks of light-sensitive neurons,” remake the brain as a “wireless transmitter,” and we are instantly living in a newly emergent world of affective neuroscience: augmented intelligence, cybernetically enabled emotion, operant conditioning of neurological depression, technically facilitated happiness–a world of genetically improved senses. Neuroscientists motivated by dreams of genetically modifying the neural circuitry of the human species have already formed the usual alliance with large-scale commercial interests invested in ambitious plans to harvest neural circuitry for accelerated capital accumulation. Similar to most other spectacular digital launches, this double alliance of science and business around tweaking neural circuitry is motivated, in the first instance, by an ideology of facilitation. Who wouldn’t prefer for their children, if not for themselves, the heretofore impossible utopia of neural circuitry that could be effectively modified to deliver improved intelligence, health, emotions, and physical appearance? Download integrated circuits in the brain and human neurology would be quickly rendered the first and best of all the cognitive apps of the future, ready to practically realize the most recent advances in robotics, genetic biology and nanotechnology. It would be as if technological rapture took possession of neural circuitry and delivered the integrated brain to the ecstasy of singularity.

However, the other side of the ideology of (neural) facilitation is the presence of integrated circuits that take command. In this sense, once neural circuitry has been lit up by those “tiny seeds of light” and once “special networks of light-sensitive neurons” have been activated and their neurological structure diagnosed, the result is likely to be brain matter dangerously overexposed and, in fact, perhaps fatally vulnerable. What and who, then, will be the DIY bodies of the future? How will issues related to class, race, ethnicity, and gender play themselves out in the approaching universe of reengineered neural circuitry? And what happens when the previously invisible region of human neurology with “as many cells as stars in the Milky Way” abruptly moves from its sheltering darkness to the bright lights of scientific probes that want, above all, to explain the complexity of “all those millions of pathways”? From sometimes harsh historical experience, we know well that questions of visibility and invisibility are never simply reducible for their explanation to the question of technology. Who and what will be brought into visibility has always been an essentially political determination. Equally, who and what will remain cloaked in invisibility, and thus rendered exterior to traditional rights of human recognition, also involves prior political settlements concerning issues bearing on prohibition, exclusion, and disavowal. All this is, of course, studiously screened away by purely technological analysis determined to finally achieve the elixir of all scientific ambition–lighting up the soft matter of the brain in order to probe its neural contents with integrated circuits. Here, the accelerating speed of technologies of (neural) facilitation easily outpaces contemporary deliberative reflections on the fate of the human nervous system first fully objectified and then harvested by the command language of affective neuroscience. As William Leiss, a futurist philosopher of genomic science, once asked: “Are we ethically prepared for this?” Are we ready, ethically ready, for the coming order of neural modification, with its tweaking of the human nervous system, first as a way of facilitating an improved human situation (albeit for some) and ultimately to assume full neural command of that which was previously unmeasureable, untrackable, invisible?

Remote Mood Sensors

As if to accelerate the process of lighting up the brain and thus bring the full complexity of its neural circuitry into a greater visibility, a cutting-edge five-year research program has recently been announced with the aim of creating in the near future remotely controlled mood sensors, ostensibly for controlling depression and anxiety, that can be inserted directly into the brain. [10] Again, following doubled logic of facilitation and command, the ethical justification for such prototyping is made in terms of bringing urgent medical relief to traumatized soldiers suffering the long-term effects of post-traumatic stress disorder. Given that the mood sensors will be operationalized with possibilities for remote control, it might also be hypothesized that a bio-technological device of this emotional magnitude may also align itself very smoothly and without a ripple of (scientific) discontent with what the theorist Paul Virilio has described as the process of “endo-colonization,” namely strategic interventions by which governments make war on their own domestic populations. As reported by John Tucker in Defense One (“The Military is Building Brain Chips to Treat PTSD”), the research program follows the trajectory of technologies of “deep brain stimulation”:

How well can you predict your next mood swing? How well can anyone? It’s an existential dilemma for many of us but for the military, the ability to treat anxiety, depression, memory loss and the symptoms associated with post-traumatic stress disorder has become one of the most important battles of the post-war period.

With $12 million (and the potential for $26 million more if benchmarks are met) the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA wants to reach deep into your brain’s soft tissue to record, predict and possibly treat anxiety, depression and other maladies of mood and mind. Teams from the University of California at San Francisco, Lawrence Livermore National Lab and Medtronic will use the money to create a cybernetic implant with electrodes extending into the brain. [11]

The research is funded by DARPA through its SUBNET (Systems-Based Neurotechnology for Emerging Therapies) program. With the overall aim of “automatically adjusting therapy as the brain itself changes,” the military’s interest is said to lie in obtaining high-resolution maps of the brain’s neural circuitry, particularly when surges of electrical signals moving across its motor cortex express themselves in symptoms related to anxiety, depression, and memory loss. “Brain chips,” then, for modulating mood swings in subject populations.

Future augmentations of the DIY body with brain chips–“invasive deep brain implants”–lend themselves most immediately to dystopian visions of mind control. Here, under the therapeutic cover of improving individual psychological health by reducing depression, anxiety, and mood swings, what is really being delivered to the brain is a fundamental change in the patterns of its neural circuitry. Once brain implants have been drilled down into the soft matter of the brain, the expectation is that gushers of neural data will provide new ways of mapping, then modeling, the brain’s electrical networks. Once installed, brain chips could potentially reverse engineer the amygdala by changing the patterned behavior of neural circuitry as a way of circumventing the neurological sources of traumatic injury. Once the brain has been opened up by cybernetic implants to mood-altering therapeutics, it creates the possibility of generalizing this initially purely therapeutic intervention across entire populations. In other words, “a crude example of what’s possible with future brain-machine and cybernetic implants in the decades ahead.” [12]

Perhaps, though, not “mind control” in the traditional sense of a political mechanics of domination, but the wiring together of previously individuated brains into new forms of fused affectivity. In this case, brain chips are a two-way (neurological) street, both transmitting data to waiting sensors from deep inside the soft matter of the brain and also delivering to the amygdala mood-altering therapeutics. If a future of bodies with brain chips is alarming from the perspective of received visions of mind control, perhaps that is because this is already less a futuristic project than a deeply retrograde one. In a highly mediated culture we have long been accustomed to what McLuhan once described as “media as massage”–electronic media that modulate the human nervous system with psychologically powerful simulacra of images, sounds, and (virtual) emotions. To some extent, inserting digital devices such as brain chips only makes obvious what may have already happened to us in that complex environment of brain/cybernetic interfaces known as the mass media. But, if that is the case, maybe what is most disturbing about brain chips for mood alterations are two of its other constitutive features. First, with this neurological experiment in “invasive deep brain implants,” an ethical boundary is fatally breached, one in which the human brain is harvested as another inanimate object of vivisectioning. Implanted with prosthetics, drilled with chip technology, carefully mapped and modelled, this is, in essence, an experiment in rendering neural circuitry a fully alien object of radical experimentation. What is possible, then, with “future brain-machine and cybernetic implants in the decades ahead” may be a deeply ominous future in which neurological functioning is reduced to a servomechanism of more pervasive cybernetic patterns of behavior. Operant conditioning delivered by a brain chip at the speed of light optics. Second, not just brain chips as advanced expressions of wireless operant conditioning, but also the construction of DIY bodies of the future built upon the triumph of the data-driven brain and the eclipse of the human mind. Here, hacking the brain by literally “jump-starting” it with electrical currents would mean that the struggle to overcome consciousness of trauma and mood swings associated with anxiety and depression would be reduced to a purely operational solution with efforts at understanding the social origins of trauma and existential crises that may have triggered acute anxiety or severe depression eliminated from the psychic scene. Jump-starting the data-driven brain also means a big increase in the cybernetic control of human neurology and an equally big decrease in the necessarily contingent, contextual, and ineffable nature of human consciousness.

Of course, for researchers of the data-driven brain, consciousness of the ultimately consequential results of the project may well lend added visibility to fundamental ethical doubts concerning the wisdom of this latest proposal for the technological interpolation of neural circuitry. For example, if past practices hold true, the first test subjects for this experiment in brain vivisectioning are likely to be animals involuntarily sequestered in laboratories, then perhaps even selected groups of army veterans who may be told that participation in this experiment aimed at implanting cybernetic sensors into the brain is a precondition for continued medical treatment. Equally, if mood swings are to be placed under remote (medical) control, what is to prevent the dark side of data–viral contagions, aggressive hackers, stolen or misplaced memory sticks, broken codes–from being introduced quickly and decisively into the deepest recesses of the soft matter of the brain? Sharper (brain) images, then, but also blurred ethical vision.

When Synthetic Biology Rides the Wave

We are actually transitioning from a Homo Sapiens into a Homo evolutis–a creature that begins to directly and deliberately engineer evolution to its own design. [13]

It’s perfect surfing conditions in La Jolla, California–sunny sky, steady breeze, and gigantic waves finally finding their way to the Pacific shoreline, swelling up to beautiful crests just before the whole (wave) scene dissolves again and again into a bone yard of broken patterns of water ebbing onto the beach. On this particular morning, there are dozens of surfers riding that magical California edge of bright sun and killer waves, some just bodysurfing but most trying to find the sweet spot of those cresting waves, that momentary physics of the barrel where bodily balance, fast motion and the curve of the cresting wave exists for the millisecond that is the take-home measure of the perfect wave. Now all this is pushed to the (pleasant) background of my attention as my mind is locked in deep, reading Greg Bears’s prophetic book Blood Music in a beachfront café located just steps away from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, with its fabled marine research of life related to the watery element of the physical universe. In this whole scene, there’s a lot of surfing going down. Certainly, those incredible surfers of the waves just offshore, but also those marine biologists engaged in a kind of intellectual surfing of their own, this time trying to ride the waves of those sometimes perfect patterns of watery life-forms. There’s also some serious surfing taking place in Blood Music, although this time it’s not about human bodies tracking cresting waves or marine biologists looking to catch and ride the edge of insightful findings, but a story concerning the future of nanotechnology: a science-fiction fable of artificial cells that have escaped the lab, taken possession of the body of a graduate researcher, and then literally surfed the biological material of that single body until those artificial cells propagate beyond synthetically infected flesh to change the physiological structure of the entire environment. Aesthetically, the image of the future offered by Blood Music, with its story of artificial life and computation come alive, is similar to those eerie images painted by the surrealist artist Max Ernst, where human bodies, inanimate objects, vital animals, and mythological symbols blind together into a common morphology. Politically, it’s anticipatory of Bill Joy’s warning that while a computer crash might mean the inconvenience of some lost data, crashing the basic codes of life runs the danger of taking down entire environments, if not suddenly terminating the natural evolution of the human species.

In the usual way of always incommensurable thought, my mind might have the apocalyptic futurism of Blood Music in its foreground and those scenes of rhythmic surfers in its background, but my situational awareness is short-circuited by a news alert from my always on mobile that transmits the following headline from, of all places, the Scripps Institute of Research:

LA JOLLA, CA–Scientists at the Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have engineered a bacterium, whose genetic material includes an added pair of DNA “letters” or bases, not found in nature. The cells of this unique bacterium can replicate the unnatural DNA bases more or less normally, for as long as the molecular building blocks are supplied.

“Life on Earth in all its diversity is encoded by only two pairs of DNA bases, A-T and C-G, and what we’ve made is an organism that stably contains those two plus a third, unnatural pair of bases,” said TSRI Associate Professor Floyd E. Romesberg, who led the research team. “This shows that other solutions to storing information are possible and, of course, takes us closer to an expanded-DNA biology that will have many exciting applications–from new medicines to new kinds of nanotechnology.” [14]

While the news release was enthusiastic in its account of synthetic biology delivering on its promise of a new alphabet of life, my own “exciting application” of the development of artificial DNA was tempered by the immediate thought that, try as I might, I could not sequester in the background of my perceptual field–was it really possible that, only three decades after the dystopian fable traced by Blood Music, events first written as literature have leaped the divisional boundaries of fact and fiction and become the modelling-principle for the future of the real. Is Blood Music the skin of the new real of synthetic biology and artificial DNA?

There can be little equivocation with the claim that synthetic biology, with its transformative creation of artificial DNA, is the future of the DIY body first, and perhaps later even, of the DIY planet. Brushing aside the seemingly feverish efforts by neuroscientists to stake proprietary claims on rewiring cognitive networks, whether by drugs, tracking, or implanted cyber-hooks, synthetic biology has introduced the fundamental game-changer of artificial life. For example, while contemporary social and political thought continues to debate the contentious relationship between power and life–whether, that is, power speaks in the name of (normative) life or in the more disciplinary name of death–synthetic biology envisions something entirely different, specifically the creation of previously unimagined forms of artificial life, from synthetic cells to the artificially constructed bodies of soldiers, astronauts and workers, that take full advantage of “an expanded DNA-biology.” More than “life by numbers,” the “quantified self,” or “remote mood sensors,” and going beyond mechanistic images of the reengineered brain as a “wireless transmitter” or an “integrated circuit” with neurons to be lit up and neural pathways to be “jump-started,” synthetic biology provides a dramatically new creative principle–Artificial DNA. Here, the addition of a “third, unnatural pair of bases” to genetic history does not simply promise “solutions to storing information” or expanding DNA-biology, but introduces a fundamental element of uncertainty into the living world. While injecting a free-wheeling and essentially designer note of the recombinant, the unnatural, the artificial to the biological process of coding “life on earth” will undoubtedly facilitate many novel and worthwhile applications, it also means taking final possession of the question of life itself. Consequently, when genomic scientists envision multidisciplinary approaches linking together molecular biology, chemistry, computer science, and electrical engineering, what they are really articulating is the gateway to the future–a gateway to enhanced possibilities for “assembl(ing) biological tools to redesign the living world.” [15]

At this point, thinking at the intersection of ocean-driven scenes of California surfers and science-fiction hauntologies of Blood Music, I wondered if the unnatural world to come will also someday experience for itself those strange and enigmatic fractures of broken meanings, uncomfortable fits, and clashing cosmologies of the heart and mind that seems to so unique to the human species about to be left behind. Measured by the first, truly global burst of excitement that greeted the Scripps announcement–an excitement less, to be sure, about the foregrounded text of a novel scientific breakthrough than what seems be the really existent, animating subtext, namely that we are speaking openly and positively about redesigning molecular building blocks for the “living world,” well, judging solely by the positive response to this drop-dead end of evolution, end of (natural) story press release–there is an unqualified smoothness to the future of Artificial DNA. While Artificial DNA might not, as synthetic biologists like to claim, be allowed to escape the laboratory, that does not preclude active experimentation with synthetic DNA in the many other laboratories of power and capital–weaponizing synthetic biology, creating highly specialized artificial life-forms to maximize capital accumulation as well as minimize labor unrest, technologically enabled, eugenic dreams of synthesizing the “perfect child.” No longer the “terrorism of the code” in any particularly negative sense, but a future scripted in all its smoothness, transparency, and perfectibility by the rising (genomic) signs of synthetic biology.

Yet, for all that, there is still that lingering sense that in the future even the most artificial of all the artificial DNA will come to recognize that the mythic fate of the artificial–the ancient art of artifice–is always necessarily doubled. Certainly, every artifice first expresses itself in the language of perfect simulation–a smooth coding of the living world by biological tools that only work to enhance “exciting applications.” But, of course, the secret of all the great masters of the art of artifice is the hard-won realization that what motivates the artificial, what really renders believability to the theatre of artifice is precisely the intangible elements of undecidability, imperfection, and, indeed, latent error that is always carefully masked by the staging of the artifice. In this case, as in (natural) life, so too in (artificial) life: the fact that every fully accomplished perfect surf ride ends in the boneyards of just another wave on the beach might just intimate that the future logic of synthetic biology already contains its own boneyards, that what presently remains unsynthesized, unthought, and unconsidered is the ghost-rider in the shadows of artificial DNA. Could it be that resuscitating something of the spirit of the human, that which is presently policed away by the totalizing logic of synthetic biology, is the once and future destiny of artificial DNA? Or perhaps the reverse is true. If Blood Music is the skin of synthetic biology, swarms of mutating cells, like nature before them, will be indifferent to human fate. That would mean the future of synthetic biology will likely cast natural indifference against human artifice as its likely fate. In this case, we are in the presence of new (molecular) building blocks for a very traditional story.

Remember the unanticipated, premature death of Dolly, the first of all the android sheep that, for all its artificial resuscitation by the scientific hubris of genetic engineering, could not escape its fatal destiny of accelerated, synthetically enabled, aging. Just as we can acknowledge with some confidence that every massive wave is doomed to crash and every breakdown can be a potential breakthrough, so too even the science of artifice can never really escape that messy tangle of mythic destiny, complex ambitions, complicated dreams of the sub-real, and utopian dreams of transhumanism that is the continuing singularity event of the new real. In this case, the future of synthetic biology, with its creative breakouts of artificial DNA, nanotechnology, and fabricated xeno-organisms, remains fully uncertain in advance–fully undecidable, that is, until that future moment when the synthetic imagination actually begins to ride the wave of unsynthesized reality onto the beach of life itself.

Technologies of Suspended Animation

Following Heidegger’s fateful insight that understanding the essence of the question concerning technology is never far away but always close at hand, never, that is, hidden away in mythic stories of secret origins but something always proximate to the posthuman condition. What signs can be deciphered, what lessons can be drawn from these scenes from the event horizon: Synthetic Biology Riding the Wave, Life by Numbers, Tweaking Neural Circuitry, and Remote Mood Sensors? On the surface, these are discrete stories from the data-driven life, whether expressed in all its subjective enthusiasm by the quantified self movement or by technologies specializing in reengineered neural circuitry, invasive brain implants, and biological experiments in developing artificial life-forms as radically new pathways for a literally posthuman evolution. Again, following Heidegger, it may be the contemporary human fate to be caught in the way of a larger technological destiny–its foundations, morphology, and ultimate direction, all of which remain unclear–although its transitional momentum is felt clearly and decisively at every historical turn. Indeed, several generations after Heidegger’s reflections “On the Question Concerning Technology,” the revolution in technological affairs which his thought was both attentive to and prescient about has seemingly solidified its grasp on contemporary societies with dynamic and apparently unstoppable power that we can actually begin to discern the overall trajectory, if not the terminal destiny, of the will to technology. Again, the destiny of technology lies closest to us: for example, stories of the quantified self as raw data unfold to tell a story, a ribbon of fact, a narrow path of what is promised to be transcendence. Sometimes, the unexpected comes to call: a blip, a pause, a catastrophic rupture or, perhaps, just a broken line of code. Or again, stories from synthetic biology of the development of an approaching epoch of “biological superintelligence”–artificial life-forms constructed specifically to carry forward into a still-unknown future the complicated collusion of humans and machines at the speed of algorithmic processing, with the bodies of articulated robots, artificial orifices of synthetic senses, and the planetary skin of “The Internet of Everything.” The latter is how Cisco, the California futurist telecom of things related to wireless networks, routers, and network-switching mechanisms, prefers to describe the accelerated, seemingly hyper-exponential rate of change associated with the Internet. While the Internet may have begun in the late twentieth-century as a visionary, yet relatively limited, communicative order, by 2008 it had already generated its own wireless offspring–The “Internet of Things”–accompanied by the inevitable tech euphoria:

This year’s technology trends continue by the unstoppable path of Cloud Computing, Big Data, applications and mobile devices, 3D printing, NFC payments, integrated ecosystems, and, of course, the Internet of Things . . . that network of devices and in general things connected together to perform certain tasks and/or perform monitoring activities that enhance what we already do, or try to make that possible. [16]

Always speaking with the confidence of a cartographer of a digital future of which it is itself one of the key communicative architects, Cisco no sooner announced the advent of the Internet of Things than only several years later–in a Schumpeterian-inspired act of creative destruction–promptly abandoned the latter conceptualization in favor of an even more grandiose vision: the “Internet of Everything.” Here, what is privileged is the power of connections, not things:

Much has been made of the “Internet of Things” and a growing array of “smart” things that will soon change every aspect of our lives–from Google’s driverless car and iRobot’s Ava 500 video collaboration robot to “smart” pill bottles that will automatically renew a prescription and remind you when to take it.

While we often think that it’s all about things, it’s not actually the “things” that create the value, it’s the connections among people, process, data, and things–or the Internet of Everything that creates value.

There are about 10 billion connected things in the world today. In the next ten years, that number will grow to 50 billion things, increasing the intelligence and value of all these connections exponentially–billions of things, trillions of connections. In other words, in the Internet of Everything, as in life, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Connecting dumb things makes them smart, and helping them work together makes them even smarter. That is the power of the Internet of Everything. [17]

A perfect statement, then, of the rapture of technological connectionism, with its layering of the language of “smartness” onto the otherwise inert world of routers, switchers, and interfaces, and its hijacking of the therapeutics of “helpfulness” on behalf of the “trillions of connections” among “people, process, data, and things.”

The Quantified Fetus

And why not? Digital euphoria of this order produces many helpful results that illustrate possibilities for connecting “everything” in unexpected ways. For example, there is a new startup called Bellabeat, that provides both a digital device and an app to serve as a fetal monitor, providing continuous, real-time, biologically sensitive readouts of the baby’s heartbeat. It can also track baby kicks and even the mother’s weight gain. [18] Expanding beyond the traditional intimacy of a mother’s intuitive feelings of care and concern for the baby growing inside her, Bellabeat emits heartbeats as digital soundbytes that can be shared with family and friends over the Internet–literally the Internet of Everything, including downloadable, shareable, real-time heartbeats of an unborn baby–the quantified fetus can be heard anywhere, anytime through the wondrous “power of connections.” In an uncanny intimation of the real-time of the digital superseding the biological time of the human, digital histories of fetal activity, as in the case of Bellabeat, make possible digital life-histories spanning a longer time continuum that the chronological life-cycle of humans that begins, at least in the West, with actual birth. Promoted as a digital device that can be trusted, Bellabeat may, of course, also have the unintended effect of undermining the baby’s mother’s trust in her own intuitive feelings for the invisible, yet emotionally palpable, presence of her unborn baby. A curious case, then, of increased digital sensitivity based on real-time data concerning the health of babies, and a soft, yet insistent, undermining of a mother’s actual emotionally based feelings for the well-being of her unborn baby. Not so much the old question concerning which to trust more–machine readouts or intuitive, inchoate feelings–but something else. In this case, does the power of (digital) connections also have the power to deliver us to a world of (emotional) misconnections?

“Turning the Body into a Password”

But why stop with the quantified fetus when it soon will be possible to inhabit a DIY body that is password protected? Google’s Motorola “skunkworks” division has just prototyped a new digestible digital device (Motorola’s Edible Password Pill) that once swallowed instantly transforms the human body into an authentication tool for accessing digital domains, from smartphones and laptops to digitally swipeable doors, whether offices, garages, or homes. Nominated by Time Inc. as one of the “twenty-five best inventions of the Year 2013,” the accompanying description includes the following: “Swallowed once daily, the pill consists of a tiny chip that uses the acid in your stomach to power it on. Once activated, it emits a specific 18-bit EKG-like signal that can be detected by your phone or computer, essentially turning the body into a password.” [19]

Following the overall logic of technological incorporation where data increasingly breaks the skin barrier, moving from its outer surface to its biological interiority, this digital device upgrades the body with the power of actually becoming its own interface, merging the “power of connections” with data flesh with such bio-technical seamlessness that the digitally authenticated body smoothly and effortlessly merges with an Internet of Everything. As Regina Dugan, former head of DARPA and now leader of Google’s advanced technology team, has remarked about the body as its own “authentication token,”

“Once swallowed, it means that my arms are like wires, my hands are like alligator clips–when I touch my phone, my computer, my door, my car, I’m authenticated in. It’s my first super power. I want that.” [20]

Working from the perspective that “(e)lectronics are boxy and rigid, and humans are curvy and soft,” [21] Google’s aim is to complete the always difficult last few millimeters of connecting the “curvy and soft” flesh of until-now organic human beings with the geometric grid of digital connectivity. Consequently, a future of modulated technology–soft, ubiquitous, pliable, smooth–sometimes camouflaged as electronic tattoos on infants (data tracking for better security), as “authentication tokens” in the supposedly hyper-cool style of e-tattoos, or as “stretchable circuits” for detecting concussions in sports injuries. Unconsciously adopting the language of mimesis, this form of body invasion by the contemporary generation of data snatchers, from the Motorola Edible Password Pill to digitally-coded rap tattoos, is brilliantly disguised as a biological appendage–subtle technology with the added benefit of conferring “super power” on fully authenticated bodies.

Between Life and Death

Perhaps the Quantified Self has already moved on to the diagrammed body, that point where digital devices are so deeply embedded in our psyches–from quantified fetuses to password protected bodies–that technology has now become a readout of the human life-cycle. When what should properly be on the periphery of human attention becomes central to perception, neurology, moods, or the human nervous system itself, there is bound to be some damage. It is not so much that under the pressure of technological change the human sensorium has now been turned inside out, resulting in radically split human senses–partially still interior to individuated bodily histories and partially circulating at the speed of digital circuitry–but that there is a growing prohibition against self-awareness of what has been lost with the appearance of the diagrammed body. There is no digital device that does not leave a bodily trace, no fusion with a synthetic life-form–whether a net bot with an inflated sense of artificial intelligence, a supposedly “smart” form of machine-to-machine communication, a cyber-implant in the theater of synthetic biology–that does not revise memories, disrupt feelings, disappear the precious singularity of that which is not only unique but ineffable–the relationship between a mother and her suddenly data-driven baby, bodies viewed as inauthentic because they are unauthenticated, life itself filled with jagged edges, slow trudges, and always messy confusions of being a being of organic matter in an increasingly dematerialized world.

Consequently, while we can be aware that the “power of connections” is swiftly delivering us to a future capable of producing quantified fetuses and password protected bodies, what remains unclear is the ultimate cultural, and perhaps even existential, impact of the triumph of the transhuman. Considered in terms other than dystopia or utopia, is it possible that such adventures in transhumanism–powered by visions of technological rapture and the Singularity event, practically implemented by the Quantified Self movement, and replete with experiments in vivisectioning neural circuitry by synthetic biologists–are fundamentally changing the meaning of life and death for the human species as a whole? Not a future of technological rapture, but an indefinite period of suspended animation in which the human species, as a life-form kept waiting for the Singularity event that may or may not ever arrive, perhaps makes its final, feverish preparations for a fateful crossing-over point between machines and humans, but, in any case, not wanting to be untethered from digital prosthetics and definitely not anticipating that very real crossing-over point–the always solitary experience of death–without helpful technologies wrapping themselves around the “soft and curvy” matter of the body organic as it terminates.

There is a revealing report in the New Scientist about a new emergency technique in suspended animation (“Gunshot victims to be suspended between life and death”) [22]–that bears directly on larger issues related to technology, culture, and life itself. The story recounts how surgeons at a Pittsburgh hospital are now experimenting in suspended animation for victims of traumatic injuries–by guns, knives, or blunt objects–as a way of stopping blood loss, thus gaining bodily time in order that their lives can later be saved by the necessary medical interventions. One surgeon is quoted as saying: “We are suspending life, but we don’t like to call it that because it sounds like science fiction. So we call it emergency preservation and resuscitation.” [23] The technological procedure used in this trial is straightforward: once the aorta has been clamped, a solution of saline is pumped “through the heart and up to the brain,” and the patient’s temperature is reduced with the result that “at this point they will have no blood in their body, no breathing, and no brain activity. They will be clinically dead.” [24] But hopefully not for long since after the necessary surgical interventions, blood is flushed through the body, the saline solution purged, and the patient’s body warmed up by its own circulating blood. With this (redemptive) medical conclusion, “We’ve always assumed you can’t bring back the dead. But it’s a matter of when you pickle the cells.” [25]

Now while this is an intriguing story concerning the truly liminal boundaries between life and death, it may also be a preliminary glimpse of the fate of the human species generally and the DIY body specifically, as it is flushed with a saline solution of synthetic technologies, its key organs clamped shut with password protected apps, its body temperature definitely cooled down by increasingly antiseptic loops of cold code, and its neural circuitry placed in a state of suspended animation waiting for resuscitation by technological rapture. While medicine, like all of science before it, cannot in the end overcome the finality of human mortality, the greater ambition of contemporary technology, particularly in its transhumanist expression, is captured perfectly by the surgeon’s insight into the decidability of previously undecidable matters of life and death: “It’s a matter of when you pickle the cells.” [26]

Notes
—————–

[1] Raymond Kurzweil, “Reinventing Humanity: The Future of Machine-Human Intelligence,” http://www.singularity.com/KurzweilFuturist.pdf (accessed May 21, 2014).

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Gary Wolf, “The Data-Driven Life,” The New York Times (May 2, 2010), http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/02/magazine/02self-measurement-t.html?pagewanted=all (accessed May 20, 2014).

[5] Paolo Saraceno and Renato Orfei, “From Molecular Clouds to Stars,” Istituto Di Fiscia Dello Spaizo Interplanaterio, CNR, http://www.gps.caltech.edu/classes/ge133/reading/starformation.pdf (accessed July 28, 2014).

[6] James Wolcott, “Wired up! Ready to Go!” Vanity Fair (February 20, 2013), http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/2013/02/quantified-self-hive-mind-weight-watchers (accessed May 20, 2014).

[7] Ibid.

[8] Robert Lee Holtz, “Mysterious Brain Circuitry Becomes Viewable,” The Wall Street Journal, http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB100014241278873242353045784388114892 74812 (accessed June 2, 2014).

[9] Ibid.

[10] Patrick Tucker, “The Military is Building Brain Chips to Treat PTSD,” Defense One, http://www.defenseone. com/technology/2014/05/D1-Tucker-military-building-brain-chips-treat-ptsd/85360/?oref=d-channelriver (accessed May 29, 2014).

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Juan Enriquez, quoted in Breanna Draxler, “Life as We Grow it: The Promises and Perils of Synthetic Biology,” Discover Magazine (December 11, 2013), http://discovermagazine.com/2013/oct/14-life-as-we-grow-it (accessed July 22, 2014).

[14] “Scripps Research Institute Scientists Create First Living Organism that Transmits Added Letters in DNA ‘Alphabet,'” Scripps press release (May 7, 2014), http://www.scripps.edu/news/press/2014/20140507romesberg.html (accessed July 23, 2014).

[15] Ibid.

[16] “The Internet of Things,” Opinno, http://www.opinno.com/ en/content/internet-things-0 (accessed May 20, 2014).

[17] Dale Evans, “Why Connections (Not Things) Will Change the World” (August 27, 2013). For a full expression of Cisco’s futurism, see http://blogs.cisco.com/ioe/how-the-internet-of-everything-will-change-the-worldfor-the-betterinfographic/ (accessed June 9, 2014).

[18] Anne Field, “Venture Capital Flocks to the ‘Quantified Self,” used with permission, http://thenetwork.cisco.com/ (accessed June 05, 2014).

[19] “Inventions of the Year 2013: The Edible Password Pill,” Time, Inc., http://techland.time.com/2013/11/14/the-25-best-inventions-of-the-year-2013/slide/the-edible-password-pill/ (accessed May 15, 2014). Emphasis in original.

[20] Liz Gannes, “Passwords on Your Skin and in Your Stomach: Inside Google’s Wild Motorola Research Projects,” video, Facebook, https:www.facebook.com/sharer/sharer.php? (accessed June 6, 2014).

[21] Ibid.

[22] Helen Thomsom, “Gunshot victims to be suspended between life and death,” New Scientist (March 26, 2014), http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg22129623.000-gunshot-victims-to-be-suspended-between-life-and-death. html#.U5VQTBzr_-s (accessed April 22, 2014).

[23] Ibid.

[24] Ibid.

[25] Ibid.

[26] Ibid.