What Does Technology Lust After?

A Wearable Tech Hackathon sex app for Google Glass

So this was inevitable, right?

First thoughts:

  1. Really? Picture-in-picture?
  2. Seeing what my partner sees might make me never want to have sex again. I am reminded of Steve’s disquisition on “nether freckling” from Coupling s3:e5: “There are … angles. In a relationship you get seen from certain … angles.”
  3. With all the photos being stolen off of hacked mobile devices and posted to revenge porn websites, how could this possibly go wrong?
  4. Wasn’t Strange Days (1995) a great / terrible sci-fi film?

But more seriously, total immersion in the experience of another ranks along with immortality, total recall, omniscience, radical subjectivity, demediation of desire and fulfillment and a few others as ultimate goals of technology.

What I’m saying is that I think technology is teleological. The evolution of technology is not a random walk or a function of reachability or the traversal of a dependency network. Well, it is all those things, but it is not only those things. There are ends or extreme outer limits toward which technology is evolving. I think I listed a few off-the-cuff. Some systematic and dedicated attention to a fuller list is warranted.

But wence do the ends come? As I have framed them, they could be construed as merely the desiderata of the human makers of technology — technology has no end of it’s own: they are bestowed by their makers. But perhaps technology as a continuation of life, as a fourth domain, inherits these ends. Or perhaps these ends admit of a more objective formulation: eternity instead of immortality, idealist anarchy for radical subjectivity. Or perhaps for Kantian cyborgs, they are the transcendental illusions of technology.

Also, as if my digression hasn’t already been far enough, there’s this as a longing to supersede individuation:

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On the Whistle-Stop Tour the Action is at the Caboose

As I posted again and again and again on the bizarre and sublimated love affair of Condoleezza Rice and George W. Bush, Jr., and in the interest of being fair and balanced, and because I’m a prurient ass hole, I have no choice but to post on this photo:

G8 Summit, President Obama and Brazilian Junior Delegate Mayora Taveres, 10 July 2009

Forget about all that stuff about how photos lie and what the video shows. Liberals need to offer a full-throated defense of the President in this situation. So, in the President’s defense, I offer that that is a hot piece of ass! And this is not just any piece of ass we are talking about here: this is Brazilian ass. I mean, a piece of Argentinean ass was enough to suck out the brain of Mark Sanford, leaving him a drooling, misty-eyed, blubbering microcephalic. So long as President Obama refrains from inflicting upon us tales of a fuchsia dress circa 2014, whatever (could “junior delegates” be the new interns?).

More impressive than President Obama is that dastardly, self-satisfied look on the face of President Nicolas Sarkozy, European Mephistopheles standing next to the virtuous, but naïve — especially in the mechanics of love — American, pleased with his handy bit of work in tempting the America naïf with the fruits of colonial adolescence. I don’t think President Sarkozy is so much admiring this Brazilian can, as looking at President Obama, enjoying a moment of male recognition, reveling in the fall of one of his fellows.

How do you pick a title for a post like this. I don’t know which political-strategic-cum-sexual pun to go with: interceptor missiles, emissions, some play on G8, what?

CS, AI, T&A

A bit of a discussion broke out at this morning’s session over Shane Legg and Marcus Hutter’s paper, “Universal Intelligence: A Definition of Machine Intelligence” (Minds & Machines, vol. 17, no. 4, 2007, pgs. 391-444, arXiv:0712.3329v1). Following the convention of abbreviated reference to a paper by its authors’ last names, and as Hutter is pronounced “hooter,” this paper is referred to as “legs and hooters.” So there was this back and forth, “As the legs and hooters paper shows …” “You should look more carefully at legs and hooters.” “It can be hard to get you head around legs and hooters.” “We shouldn’t rush to embrace legs and hooters.” I exaggerate slightly, but I would imagine that there are better papers than Legg and Hutter’s on the subject of the definition of machine intelligence; it’s just that those other papers get passed over in favor of one granting a computer nerd the opportunity to say “legs and hooters” in all seriousness in front of a room full of people. I’ll bet that Legg and Hutter decided to collaborate on the basis that such a winning name combination guaranteed their rocket-like ascension in the ranking of most oft cited papers.

The Sadism of Joss Whedon

After the first episode of the Dollhouse I was markedly not impressed. It may not ever be explicit in the plot, but it’s certainly clear external to the plot that the Dollhouse is a whore house. That’s the whole premise of the tantalizing advertising campaign. They are not delivering hostage negotiators or assassins. The hard drives in the mezzanine laboratory are full of sex kitten fantasy lives. In the flashback scene to Echo’s induction into the Dollhouse, Adelle DeWitt offers her the chance to make amends, but Echo objects that she doesn’t really have a choice, does she? It’s third-world sex slavery brought to the high-tech first world.

But I think that Joss Whedon is not confused about whether or not he’s an artist. He’s fully aware that it’s his job to turn out a product that gathers eyeballs to the FOX ad stream. And a house full of stoned-eyed, will-less, child-like babes wandering aimlessly in their yoga outfits clearly has appeal for a certain demographic. Apparently dropping the false power suite professionalism in favor of after-hours yoga-clad submissiveness is the new yuppie sexuality.

Where Whedon is an artist is that in his productions, the joke is on the studio and on us. It was no accident that the premiere of a series that’s about a bunch of sex slaves leads with an episode where one of the slaves is sent out as a hostage negotiator instead of on a sexual escapade. In the final scene where Echo goes into the kitchen to retrieve the kidnapped girl from the refrigerator, I expected the refrigerator to be upright against the wall, like refrigerators usually are, but instead it was horizontal on the ground — just like the sleeping chambers to which the Actives are sent at day’s end. “He doesn’t return them. He keeps them — until he’s done with them, or until they’re worn out,” Echo says of the kidnapper. Just like the Dollhouse will use up the Actives. The Actives are a bunch of sexual kidnap victims and episode one was Whedon accusing his entire audience of fantasizing their sexual molestation. It’s the same thing that Oliver Stone did with Natural Born Killers.

Combined with tonight’s episode, I’d say that the series is off to a pretty Sadistic start.

And is it just a coincidence that Harry Lennix, a total Barack Obama look- and sound-alike, has been cast as Echo’s handler? Does the entire country get its mind wiped clean and returned to a child-like state of naïveté after each mission? But at least we’ve got a fatherly overseer in whom we can place our complete trust.

Sensuous Knowledge

The current issue of The New York Review of Books has an enjoyable essay on Indian eroticism (Dalrymple, William, “India: The Place of Sex,” vol. LV, no. 11, 26 June 2008, pp. 33-36). Alas, everyone prior to a certain era it would seem was possessed of the anti-life of Platonism and the sky cult:

… there has always been a strong tension in Hinduism between the ascetic and the sensual. The poet Bhartrihari, who probably lived in the third century AD, around the time of the composition of the Kamasutra, oscillated no less than seven times between the rigors of the monastic life and the abandon of the sensualist. “There are two paths,” he wrote. “The sages’ religious-devotion, which is lovely because it overflows with the nectarous waters of the knowledge of truth,” and “the lusty undertaking of touching with one’s palm that hidden part in the firm laps of lovely-limbed women, loving women with great expanses of breasts and thighs.”

“Tell us decisively which we ought to attend upon,” he asks in the Shringarashataka. “The sloping sides of wilderness mountains? Or the buttocks of women abounding in passion?”

Of the happier consequences of the death of god, one is that we can dispense with this never really existent dichotomy between the life of the mind and the sensuousness of the body. From beyond such strictures, they seem entirely arbitrary. Their abandonment is the aesthetic-ethical corollary of Kant’s dissolution of the rationalist-empiricist debate. I take it that this is what Nietzsche was getting at when he promulgating a collection of aphorisms under the title The Gay Science, or as it has occasionally been translated, The Joyous Knowledge. I think here of his discussion, as well as my own experience, that one’s best thoughts are often had while in motion.

Lives Better Than Yours

  1. Lauren Weedman, who wrote for The Daily Show for a brief period, recounts her experience (“I Am So Funny,” The Stranger, vol. 17, no. 3, 26 September 2007):

    Stephanie suddenly looks sad.

    “I’m sorry I’m not laughing — it just takes a lot to make me laugh. It has to be like, hilarious, to make me laugh. I’m sure you’re really funny, but I’d just be careful with the ‘trying to be funny’ thing. Everyone has a really low tolerance for that around here. So, anyway, welcome!”

    Ya gotta imagine the competition around that office to be funny is pretty damn steep. I’ll bet none of the staff needs help working on their obliques at the gym.

  2. When an editor requested some modifications to a piece on a fantasy sexual encounter to make it seem more attainable to the average person, Audacia Ray replies (“My Naughty Adventures in Print,” Waking Vixen, 2 October 2007),

    Well, I do have to say that there’s probably not a lot about my life that is attainable to the average person …

    That’s a pretty heady boast, but her blog bears it out. The resultant article is here (“I Want…Double Penetration,” Time Out New York, no. 627, 4 October 2007) and not safe for work.

A Puff of Wig Glue and Couture

When Violet Blue posted that she had been invited to appear on the Tyra Banks Show to talk about women and pornography, I thought that maybe there was a dollop of intelligence to be found somewhere in the daytime television world, that maybe there was something slightly enlightened about Tyra Banks (she did tell reporters to “Kiss my fat ass” when the usual rags had run some stories about how she may have put on some weight). Well, Ms. Blue has the post-taping report up (“Tyra Banks Show — *Not* America’s Next Top Blogger,” Open Source Sex, 20 September 2007) and it sounds like daytime television remains the wasteland of small-mindedness and petty sadism that I remember it.