Viewing entries tagged
Brief Encounters

Justina Robson

Just in: Leading British science-fiction writer Justina Robson to speak at the HF symposium. Biography:

Justina Robson was born in Leeds, and studied philosophy and linguistics at the University of York. She worked in a variety of jobs - including secretary, technical writer, and fitness instructor - until becoming a full-time writer.

Robson attended the Clarion West Writing Workshop and was first published in 1994 in the British small press magazine The Third Alternative, but is best known as a novelist. Her debut novel Silver Screen was shortlisted for both the Arthur C Clarke Award and the BSFA Award in 2000. Her second novel, Mappa Mundi, was also shortlisted for the Arthur C Clarke Award in 2001. It won the 2000 Writer's Bursary. In 2004, Natural History, Robson's third novel, was shortlisted for the BSFA Award, and came second in the John W Campbell Award.

Robson's novels have been noted for sharply-drawn characters, and an intelligent and deeply thought-out approach to the tropes of the genre. She has been described as "one of the very best of the new British hard SF writers"[1].

Living Next-Door to the God of Love is a loose sequel to Natural History, inasmuch as it is set in the same universe. Keeping It Real marks the beginning of a series, the Quantum Gravity Books.

On 27th July 2008 she spoke on BBC Radio 3 about Doctor Who and various other sci-fi shows for 25 minutes during the interval of the Doctor Who Prom.

Slavoj Zizek

The latest celebrity speaker to grace the European Capital of Culture was the Perver himself Slavoj Zizek. I first saw Zizek speak in 2003 at the Glasgow School of Art. The crowd pressed him on the need for psychoanalysis, but he stood firm to his core and reminded us of old jokes.

Iain Borden

I met Iain Borden first in 1999 or 2000 at a seminar on technology at Roehampton. Subsequently, I read about his work on Skateboarding and the city and invited him to write a piece for the special edition of Research in Philosophy and Technology I co-edited in 2002. Since then - in part through the mailing list of The Bartlett School of Architecture - I've been drawn back to Iain's work on skateboarding and the city. Just yesterday, I visited The A Foundation in Liverpool, which is currently exhibiting its 'Drum and Basin' (full pipe and pool styled basin) and Iain has an article in the essays that constitute part of this exhibit. It's a phenomenal undertaking and I'm glad to keep being drawn back into Iain's work. Some of my ideas relating to the Olympics and digital culture are slowly coming together and I hope to draw on Iain's work some more. (See previous post about psychogeography.)

Bruce Sterling

Today, I joined the RCA's Design Interactions again, at the invitation of Tony Dunne. The project was on Robot Ethics this time and I gave a lecture that talked about the relations between Prosthesis, Robotics and Artificial Life. Also speaking this morning was Bruce Sterling, whom it was a delight to meet. I have read Bruce's work for some years and had email contact with him some time ago in relation to CTHEORY. After the morning sessions, we chewed the fat on urban regneration, Richard Florida, creativity and the trivialization of everything. 2007.10.08-BruceSterling.JPG Here are some notes on his talk that I made. They might be impenetrable:

Design Interactions, Oct 8 2007

Robots Bruce Sterling

Why no humanoid reobots? From literature and theatre Usually, humanoid, dim witted Can take some limited orders from humans

Contemporary robot is different C3P0 R2D2 – drone – remotely piloted Humanoid vs ME: non-humanoid

Terminologies blur - both referred to as droids

androids supposed to be different – semi-biological - form and shape of human, but semi mechanical

gianoids – women shaped mechanical objects

robot in metropolis - - robo veganza

when robot word invented, made from goo – poured into moulds

mechanical version came later

there is one household robot you can buy – disc shaped vacuum cleaner - animals hate them - can get stuff on things: destroy themselves - no brains - no emotional relationship - not pets

why did robot dog fail? - people played with it then forgot to plug it in. - Sony iBo

These objects lack common sense, so cannot have relationship with

Put a face on our relationship to technology - cannot have moral discussion with it - can have one with dog – but not a robot dog

does not have morality

sony also built humanoid robot, but never launched

Institute of RoboEthics, Italy - afraid to release, for fear of hackers

‘they can dance’

There aren’t any smart machines - none that can ustd commonsense language - not even translating machines

no embodiment

strings of 1s and 0s

nothing remotely behaves like this, nor getting closer to it

serious advances in robots - intelligence NO - solving Turing Test? NO

what we’ve got is ‘arms and legs’ - big Dog – darpa project, bath tub on legs; no head

uncanny - not a perfect version of a robot human - reach a

Marvin Minsky - artificial emotions - AI doesn’t work since human brains don’t work in the way he imagined - Must be an emotional substrate below intelligence

Robots have no sense of preservation. They don’t reproduce

They don’t value their own existence

There’s no way for us to give them anything

Minsky now emotions

Hans Moravec - most advanced schemes ‘bush robot’ – equipped to do nanotechnology - ‘utility fog’ – get rid of everything and keep fingers o a kind of gas – oozing through peoples bodies o Behind a scheme like this is difficulty and tragedy

Melancholy tale of how the word robot was invented - invented by a painter – jozef char

satirical play about industrialism – RUR – Rossums Universal Robots - parody of industrial production - basic researcher and industrial technologist - scientist decides will make a mimic of human - first makes a dog, but doesn’t work very well - his son says it’s not working, so suggests try making an industrial labour - get rid of parts that would make money – no sexuality, no emotional attachment, just really good memory, doesn’t sleep, eats anything, work tirelessly on assembly line - robot = worker



Richard Jones

This doesn't quite qualify as a brief encounter yet, as I have not met Richard Jones ( However, we were supposed to meet on Monday at a project meeting in Edinburgh, which is part of the NanoBio-RAISE meeting. So, anticipating this eventual encounter, I am drawn to noting this as a coincidence entry, for the following reasons. 1. Richard Jones is based in the University of Sheffield, where my sister currently lives. She mentioned the other day that there is a big nanotech institute there and she was referring to Richard's work.

2. Our meeting in Edinburgh was supposed to include Richard, though he could not make it. I think he will present at the next of these meetings.

3. I have been involved with work at the Royal College of Art these last months and one of its designers has created a project based upon ideas within Richard's book 'Soft Machines'. (

Daniel Dayan

At the CUC and Annenberg conference in Beijing, I had the chance to meet Daniel Dayan, who also gave a reprise of his work with Elihu katz on 'media events'. We had an interesting exchange about a range of issues, from Zidane's controversial head butt to what might have happened f if the athletes from North and South Korea had started a fight as they entered the stadium at the Sydney 2000 Olympics. This was a lovely meeting with good strong discussions and great sense of humour. It was a highlight of our trip to Beijing.

Kristi Giselsson

Well this is a little experiment. I met Kristi in Stanford during the Human Rights and Human Enhancement conference. She explained a little of her phd to me, which was interested in posthumanism. At the time, I recalled a paper from an author in Aus who I thought might interest her. Now, upon looking through my endnote file, I discover the article again and think of sending it. However, I cannot find her email address online anywhere, so I thought I'd post to wordpress with her name in the expectation that she will, at some point Google herself and find it. What name could we give this kind of activity? It's a form of inverse emailing. Anyway, Kristi, if you see this, here is the article and get in touch!

Bendle, M. F. (2002). "Teleportation, Cyborgs and the Posthuman Ideology." Social Semiotics 12(1): 45-62.

Tom Shakespeare

I met Tom Shakespeare a week or so back in Newcastle. I have known of Tom's work for a number of years now and have cited a few things he has written. He does a great job of engaging people in ethical debate across sectors - arts, politics, philosophy, science - and he just told me about an event where he will speak next month. It is the Darwin Summer Symposium for 2006 entitled 'Unnatural Selection'. Other speakers include Lee Silver (Princeton), author of Remaking Eden...whom I also met this year at the Tomorrow's People conference in Oxford.

Gunnar Breivik

My final formal meeting today was with my dear friend and colleague Gunnar Breivik. I have known Gunnar since around 1999. I think we met first at the IAPS conference in Bedford, but it might have been when I visited the Norwegian University of Sport Science earlier that year. At the time, I think he was Rector o the University, or maybe it was a little later. Anyway, we have seen each other in Brisbane, Melbourne, Salzburg, Oslo, and numerous other places. Gunnar was also on my PhD examination committee many moons ago. Gunnar has spent the last year at University of California, Berkeley chilling out after a long stint as Rector. I seem to recall going to Oslo in 1999 and hearing about his antics of taking a kayak off the high diving board in the swimming pool; one of many extreme sport stories he has to tell.

Craig Heller

The next stop on my whirlwind meeting run today was also set up just today. I can't believe how lucky I have been to hook up with these people at Stanford Uni. They have been so generous with their time and at such short notice. So, the next meeting today was with Craig. On the flight down to San Jose, the airline magazine had an article about his 'cooling device', the RTX Core Control system, which seems to be producing extraordinary results. The magazine article talked about its application for athletics where overheating impedes performance. This system seems to cool in ways that can yield an enormous performance gain. It was lovely to meet Craig and he kindly showed me a few of the designs that had gone into this 10 year project development. Here's a reference to one of their recent publications: Grahn DA, Cao VH, Heller HC "Heat extraction through the palm of one hand improves aerobic exercise endurance in a hot environment." J Appl Physiol 2005;

Fred Turner

After spending some time with Jeremy today, he introduced me to Fred. We spent around 45minutes just talking about our respective takes on the development of cyberculture as a mode of inquiry. The programme here at Stanford seems excellent; my kind of digital culture. It's so nice to meet a fellow cyber theorist, I don't seem to have encountered many in my recent travels, which just reminds me of how much bioethics I am doing at the moment.

Jeremy Bailenson

Today, I nipped into Stanford University early to meet a few people whose work I had heard of over the last year. The first of these was Jeremy, whose work on HCI games and avatars is just fascinating. At about 2hrs notice, he let me play in the Virtual Human Interaction Lab and it was just great to see the possibilties of this technology. Thanks Jeremy!

Jude Kelly

I met Jude for the first time in August 2004 at the Athens Olympic Games, where she invited Beatriz and I to a luncheon hosted by the British Olympic Association. Beatriz had already been advising 2012 by then. Jude is Chair of the Ceremonies, Culture and Education committee at London 2012 and was our official link on July 7, 2005, when the decision was announced. Some weeks before this, she spoke at a conference in University of Glasgow just before Singapore set up. This meeting was set up by Beatriz and she and I both spoke about the relationship between culture and the Olympics, which also launched our online magazine for this subject, 'Culture at the Olympics'. Since the successful bid, Jude is also now Directing the South Bank Institute. I last saw Jude in Torino for the Olympic Winter Games.

Beatriz Garcia with Jude Kelly at Torino Jude Kelly with Beatriz Garcia in Torino

Max Mehlman

I had the pleasure of meeting Max first at some Hastings Center project meetings in 2002 and 2003. I met Max again in Barcelona for the Bioethics conference in 2005.He has written extensively on medical law and ethics and has included mentions of Sport related cases over the years. In recent years, he has focused on Genetic Enhancement as a core concern and his new project with others at Case Western Reserve:

Case Law School receives $773,000 NIH grant to develop guidelines for genetic enhancement research

Professor Max Mehlman to lead team of law professors, physicians, and bioethicists in two-year project

CLEVELAND - - A Case Western Reserve University law professor has been awarded a $773,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health to develop guidelines for the use of human subjects in what could be the next frontier in medical technology – genetic enhancement.Maxwell Mehlman, Arthur E. Petersilge Professor of Law, director of the Law-Medicine Center at the Case Western Reserve University School of Law, and professor of bioethics in the Case School of Medicine, will lead a team of law professors, physicians, and bioethicists in a two-year project to develop standards for tests on human subjects in research that involves the use of genetic technologies to enhance "normal" individuals – to make them smarter, stronger, or better-looking.

"Over the past half-century or so we have developed elaborate rules protecting human subjects in medical testing," Mehlman said. "The problem is that the rules were all designed with therapeutic goals in mind. The question is, are these safeguards appropriate to govern testing for non-therapeutic enhancements, where the measurement and valuation of the benefits is different from therapeutic testing?"

The project's specific aims are to:

  • Identify the differences between genetic research performed for therapeutic purposes and research performed for enhancement purposes.
  • Determine the conditions under which it would be ethical to conduct genetic enhancement research using human subjects.
  • Determine whether existing rules meet the ethical conditions for performing genetic enhancement research, and if they don't, recommend changes to the existing rules.

The project is the first major research grant received in connection with the Center for Genetic Research Ethics and Law (CGREAL) at Case, which is one of four university centers recognized by the NIH for excellence in work on the ethical, legal, and social implications of the Human Genome Project. Mehlman is a research coordinator and director of public policy for CGREAL.

"We are very pleased and proud that the NIH has chosen to award this grant to Professor Mehlman and the Law-Medicine Center to begin exploring new issues in health law and bioethics," said Gerald Korngold, dean and McCurdy Professor of Law. "Among the reasons that the Law-Medicine Center is so highly regarded is that it undertakes important new research like this."

Mehlman said the need for, and importance of, developing rules for enhancement research is growing rapidly, thanks to the ever-increasing use of gene-based diagnostic and therapeutic technology. "It's obvious that many of the genetic-based techniques used for diagnosis and treatment can also be used for enhancements," he said.

He noted that substances such as human growth hormone and erythropoietin (a substance which controls the body's production of red blood cells and can be used to enhance athletic performance) are already available. "Given that these technologies are already being developed, if we don't have legitimate, approved ways of conducting research it will just go underground, like steroid use in baseball, where players are essentially acting as their own guinea pigs," Mehlman said.

An additional reason for developing guidelines governing genetic enhancement is that their absence may discourage institutions from conducting formal research.

Other members of the research team include:

  • Jessica Berg, professor of law and bioethics
  • Jennifer Fishman, assistant professor of bioethics and sociology
  • Mary Quinn Griffin, assistant professor of nursing
  • Eric Juengst, associate professor of bioethics
  • Eric Kodish, MD, the F.J. O'Neill professor and chairman of the Department of Bioethics at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation.

Christos Sofroniou (Eaton, City of Norwich, School)

I was strolling through the website of my secondary school after a brief FriendsReunited fix and came across this fantastic photograph of my mathematics teacher Christos Sofroniou. If you took this shot, please get in touch to say hi. You have captured everything that was wonderful about this teacher and it's been good to see him again in his element. Props to the teachers of this world.

Edward Tenner

I first encountered Tenner's work 10 years ago, when I was studying for my undergraduate. In his book, 'Why Things Bite Back: Technology and the Revenge of Unintended Consequences', he considers a number of cases related to sport and technology, which informed my own work. I have been reminded of his work again through the Hastings Center's Bioethics Forum, for which he writes. I will next visit the Hastings Center in May for a project meeting.

Teresa Dillon

Teresa (artist) was also at the conference banquet last night and it just so happened that she knew Glasgow like the back of her hand. She was there from 94-97, before the CCA initial conversion - which has now led to its demise, or so it would seem. We talked about the Tramway and the work it is doing and the King Street galleries, which really do need some kind of Gallery walk map! This also reminded me of the Radiance festival from last year, which really did change how people interacted with the space of the city. If only there were the funds to do more. We talked about the series of programmes that Channel 4 have been doing this week on Art, the Human Canvas and Bad Art, which have worked with wonderful scripts.

Tina Gonsalves

Tina is an artist on an AHRC/ACE fellowship at UCL. She is working in an institute of Cognitive Science, allied with people like Dan Glaser, whom I met last year at the Royal Institution of Great Britain meeting on 'The Future of Our Memories'. Tina is presenting just now in the JMI Tomorrow's People meeting, discussing her work related to science and the body. I caught up with Tina last night at the conference banquet. She had read my article from CTHEORY on Gunter von Hagens, from 3 years ago and mentions his BodyWorlds exhibit in her talk. Originally from Sydney, Tina was also talking about ideas that explore the emotional response to bodies in action and how, for example, sporting actions provoke such great contrasts of feelings for people. Tina describes that her work is about human vulnerability and intimacy.