Last week, the class watched "Beyond Human", a documentary
on practical and theoretical cybernetic enhancement. In this film, we
see how this technology is used to help victims of spinal cord injuries,
deafness, and blindness. It also shows how nanotechnology can be used
for medical purposes. Finally, it discusses how it can also extend our
abilities as humans in other ways, such as enhanced perception and communication,
but also to read information from brain waves. The film brings up the
question of what it means to be human in the first place, once we have
so much electronic gadgetry lodged in our bodies. It also forces us
to reconsider the nature of our sensory perception. One example in the
film: a man walks around school with a camera in his glasses, and the
glasses themselves are monitors. Therefore, he is looking at an image
of what is directly in front of him. Is he really looking at what is
front of him? How are his senses affected by this? These two questions
are related - our senses are what we use to interact with the world.
It is how we as humans relate to the outside world. Once our perceptions
are changed, our humanity is changed as well.
The assigned readings also bring up similar questions.
Chapter thirteen goes through the respective histories of artificial
intelligence (automata), virtual reality (illusion in art), and rejection
of the body (that is, releasing the "soul" from the body in some way).
The author shows how all of these ideas are centuries-old, in some cases
more. He then claims that telepresence connects all three ideas, although
how the first of the three fits in is not clear. The article considers
the effects on sensory perception, and how telepresence affects our
sense of distance. Also, although we only interact current technology
visually and audially, in the future we may interact with the senses
of smell, touch, and taste as well. At that point, we will literally
feel like we are somewhere else, with almost no distinction between
illusion and reality. Finally, chapter eighteen discusses "film and
the new psychology". The main point of this chapter is that the new
psychology deals with how a person's consciousness interacts with the
world. Old psychology held that our perception and interpretation to
a large extent determine reality. However, new psychology claims that
things have their own essence, and that we interact with the world on
many levels, not just interpretation. In addition, classical psychology
looks at emotions in others by drawing on interpretations based on experience.
I know you are angry, because I see how you are acting, and have been
angry before, and I therefore understand the emotion you are now experiencing.
New psychology, by contrast, says that emotions are defined by the behavior
resulting from them (behavorism). For example, anger means behaving
in an angry way. That means that the way a person interacts with the
world *is* the emotion that person is having. This is indicated by the
variety of different indicators that a person is angry - his appearance,
his behavior, his speech patterns, and even his handwriting all reveal
his anger. Finally, film shows us this connection between individuals
as a whole and the world as a whole by connecting us to the film in
many ways - the order and durations of the scenes, the music in the
background, and the tone and style of the dialogue, among others.
Therefore, according to this last reading, we are
defined by our perceptions - our interface with the world. If that is
the case, how are we *redefined* when we have our vision modified electronically?
What happens to our emotions? This is already a very practical question
- when we use a "chat" program, how do we express anger? Happiness?
Confusion? Many misunderstandings happen because our perception of our
chatting partners are not in place. As technology develops, this will
certainly happen again.