Body as a weapon aimed at you


We're obsessed with numbers, codes, and algorithms. We live in the times where even the very rudiments of life have already been measured and appropriated by the domain of technology. The body described by intramolecular sequences looses its fleshy character and becomes abstract, inorganic, to use Freud's terminology: uncanny. Processed and transformed into numbers: almost an abject. Our elemental data is converted into exclusive property of influential companies, pharmaceutical moguls, ruling elites, security services then sold, exchanged, released into circulation. The body serves as a powerful weapon of the state. It the body becomes a medium, a carrier spreading the disease at the same time entangling itself in the network of politics, medical services, information distribution, transport, databases etc. The war is being fought via biopolitical body, a gun pointed at you.

 

 

Technologically empowered body as a weapon

We live in the times where the very rudiments of life have already been measured and appropriated by the domain of technology. Our elemental data is converted into exclusive property of influential companies, pharmaceutical moguls, ruling elites, security services then sold, exchanged, released into circulation. The war is being fought via biopolitical body, a gun pointed at you. How to reverse this situation? The paper attempts to examine the ways in which the body may regain information about itself. Self-hacking of the body, retrieving elemental data about its functions, limitations and possibilities as a way of self defence against unjust practices of the state and also as an essential extension of Homo sapiens. The war may be fought via technologically empowered body, a gun pointed at those, who've been stealing your fundamental property for far too long.

 

Securing the imminent AI

The fact that in several years time we will develop sentient AI, is a seemingly certain prediction. Yet instead of welcoming this perspective with great enthusiasm, many thinkers have expressed serious concerns in regard to the possible dangerous consequences it may elicit. Thus the whole movement devoted to developing techniques of boxing, caging and limiting of the AI. So far it is enough to unplug the device, cutting off its electrical supply, but assuming that the computational power of the thinking machines grows exponentially, and that they will be capable of rewriting themselves, it is more than certain that they will find their own, now unthinkable means of energy to operate on. This may bring further transformations in relations between homo sapiens and AI, causing either, from the optimistic perspective, one of mutual symbiosis or, on the other hand, one reducing us to the position of servants or even victims of our own invention and creation. It can't be excluded, that these relations will be completely different from the above mentioned, for the shift brought by singularity will be such a dramatic qualitative change that it is impossible to predict its consequences precisely and understand them.
In my paper I would like to examine some of the approaches and techniques coined in order to eliminate dangers AI could potentially cause. I would like to discuss the ideas of friendly AI proposed by Yudkowsky, as well as those of Sotala and Omohundro, gradually shifting the accent towards sceptical opinions, such as the one expressed by Legg. I will try to give the concepts claiming there is a possibility of exercising power over superintelligence a careful consideration at the same time trying to prove them to be regressive, temporary and provisional solutions. I would like to point to the fear factor and disagreement for a rapid transformation associated with the annihilation of human race as underlying the attempts of securing AI. The difference, new quality, that the emergence of AI will deliver, even if it proves to be lethal for the race of homo sapiens should – just like Deleuzian difference able of creating things, entities and events  - become the object of affirmation. "There is nothing wrong in reduction of life to forms which are different and new. Killing is not a sin. Sometimes it is a necessary violation of stubborn and frozen forms of existence which are no longer interesting"(B. Schulz).

 

Pharmacogenomics – eliminating disease, exercising control

Together with the emergence of bioinformatics, which led to the constitution of field known as pharmacogenomics, we have become obsessed with the rhetoric of health. This highly desirable value has dominated our thinking to such extent, that in order to achieve it we gladly resign our freedom and privacy and allow technology to pervade our bodies.
Pharmacogenomics is a branch of preventive medicine, aimed at excluding disease on the genome level before it has a chance to develop. Yet what we, lured by the promise of longevity and elimination of illness have overlooked is that since the pharmaceutical companies are capable of reengineering and redesigning our genome, they are also infecting us with a certain model of health and that such intervention may serve the interests of those in power.
My paper is an attempt of critical evaluation of actions of companies, which operate on the border of the digital and bio. I feel it is necessary to pose following questions: shall we trust the good intentions of those who produce genetically tailored drugs? What does our body become when it is subjected to recombination of DNA? What do we become in consequence? Do we reflect upon the unified model of health we are subjected to? Do we take into account that these splendid problem-solving drugs may cause changes that will transform us into tools for exercising control? What happens with our biomaterial after routine medical examinations? Is it being destroyed or sold to third parties for further testing, statistic analysis and further specific targeting of populations?

 

Redefining bio art

For quite a while now we have been witnessing a vast development of new branches of science, which emerge at the intersection of bios and techne. The progress of this domain has been enabled by the discovery of the code of life and an assumption, that there exists a certain relevancy, a pattern of relationships between genetic and computer codes. Biotechnology in general and its more specific fields such as bioengineering, allow for a reconfiguration, redesigning and transcoding of bodies and organisms. These techniques have been widely appropriated by artists as means of artistic expression. Incorporation of the attainments of molecular biology and genetic engineering seemed particularly attractive from the artistic perspective, for it offered the chance of transforming operations conducted on the very basis of life into creative activity as well as the ability of commenting on the biotechnological revolution with its own (therefore highly adequate) tools.
Yet if we look closer at the artworks that come into existence in the realm of bio art, it seems, that the promise of "refreshing" or even revolutionizing art with the scientific achievements has almost entirely failed. The works that emerge often do not differ much from the traditional ones and fall back into traditional categories. This is the case with artworks, which make use of DNA merely to create common paintings or with tissue cultures that serve for the creation of ordinary sculptures. Other works, such as cloning new species of flowers belongs more to the domain of botany than art, whereas bringing to life animals with luciferase gene could have been considered a breakthrough once, but repeating this scheme forever doesn't bring much novelty to the scene. As Jens Hauser has stated: Bio-fictional manifestations such as chimera-sculptures, DNA-portraits, chromosome-paintings or mutant-depicting digital photo-tricks are no more examples of Bio Art than Claude Monet's impressionistic paintings could be classified as "Water Lilies Art" or "Cathedral Art". A category of "parergonal aesthetics" proposed by Gunalan Nadarajan appears to be an adequate description for the situation observed in this particular space of art. The notion stems from the critique of the frame introduced by Kant, who rejected it as a supplementary ornamentation, and distraction from the ideas of reason beauty and faith.
The aim of my paper is to trace new aims and goals for artists working with the possibilities delivered by biotechnology and to encourage them to abandon the aesthetics of parergon. I would like to underline the necessity of understanding the specificity of the medium and of critical approach towards it. Biotechnology, together with the tools it delivers cannot be perceived as a transparent medium devoid of any associations (be them political/market-associated or social) but should be considered in its whole complexity, which also means taking into account its entanglement into non-ethical actions of companies, pharmaceutical moguls and governments. My paper is aimed to encourage artists to use and problematize bio related issues in a subversive manner, to reveal the code underlying both the biotech and their works. It is meant to point to crucial areas that should not be disregarded and forgotten when it comes to the domain of art which makes use of tools delivered by bio tech sciences, so that no more works that are a mere painting with bio material resembling "occasional cards" emerge.

 

 

Living media. Reality displaced by copies and the monsters of hyperreality.


On the border of the silicone and carbon a new type of media is being produced. It's fleshy and wet and differs much from our traditional perception of digital media. Yet the digital is exactly what it takes in order to manipulate the genetic setup and produce a new synthetic life. These engineered living media require new ontology and new taxonomy. Describing them in terms applied within digital media discourses proves to be insufficient. The philosophical concepts concerning life often times also remain helpless. Although it is not fully understood and comprehensible what it is exactly that is created and our common definitions prove useless, techniques of artificial life creation developed within the field of biotechnology have been eagerly appropriated and exploited by artists. When the recombined organisms are conceived in domain known as bioart, they thoroughly annihilate the immemorial paradigm in art: the notion of representation. What was considered fundamental for art practice gives way to mere presentation. Indexicality is substituted with identity, with sinister presence of new life. The creationist aspirations are however infinite and apart from identical organisms, new, thus far unknown living creatures are being created. Admittedly, they remain in a certain relation with the prototypical organisms for they are created with known genes. However, they are at the same time unfamiliar and uncanny and may appear a threat to reality as we know it. A "strange, alien facticity (...) throws into abeyance all human presupposition - history, biology, geology, cosmology - concerning the human and its relation to the world"[1]. When accurate copies, hybrids, monsters or simply new species emerge, is reality disrupted? Is it consumed by its perfect evidence? By something that is even greater than the evidence? Or is a new independent reality created? If so, what kind of reality do these living media constitute? What is their relation with the originals? In my presentation I would like to reflect upon these issues by analyzing few chosen examples of living artworks.

 

 

Cyber utopia of infinite sex

Mind uploading, is: "the hypothetical process of copying or transferring a conscious mind from a brain to a non-biological substrate by scanning and mapping a biological brain in detail and copying its information and computational state into a computer system or another computational device". The possible implications of this concept are such that the individuals may become immaterial bodies of thought. Liberated from the physical body, and from inappropriate and unjust attributes ascribed to it. Where the body is absent, there is no foundation for gendering. Or is it really that simple? The author investigates the potential scenarios of having a sex without a gender and sex without a sex.

 

Codes of life and utopias of immaterial thought. (Re)Writing the subject


Together with the great discovery of the code of life, a new language was discovered: a language that defines a living being, its features and attributes. A piece of language unique for every single individual. The vast development of biotechnology and other more specific branches such as genetic engineering allowed for proof-reading of this specific language. Organisms can now be modified by changes introduced in the code of life: by revision of a piece of writing, that consists in the inscription of new characters or correction introduced in their order. However, apart from the fleshy bodies defined by record of exclusive G,T,A,C combination, there are also other writing issues in prospect, those, that may define the immaterial subject. Mind uploading, is by definition: "the hypothetical process of copying or transferring a conscious mind from a brain to a non-biological substrate by scanning and mapping a biological brain in detail and copying its information and computational state into a computer system or another computational device". The possible implications of this concept are such that the individuals may become immaterial bodies of thought, inhabiting silicone space or rather the ephemeral void of dry bits. The idea assumes that the mind of an individual has to be translated into a program, a language, a certain kind of writing that will allow for its reconstitution in a different than fleshy substrate. Once this goal is achieved, the mind may be copied, rewritten, overwritten etc. All these words refer to and stem from the process of writing. But what exactly do they mean in the context of the digital? The goal of my presentation is to examine the consequences of the emergence of these new kinds of writing. How much do they transform our common definitions of self, subject and also, on a general level, of life? Are the individuals, be them bodies of flesh in the realm of bioengineering or immaterial bodies of thought literally constituted by the act of writing?