Daniel Tsadok
Week 2

The materials assigned for Week Two deal with human control over nature.

The film "Fast, Cheap, and Out of Control" demonstrates four levels of control humans have over nature. The simplest comes in the form of the gardener, who trims plants so they look like animals. He is very similar to a sculptor in the sense that he has a shape he is trying to elicit from his material. However, in this case, the material itself is alive. He is manipulating the way this lifeform grows and lives in order to make it look like what he wants. However, because plants are generally seen as the lowest form of life (one step above rocks, according to Aristotle), not much control is required by the gardener.

The second level is the biologist, who studies naked mole rats, which behave like insects. He finds that he can manipulate the animals, and determine, for example, where the nest is going to be, and where the toilet is going to be, and use this to design an exhibit in a zoo. This is a higher level of control, because he is manipulating the nature of these animals for his own purposes. However, he is not actually changing their nature.

The next level is the lion tamer, who actually gets the animals to do exactly what he wants (most of the time). It is a dangerous game, because they have their own sense of what they want to do, and he must constantly be on guard. He controls exactly where they go and what they do - one of the highest levels of control possible on an individual level.

Finally, the robotics researcher has the ultimate control. He is designing robots from the ground up, and every aspect of the robot is under his control. He is trying to simulate nature within his context, but if he succeeds, he will be able to "tinker" with the results, and possibly improve on what exists already.

GFP Bunny - this is about manipulating a lifeform (in this case, a rabbit) as art. Kac calls this Transgenic art. This raises many obvious questions about our ability to interfere with normal progression of life. In this case, the interference is genetic, which is the basic building block of life.

Simon G. Penny's TRACE project tries to create an environment that allows a person to kinesthetically interact with the environment, making it more realistic. In this case, control is being exerted on the environment, not the individual in the environment.

The Home of the Brain website aims to empower the user by allowing him/her to acquire "a new way of perception". The virtual world gives the user "artificial eyes and hands", allowing him/her to interact with their world in a way that is not possible in the real world. The upshot is that the virtual world is very limited in that it must be designed by humans - it does not imply any additional "powers" in the real world.