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AP Article On Cyborg Steve Mann 342

Vellmont writes "Slashdots favorite Cyborg, University of Toronto Engineering Professor Steve Mann has an AP article about him out. You can read the article on Salon or Yahoo (as well as many other places). The article is well done, and I particularly love Prof. Mann's way of dealing with stores who prohibit videotaping. Slashdot ran a previous story about Prof. Mann's troubles with Airport Security in March 2002."
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AP Article On Cyborg Steve Mann

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  • Not a cyborg. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by praksys ( 246544 ) on Saturday January 10, 2004 @09:31PM (#7941575)
    He's not a cyborg, unless some of this hardware actually involved surgery or the replacement of biological parts. He's a gargoyle [].
  • by Realistic_Dragon ( 655151 ) on Saturday January 10, 2004 @09:32PM (#7941583) Homepage
    Video quote:

    "Then he tells the employees that "HIS manager" makes him film public places for HIS security -- how does he know, he tells them, that the fire exits aren't chained shut? -- and that they'll have to talk to HIS manager."

    Of course if he does that in a cinema he will be arrested and sent to a state pen where he will become even more attached (ouch) to his wearable computer thanks to the resident cybernetic surgeon, Joe 'Two Teeth' Bob.
  • by Phillup ( 317168 ) on Saturday January 10, 2004 @09:33PM (#7941588)
    A DIMM isn't that small... where do you put >= 512 of them?

    Has to be a typo... probably 512 MB.
  • Re:Eeeegads! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by saunabad ( 664414 ) on Saturday January 10, 2004 @09:41PM (#7941632)
    Honestly though, this guy is addicted to information.

    I think this guy is more addicted to publicity than information. I've seen many articles of him, but I still have no idea if he has actually accomplished anything else than just to wear a computer and a camera all the time. No offence to anyone, but what is the point?
  • by Scrameustache ( 459504 ) on Saturday January 10, 2004 @09:42PM (#7941637) Homepage Journal
    Cyborg? He's not a cybernetic organism, he's guy who lugs around gear.

    He's no more a cyborg than a guy covered in mud is a golem.
  • Re:Kevin Warwick? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 10, 2004 @09:47PM (#7941667)
    They are both frauds of the same magnitude...
    odd that they have so much in common.
  • by nnnneedles ( 216864 ) on Saturday January 10, 2004 @09:48PM (#7941670)
    I'm starting to think that these journalists make these factual errors to get peoples attention.

    Have you noticed they always put a much bigger number than it was supposed to be? The error is never a lesser number...
  • by slashdaughter ( 309904 ) on Saturday January 10, 2004 @10:21PM (#7941832)

    "Sticking feathers up your butt does not make you a chicken."
    - Tyler Durden

  • by An Onerous Coward ( 222037 ) on Saturday January 10, 2004 @10:28PM (#7941859) Homepage
    The eventual coolness of wearable computers shouldn't be underestimated. Sure, it will start out with bleeding edgers being able to fire off posts to Slashdot using nothing but an elaborate series of eye movements. Early adopters tend to look silly to the rest of us. No shame in that.

    But start combining technologies like mesh networks, cryptographic authentication schemes, GPS, and the like, and imagine where they're going. How cool would it be to walk down any street in the country, and be able to call up the name, location, and menu of every Chinese restaurant within seven blocks? Or pinpoint all the "single and looking" girls at a rock concert who don't identify themselves as cat lovers.

    Imagine walking through a dark parking lot. If someone tries to attack you, one press of a button could notify the police and everyone within a two mile radius of your location.

    In a lot of ways, this means giving up a certain amount of privacy. For example, the distress signal from the last paragraph isn't going to work if anyone, anywhere can hit the panic button anonymously. That's where the cryptographic authentication comes in. There needs to be a way to verify the originator and trustworthiness of a given piece of information, whether it be, "Yes, officer, I'm authorized to drive a motor vehicle," or "Chin Wan's has great stir fry." The infrastructure doesn't exist yet, and it doubtless will never be perfect, but someday it will be at least as trustworthy as asking to see someone's ID.

    Some information will be automatically broadcasted, whether the user likes it or not (wanted for armed robbery). Some of it will be available to cashiers and law enforcement (too young to buy beer). Some of it will be voluntarily made available to the world (likes long walks, sunsets, and jiu-jitsu).

    It's going to be fun to watch these technologies come together. Possibly in a train-wreck fashion.
  • by t0qer ( 230538 ) on Saturday January 10, 2004 @10:45PM (#7941952) Homepage Journal
    By that logic, people who spend a lot of time reading books would have the same issues.

    Book reading isn't nearly as monotonous to your body as sitting in front of a CRT though. A book you can change its viewing distance by extending your hands, the light is reflected off the pages wheras a CRT the light is being emitted from the screen itself.

    Books can be read in front of a nice warm fire on a cozy couch. They can be taken to your bathroom for a good read during a nice long sit down.

    CRT's have refresh rates. Maybe high refresh rates have an undocumented side effect (we all know low refresh rates leads to headaches) Books refresh in realtime, at the maximum rate our eyes can see the text.

    A book is waaaay more relaxing to your body than the computer is.
  • by Scrameustache ( 459504 ) on Saturday January 10, 2004 @10:58PM (#7942018) Homepage Journal
    A human who has certain physiological processes aided or controlled by mechanical or electronic devices.

    Yep, he seems to fit that definition to me.

    Wich physiological process does he enhance with what device? (I only read half the article, I've read about him before and they didn't seem to be adding any new information).

    Please make sure your awnser won't mean that anyone with a cell phone is a cyborg...
    Carrying gear around, no matter how frequently, does not a cyborg make.

    Now, people with cochlear implants [] or pacemakers clearly are cyborgs, but for some reason articles about cyborgs are never about them.
  • by bomb_number_20 ( 168641 ) on Saturday January 10, 2004 @11:10PM (#7942070)
    I'm not so sure I agree.

    The problem I have with all of this stuff is that it works the other way, too. First, doing most of the things you were excited about would require a GPS to be tracking your location 24/7. Why would anyone want implants that would allow someone to track every single time they stepped into their bathroom to take a crap?

    another problem I have (with his view in particular) is that he seems to think that advertisers won't notice that people are not viewing their ads. If everyone is wandering around in wearable/implanted computers, how long until transmitters broadcast targeted advertising directly to your retinas or your inbox?

    dumbass consumers are going to want to use this technology to do important things like 'chat' and 'IM' and stuff while they walk (or worse- drive) around (rude people on cell phones are bad enough- these would most likely cause me to snap and end up in jail).

    Anyway, the odds are that people are going to be broadcasting all sorts of non-interesting things about themselves to everyone in their immediate vicinity in much the same way that people had to have their own personal web pages in the 90s- complete w/ blinking text, bad images and the MIDI version of 'Wind Beneath My Wings'.

    What's to stop marketers from walking around and doing the same thing? Something like this is a wet dream to the wrong sorts of people. Imagine a completely captive audience that you can track in real time and build a scary smart database of information on.

    I'm sure MS or some other MegaCorp will come along and integrate credit card information into it to make life 'better'. Now, they not only know exactly where you are, but they can tell exactly what you are doing and what your buying habits are.

    No, thanks. I'll keep my meat sack they way it is.
  • by scotchtape ( 455284 ) on Saturday January 10, 2004 @11:57PM (#7942279)
    Imagine becoming helpless and crippled because youre battey died. Imagine not being able to remember much of any useful information, because you've never had to. Imagine what this will do to people's already short attention spans.

    Technology is great as a tool, but too many people become dependant on things that should be convieniences.

    But I do like watching the confusion and panic when I tell people I don't have a cell phone.
  • by An Onerous Coward ( 222037 ) on Sunday January 11, 2004 @12:34AM (#7942506) Homepage
    I'm not too worried about the privacy implications, because I don't think anyone could do a deep study into my life without dying of terminal boredom. I think that a lot of privacy loss is inevitable, and won't really be missed. Trying to hide your day to day activities may someday seem as pointless as trying to hide the color of your pants.

    What people won't want to give up is the ability to lie: To say they're going to work when they're really going to a sports bar or a beatnik poetry lounge, or that they're going someplace other than to cheat on their spouse. But it's getting harder and harder to cover your tracks anyways. Caller ID, cell phone bills, and any of a thousand other clues can reveal the truth, while few are savvy enough to cover their tracks.

    What would happen if everyone could know almost everything there was to know about anyone else? I'm not sure, but on average I think that people will stop caring. All the things we think we need to keep secret from everyone else will be revealed as fairly common and trivial. The other extreme is that people may self-censor to the point that nobody ever does anything that would hint of idiosyncrasy.

    I figure these big databases are going to be built anyways, so it may be best if they're simply made public, so that I can know what it's saying about me. Perhaps it could even tell me who has been browsing my information and for what reason. That might cut down somewhat on the overall nosiness of the human race.

    Ninety percent of my concern over these databases is that I won't know how they're being used to manipulate my buying habits. Maybe some sort of "truth in advertising" law would require any advertiser to reveal, upon request, how they came to decide to deliver a given ad to you.

    I have to agree, if ubiquitous connectivity means that I can't walk down the sidewalk without finding out every insipid piece of information about everyone around me, this system will collapse under its own obnoxiousness. I don't see that happening. Instead, I figure that your personal system will intelligently sift through these clouds of information, deciding which things you might want brought to your attention.

    Try to imagine a system that would present the information you wanted, and only when you wanted it. "Computer, please inform me of the presence of any persons of the opposite gender with similar tastes in music. Also, if any slashdotter with a lower UID than me comes around, warn me so that I might pay homage. Finally, I'm looking for something to do this evening, so start collecting suggestions and give me your top ten when I get off work."

    If somebody wants to use the system to publish a detailed explanation of their adventures in stamp collecting, let them. I don't have to see it, and I'm sure there are at least a handful of stamp collectors out there who would love it. Meanwhile, I'll be looking out for people who thoroughly enjoyed "Godel, Escher, Bach" and are willing to give advice on locking down a Linux box. And in the event that "I know CPR" suddenly becomes extremely interesting information, the system is in place to direct me to the interested party.

    As the technology itself gets better, its utility will become directly proportional to how much these systems know about us. It will bring power that everyone will want to wield, often to the detriment of others. We're going to run into all sorts of unexpected problems with this sort of technology. Some problems will require a technological solution, others will require a legal solution. Some may be utterly intractable. I can't claim to know which problems are which.

  • by An Onerous Coward ( 222037 ) on Sunday January 11, 2004 @12:54AM (#7942617) Homepage
    Try to think of Mr. Mann's contribution as stemming from merely being a social outlier. Even if his behavior doesn't seem to be doing anyone any good, he's helping by making a lot of very weird people seem normal in comparison. Thus, he paves the path by which oddness becomes mainstream and accepted, and makes our conception of "normal" broader and more flexible.

    Just as a population thrives due to genetic diversity, a society will stagnate without an influx of diversity. And this guy, I have to admit, is pretty diverse.
  • Re:Not a cyborg. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by CoolVibe ( 11466 ) on Sunday January 11, 2004 @02:46AM (#7943077) Journal
    It's like the old saying:

    "External augmentation does not a cyborg make"

    Or something of that ilk. You figure it out :)

  • What is reality? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by gods_design ( 266291 ) on Sunday January 11, 2004 @02:51AM (#7943098) Homepage Journal

    "For example, Mann and his graduate students have developed software that can transform billboards or other rectangular shapes in the physical world -- when viewed through the lens of a wearable computer -- into virtual boxes for reading e-mail and other messages."

    So in the future we will be able to take the real world and turn it into what we want? So I can make every billboard have Cindy Crawford on it or make it a linux add? What about if we just don't want to see the messages that are around us in the "real" world. I swear officer I didn't see 65 on that speed limit sign. My eye piece made it look like it said 85mph.

    I know that I have had times in my life where I have spent 18 - 20 hours in front of my computer. At that time I thought I had a great life but in truth it sucked. All I did was read and write code and emails. There is so much more to life than that. Sometimes it is good to take a step away from the monitor and see the world as it is.

  • Re:Eeeegads! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Trolling4Dollars ( 627073 ) on Sunday January 11, 2004 @04:05AM (#7943353) Journal
    Like one of the other posters said, he does appear to have become a little more... pedantic(?) with age. But to be fair, I think this is one of the possible problems with people who are heavily involved with computing.

    I've found myself having a greater amount of trouble interacting and dealing with other people as I've become more and more entrenched in computing. I spend about 12-20 hours a day using computers. Whether it's at work (about 7.5 hours spent there. I don't even go out for lunch anymore.) at home (multiple projects going on here with my systems) or at friends and relatives homes (fixing problems or connecting them to my network via VPN). My general day starts at 8:00AM and ends at about 3:00/4:00AM every day with about 95% of it spent in front of computers.

    The funny thing is that I find myslef becoming so annoyed with people when they claim to know something about computers, but in the end they only know a little bit about one aspect (web design, hardware, specific lnaguages, etc...). What's really funny is that I am completely aware of the fact that I have (in psychology more than anything else) become the "Unix guy". When I first started working with PCs back in the late 90s, I ran into a few "Unix guys" (which Mann seems to be one of) and they annoyed the piss out of me. They seemed arrogant, impatient and generally unpleasant. I never really understood why. (This was also back when I thought Unix was dying) But after getting annoyed with Windows and moving to Linux, and then working with Sun Solaris, Tru64 and HP-UX... well, I started to see a lot of those traits just naturally manifesting themselves within me. I still work hard to maintain a pleasant personality and I don't wear suspenders or have any facial hair, so I'm not 100% the "Unix guy". But I can now understand their frustrations. Here is the key issue: (Note this in your memory banks for future use in arguments) Many of the concepts of Unix are basic computing concepts applicable to ALL platforms that people on ANY platform SHOULD be made aware of IF they really want to know how to use a computer. The frustration of the "Unix guy" is much like that of the parent that has to deal with the 16 year old who just got a driver's license and now thinks they actually know how to drive. (I'm not saying that all users of other platforms are like this, but many are. I've met plenty of really great Windows admins on the net who know as much about basic computing concepts as any other Unix guy.)

    So... I think that Mann's experience is very similar with regard to his take on the world. He's moved ahead in a way. Concepts that are basic to him, are esoteric to the world at large. However, his concepts are a set of meta-realities that many of us have not fully experienced. I will argue that some of us are halfway there though. Just yesterday when I was talking to my wife about my lifelong love of machines over humans, I mentioned to her that to me a computer is an extension of the physical world. Back when I was in high school (1980s) I became instantly aware of how I could move much of what I had in the real world into the computer. That continues to my homelife today. All of my computers here at home are networked and any one of them serves as a head for all the others. I've eliminated cassettes, video tapes, audio cds and dvds from my visible life by keeping them only for backup purposes. They take up less space when they needn't be displayed. Instead, all of my important data is on the home application/file server. I am also slowly moving to a point where the majority of the CPU power will be centralized in a cluster with only a few wireless terminals needed around the house. Ideally one or more of those terminals will be wearable. At that point, the need for much in the way of physical items becomes less useful. What need is there for a television, when I can look anywhere in front of me an watch a movie while surrounded with data that constantly keeps me informed of all things that are per
  • Re:Eeeegads! (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 11, 2004 @08:46PM (#7948143)
    It's not computers you are absorbed with.

    It's yourself.

    How long do you think you'd live if the civilization you so
    obliviously depend on collapsed ?

    I'd give you 2 weeks at the outside. In the mean time, try being grateful to those who came before you, like Sir Issac Newton ( before whose intellect yours would shrivel ) was :
    "If I have seen further, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants" - Newton.

    As a last word : try volunteering at a homeless shelter. You might be surprised and changed by the experience.

"Never face facts; if you do, you'll never get up in the morning." -- Marlo Thomas