Bacteria culture

The artist hostprods describing Autoinducer_Ph-1 (cross cultural chemistry) (2006), robotic arms tending a rice paddy, controlled by AI modelling software interacting with synthetic and organic bacteria:

Both the organic and synthetic bacteria are aware of the state of their symbiotic partner via traditional chemical detection methods. As a denizen of an electronic environment, GCS [Generalized Cellular Signaling] bacteria signals are converted into signals that control various actuators and thus the regulated environment in which the bacteria are being cultured. Through this interface, the synthetic bacteria are fully integrated into the ecosystem and exert an equal influence on the system equilibrium. In addition to producing a chemical response, certain GCS signals are translated into sound and light rounding out the environmental stimuli of the ecosystem. The sum effect is a system in flux, one that teases the Anabaena and Azolla into behaviour distinct from the natural. ‘Autoinducer_Ph-1’ employs a pair of robotic arms to deliver Azolla to the growing rice as and when the GCS/Anabaena symbiotic brain decides. Although starting out with basic behaviours the arms evolve a more and more expressive mode of operation as the piece continues.

There's video at the site. Examine some other projects too, like Phumox (2005).

A crucial part of Phumox is the recognition of emergent behaviour in organic and artificial systems and how these organic and artificial systems can be juxtaposed to produce emergent behaviour through symbiotic or parasitic activity. Exploring these boundary conditions is the focus, as the most dramatic events occur not in equilibrium but in change [emphasis mine].

That's a truth in just about any context.


The Potential of Potentials

Brendan Allison, Ph.D. gave a presentation to a Microsoft Research audience in June 2006, titled Brain Computer Interface Systems: Progress and Opportunities, covering some exciting R&D.

Brain computer interfaces (BCIs) use neuroimaging systems (most commonly EEG) to measure brain activity and process signals to control software. Research is underway on implants/neural prosthetics, but EEG is non-invasive and getting more accessible. The familiar bulky array of 8 to 256 electrodes with conductive gel stuck to a user's head, impractical for portable consumer use, is changing as companies develop caps, glasses and similar small devices that allow freedom of movement and no professional assistance to hook up.

For people with locked-in syndrome from ALS, who cannot move any muscles in their body but remain conscious and alert, BCIs can be their sole means of communication with the world. Thought Translation Devices (it's not quite thought, rather ERPs) are used to write, and patients can even browse the web with Neural Internet. Researchers have created a robot controlled by BCI to function as an assistant for the disabled, and no doubt there are other human-liberating projects in development and refinement.

Games tend to get awed attention (see this clip on YouTube of Pong). There's Mindball, a competitive ball game, a video game purports to treat ADHD, and other neurofeedback games make various claims.

In the arts they've been used for performance drawing, artifact imaging, there's a proposal to create live video, and other nifty creative works.

Then there's the controversial Brain Fingerprinting lie detection method, and other applications too numerous to list in just one post.

Back in the Microsoft Research lecture video, Brendan Allison says electrode arrays cost as little as $1,000 readymade, and can be used with an ordinary computer (even a PDA). Mix in some DIY creativity and who knows what may result? If Make magazine/blog meets the OpenEEG wiki, it's really unpredictable. The future seems wide open.

EEG does have limitations. It takes considerable training to operate a BCI with a biofeedback-type method in which the user relaxes into different states; or to set up an interface based on recognizing objects. The process and interface can be cumbersome.

Considering electroencephalography has been around since the early 20th century, and growing more sophisticated, it seems we'll continue to invent applictions. Allison outlines much of the progress in his talk, so do watch his presentation.

Note that Microsoft has considerately limited viewing of the video to users with Explorer and Windows Media Player. How unfuturistic of them.


Journal refs:

Review Brain-computer interfaces--the key for the conscious brain locked into a paralyzed body. Kübler and Neumann,
Progress in Brain Research 2005.:513-25.

Neural Internet: Web Surfing with Brain Potentials for the Completely Paralyzed, Karim et al., Neurorehabilitation and Neural Repair, 2006, 508-515 (free PDF)


Jonathan McCabe videos

Recently I featured Jonathan McCabe's two dimensional artwork, stills of patterns generated by neural nets in his exhibit Nervous States.

More and better: animations! Videos document the processes behind the stills taken for the Origami Butterfly Technique show. Fascinating to watch the changes.

[The YouTube conversion is not as good as the Quicktime, which you can get from archives.]

Jonathan McCabe is interested in theories of biological pattern formation and evolution and their application to computer art. He likes to write computer programs which measure statistical properties of images for use in artificial evolution of computer art.

Detail of an image from Origami Butterfly Technique; click for an amazing full size image.

Archived minimally; although McCabe is a digital artist, he's hasn't made a web site. Perhaps the neural nets could generate a design?

Read more from Generator.x.
Read even more from Data Is Nature.
Direct video link (.mov) Ten videos in total archived here.


Remote control cyber cockroach transformations

Click image for full comic from Dinosaur Comics, by Ryan North.

The cockroach wouldn't be aware of the transformation as its consciousness changed form and function. Ideally. Ethics, right?

I'm not one to weigh ethics, that's something transhumanism is mandated for. I'm a salon transhumanist as defined by Michael Anissimov, blending into arts and culture. Read the Transhumanist FAQ to find out why I realized I was already a transhumanist (yay SRL); perhaps you are too. Or perhaps you're someone at the top who reads my little blog but doesn't require links. Either way, hope the comic made you smile.


Diseased transgenic robots

Transgenic dog/cows made of hacked I-Cybie robots, in performance art about bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), a.k.a. Mad Cow Disease, and issues in cow cloning (newly approved by the FDA). Part of Dog[LAB]02 by France Cadet.

Suddenly these pathological symptoms start to appear and invade the whole pack. One animal, then two, then three… the whole pack seems touched by this epidemic. The animal shake, stumble, fall down, get up painfully.

Then the pack of clones starts to exhibit an uniform and synchronous behaviour: all the robots start to shake and bleat all together at the same time. They can't stand up any more on their feverish paws. The mad cow disease seems to be here!

The tremors become more and more intense, then suddenly, they all fall down at the same time. Once lying on the floor, they groan with quavering bleats which seem to be insignificant when they are alone, but when we hear the 30 cries of the dying clones, they become frightening.

This is the end... The clones become clones again. The pack is dying in unison.

The artist notes, "By using a whole pack of robotic dogs, the aim is to create a much more frightening impression than was possible with the single dog of Dog[LAB]01, which often inspired amusement – something the artist did not intend. [LOL] The use of multiple robots also evokes contemporary anxieties about cloning, the spread of new diseases, and genocide. The dramatic death of the robots challenges the utopian dreams of transhumanists in which robotic technology is seen as a means of overcoming our mortality. As Luciana Parisi emphasizes, the novelty of Dolly, the cloned sheep, was not that you could clone an adult mammal, but that our genes and organs can be designed and shaped. The point is not solely that it is now possible to reproduce artificially, but that human beings can be reproduced from scratch."

Also burgers. Researchers funded by Kirin (the brewery) claim to have bred mad-cow-disease-resistant cows by knocking out prion protein genes. [Article epub ahead of print but Nature appears not to have put it online yet.]

Which is great since the alternatives of people ceasing to eat beef, modifying factory farm feeding methods (and laws), and/or international trade restrictions seem to have been too hard to do. Instead of vegetarianism, here's genetic engineering. Simple. But:

"By knocking out the prion protein gene and producing healthy calves, our team has successfully demonstrated that normal cellular prion protein is not necessary for the normal development and survival of cattle," [said] James Robl.

Prions are now optional? I must investigate further. Perhaps toward cyborg transgenic cows; robots with cloned prion-free muscle tissue, and...

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