Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Mindset List -- Recalibrating Your Mind For The Class Of 2015 (

Every year the good professors at Beloit College publish a mindset list.  The purpose is to help old fogeys like me (and maybe you -- if you have kids, check with them) understand why their hip references to Two Live Crew and "Bueller? Bueller?" fall flat with incoming freshmen...uh, sorry, fresh-people.

This year's list is no different and a few of them really jumped out at me:
  • Andre the Giant, River Phoenix, Frank Zappa, Arthur Ashe and the Commodore 64 have always been dead.
  • There have nearly always been at least two women on the Supreme Court, and women have always commanded U.S. Navy ships.
  • As they’ve grown up on websites and cell phones, adult experts have constantly fretted about their alleged deficits of empathy and concentration.
  • Amazon has never been just a river in South America.
  • Grown-ups have always been arguing about health care policy.
  • Russian courts have always had juries.
  • They’ve always wanted to be like Shaq or Kobe: Michael Who?
The full list is available on the Beloit website.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Purity First: The Anti-Human Augmentation Movement Of 2027 (

While the video below is a promo for a new video game called Deus Ex, this post is not about the game. 

The game is a "typical" (though the initial reviews indicate it is actually pretty good...) action RPG video game.  As with many games these days, there is an effort to create a promotional "buzz" in advance of launch.  One marketing tactic often used is to create faux reports of disasters or crises that haven't happened (in the great tradition of War of the Worlds, The Day After and Cloverfield).  It is particularly effective for these near-future kinds of story.  This is such an effort  (for another, see the trailer to The Curfew).

What caught my eye, though, was the subject of this "revolutionary propaganda film" -- human augmentation.  Take a look (Note:  This video is fairly graphic and not for the young or squeamish)...

In my post last week I noted how "human augmentation" -- the process of using technology to make humans better, smarter, faster (as we used to say back when this stuff only cost 6 million or so...) -- had made it onto the early part of the Gartner Hype Cycle.

Most of us would think, I guess, that human augmentation is generally a good thing.  Who wouldn't want an amputee to be able to hold his child's hand or someone who was without legs to be able to walk?

The idea that these kinds of prosthetics and implants are getting so "good" that they might offer people actual (unfair?) advantages rather than merely make up for a perceived deficiency is relatively new.

Two people who have dealt with the consequences of this are Oscar Pistorius and Aimee Mullins, both runners who have lost their legs. Pistorius is a South African who has had to fight to be able to compete for a slot on the South African Olympics team.  Mullins ran college track with the use of specially designed prosthetic legs back in the 90's.

Mullins is particularly interesting as she has gone on to a career as a fashion model and motivational speaker.  She actually makes the case in the speech below that her artificial limbs give her an advantage.

It is hard to imagine that the dystopian view of human augmentation depicted in Deus Ex will ever come to pass but both these videos are worth watching for the counterpoints they represent (and the kinds of decisions we might be faced with in the future).