Week 2 Response: Social impact of augmented abilities.

For this week’s entry I decided to share my impressions on Bilal’s The 3rd I  project discussed in lecture. At first, I had the superficial thought that his project lacked scope as it could be easily emulated by a bored teenager with a GoPro and free time. However, the implications of an enhanced visual field or visual ability rapidly started to flood my mind. Coincidentally, I had recently seen an episode of Black Mirror, a British television show that paints a dark portrait of the evolving mutualism of man-machine. The show’s third episode, titled The Entire History of You”, shows the impact of “memory” implant (called a grain) that enables its holder to be able to recall experiences in a format that resembles video recordings that can either be projected in:

Cornea Projectionone’s cornea or

Screen Projectiona screen

with the aid of a handheld controller. The show presents an interesting take on the evolution of inter human interactions, surveillance, security, aesthetics, privacy, and intimacy based on the gained attributes the implant provides  (I would encourage everybody to watch this episode and maybe the entire show. It’s on Netflix).

Early in the episode there’s a dinner party scene in which a character with no memory implant is presented. I found the impact the news had on the rest of the party quite interesting. I feel that a description of this scene would’t make it justice so I urge everybody who reads this post to invest 2 minutes watching this small clip:

My particular interest in this scene resides in its portrayal of social implications of augmented sensory ability, result of a brain-machine interface, vs normal sensory abilities or natural brain function as highlighted by the  character that works in “grain development”. As the scene suggests, there is a segregation factor between both parties where the minority is looked down upon, a dynamic that holds in our present society. For engrained people, grainless individuals are choosing a disability; grainless individuals, on the other hand, consider themselves fully capable.

I feel that this commentary is immensely relevant. Implants like the grain are not a thing of the future. Brain-machine interfaces and neural implants are widespread, with the most popular one being the cochlear implant. A cochlear implant is an implanted device that enables an individual with a damaged inner ear to gain hearing function. The grain/grainless duality closely resembles present controversy surrounding the Deaf community and the manualism/oralism duality (deaf world/hearing world duality). Even though it’s an imperfect comparison, one can relate the deaf world to the grainless, the hearing world to the engrained, and the cochlear implant to the grain. A surgical procedure can grant a deaf individual access to the hearing world yet many steer away from it because they consider themselves able people. Individuals in the hearing world frown upon parents that deny their children a cochlear impla.nt because they are choosing a disability for their children.

Furthermore, neural implants currently being researched don’t limit themselves in restoring sensory abilities lost, they venture into enhancing our current senses. A different perception of our world, result of a technological enhance, will change what is considered reality. This is of great interest to me and the exposure to issues of nature vs nurture keep shaping my ideas surrounding it.

Rodolfo Salido

I want to talk about Week 4: Body and medicine during week 5 discussion.


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