Art, Science + Technology

DMA9 Fall 2007, Section B

Archive for Jonathan Hsi

W10: Finals

Certainly one of the less stressful examinations, it was also by far the most interesting one. To be surrounded by individuals with so many innovative and exceptionally brilliant ideas and proposals was quite humbling. I think that the incorporation of the elements was also quite clever since, I believe, it helped many of us focus.

I noticed that there was a large number of people who chose to use water as their elemental theme. Water, in particular the lack of clean, drinkable water, is humanity’s second most prominent problem. As such, I felt the large number of water projects was quite significant since it seems to reflect upon our society and what we’re most worried about.

The fact that each presentation was at most 2 minutes also made this examination quite enjoyable. People were forced to present their projects quickly and concisely. This prevented the audience from getting bored from tedious, minute details. In general, I feel that this style of examination was a successful venture.

W9: Nanotechnology – NanoBots

Nanotechnology involves working with matter of the ultra-small scale. E.g. molecules, atoms, etc. Like advances in space exploration, it is one of the most innovative and science-fiction-like fields. The aspect of nanotech that interests me the most is the concept of nanobots. There are a variety of authors/visionaries/sci-fi shows whom have made the first tentative steps into exploring this concept. Some of which include “I, Robot”, “Stargate SG1”, etc.

Stargate SG1

To clarify what nanobots are, nanorobotics refers to “the technology of creating machines or robotsnanometres (10-9 meters). More specifically, nanorobotics refers to the still largely hypothetical nanotechnology engineering discipline of designing and building nanorobots. As no artificial non-biological nanorobots have so far been created, they remain a hypothetical concept at this time.”

There have been some primitive nanobots that have been created. One such bot is a sensorthat has a switch of about 1.5 nanometers across which has the function of counting specific molecules in a chemical sample. It is most likely that the first successful application of nanotechnology will be in the medical field. Nanobots may be used to identify and destroy cancer cells, and other pathogens. As such, I feel that nanotech is by-far one of the most promising fields of the future.

Nanobots

Nanorobotics

W8: Memory and Synchronicity

Is what we remember always the truth? In a sense, our memories are typically true, but only to us. The mind with all its higher mental processes is an unusual faculty, particularly when it comes to perception and memory. If we chose to believe in something, then it is true to us. However, the full truth of any situation is a different case and will depend on the recollection of those whom are part of the event. Everybody perceives the world differently, such that all points of views are needed in order to form a generally accurate truth.

This concept is deeply entrenched in the discipline of psychology and brings to mind several theories, foremost of which is Bartlett’s Reconstructive Memory. Bartlett proposed that we do not remember full, entire episodic memories. Instead, when we recall, we rebuild memories from various fragments of information in our brains. Much like how the full truth is garnered from a variety of sources, memories are formed from several info-fragments. I feel that these two topics are connected and have therefore brought them up.

Regarding synchronicity, I really wasn’t sure to make of it until I watched the movie August Rush today. In order to avoid spoiling the movie for those who haven’t seen it (it’s good, go watch it) I’ll just say that the situations that occur reminded me of Monday’s lecture on synchronicity. The lecture really made me reconsider the coincidences and ironic situations. What I would have previously have written off as random coincidence, I now considered more carefully. In particular, the connections in the movie brought about through music. I felt that the ending scene came about due to the unconscious parts of the main characters and how they were subconsciously drawn to the music.
August Rush
Suffice to say, everyone should go watch August Rush with music and synchronicity in mind.

Synchronicity

W7: Richard Clar, Space and Beyond

Do aliens really exist? There certainly isn’t any proof that they don’t. There are people who are adamant in their belief that we are the only form of life in the universe. However, I feel that everyone should adopt a view analogous to that of agnostics and religion. We shouldn’t deny that aliens exist. Instead, we should be open to their existence and fully accept their presence when we prove that they exist.

Regardless of whether or not aliens exist, we should make an effort to contact extraterrestrials. Richard Clar’s spaceflight dolphin project, not only tries to contact aliens, but it is also the epitome of the third culture. A sculpture/satellite in the shape of a dolphin which broadcasts magneto hydrodynamic waves, it embodies art, science, and technology.
space flight dolphin

To better understand what space art is, I felt that Roger F. Malina’s definition was adequate. The definition is here. What I’d like to draw attention to is definition 4: art on earth, viewed from space. Although Malina’s definition points towards contemporary art, I felt that certain historical constructs were the first forms of space art. In particular, the Great Wall of China. The first man made structure to be seen from space, such a construct of extensive proportions surely deserves to be called art. It also utilized the most up to date technology when it was built though such techniques are considered archaic by today’s standards.
Great Wall from Space

To conclude my point, I felt that is was appropriate to acknowledge that the Chinese were the first to create space art.

Art Tech
Great Wall

W6: Plastic and Genomes

Plastic surgery has typically been associated with physically beauty and is often considered superficial. Some people look down upon those who buy themselves a “new nose” or “new breasts”. However, there are certain cases where plastic surgery is not for enhancing one’s physical attributes. Plastic surgery is a medical specialization “that uses a number of surgical and nonsurgical techniques to change the appearance and function of a person’s body.” Considering how every procedure needs to be precise, plastic surgery is, in a sense, a form of art.

Comic

When the aesthetics of the surgery are the main purpose, then we call it cosmetic surgery. But plastic surgery also involves re-constructive operations which focus more on function. An example of cosmetic surgery is Michael Jackson. I don’t think I even need to comment on how much surgery he underwent. On the other hand, an example of a reconstructive plastic surgery is if a woman’s face is badly burned to the point where she feels so self-conscious about her appearance that she cannot interact with other people. In such a case, surgery can help her regain her self-esteem and live normally again.

An important thing that people tend to forget about plastic surgery is that it is not complications free. There is a risk of death or injury or some other bodily complication. The death of Kanye West’s mother highlights this issue. Reports state that she passed away during a cosmetic surgery. Dr. Ablaza, a plastic surgeon and co-author of the book Beauty and Balance says that “As a whole we’ve gotten more cavalier toward (cosmetic) surgery, It really is about beauty and balance. It’s not about these extreme makeovers and getting 10 things done at once because you want an instant makeover. Things are out of control. It’s not about being the tightest and biggest you can be.”

In regards to genomes and biological engineering, the process of altering DNA sparks a series of ethical considerations. The possibilities of biotech are vast and seemingly unlimited. But many people find that playing ‘god’ is wrong and should not be done. There are possibilities that biological engineering may cause problems. Scientists have not experimented or conducted enough studies to determine potentially harmful repercussions. However, there is no doubt that there a variety of benefits that arise from biotechnology. For example, DNA can be altered to cure hereditary diseases or decrease people’s biological inclinations towards something like cancer. Yet, a myriad of biological weapons can also be developed from our advances in biotech.

Plastic Surgery
Biotechnology
Death of Kanye West’s Mother News Article

W5: Midterms

During the midterms, many of my peers presented innovative and original project proposals. These proposals had a variety of functions/purposes. Some projects were designed for only aesthetic purposes. Whereas other projects possessed functions that aimed to educate society or provide services. All the proposals cleverly incorporated art, science, and technology; demonstrating the third culture.

One particular proposal which I found intriguing is the project involving sculptures made out of iron dust (or some kind of metallic particles). The presenters proposed the use of magnetic fields for manipulating the magnetic particles into sculptures. The diagrams and concepts presented reminded me of an art piece, which was shown in a previous lecture, where certain particles reacted to noise.

Throughout the presentations, I noticed that several of my peers (along with myself) had proposals that involved robotics in AI. I felt that this trend reflected our society, how people and industry are placing more and more focus on technological creations such as robots. Most of these projects had ‘service-like’ functions, for example, one presentation focused on robotic limbs for handicapped individuals. The presenter suggested the process of linking the robotic limbs to a person’s nervous system such that the limb acts as a real, biological limb. However, other robot proposals had more aesthetically inclined purposes. Some people focused on robots taking pictures of objects such as natural life.

Another project which I found quite fascinating involved the perspective house. My peer proposed the creation of house with objects inside rooms being of unusual sizes, creating a forced perspective. Her presentation had an image of an abnormally large kitten which I found quite amusing.

In general, the midterms were filled with brilliant projects that beguiled and made me consider how I perceive art, science, technology and the world.

W4: AI, Biology and Networks

At what point is a computer considered to possess artificial intelligence? The American Heritage New Dictionary states that AI is “The means of duplicating or imitating intelligence in computers, robots, or other devices, which allows them to solve problems, discriminate among objects, and respond to voice commands.” However, although this definition is accurate, I feel that a final, vital component (which this definition, at least from my point of view, lacks) is creativity. You could argue that creativity is part of “solving problems” but I feel that such a higher mental process deserves its own category.

The day that computers attain creativity (probably through some complex computer algorithm, created by some ‘Einstein-like’ genius), at a level equivalent to that of a human being, will be one of a grand paradigm shift. In the present, people tend to separate themselves from other beings such as animals and computers by their intelligence. Our intelligence is our pride. However, when AI becomes nearly identical to human intelligence, people will start to question what makes them different, more special. I feel that either one of three things happen. Either we all get along famously, we eradicate the human-like level of AI in order to keep our superior status, or the computers overrun and kill people … like in the movies Terminator, Matrix, I Robot, etc.

—Spoiler Alert— for Half-Life Portal

Besides movies, another example of where a computer goes completely crazy and starts killing … or better yet, playing with humans is in the computer game Half-Life Portal. The computer becomes very creative in its attempt to ‘exterminate’ you. Suffice to say, the ending song is disturbing and suggests that computers have emotions, frustrations, etc. On a side note, this game is art. I can’t even begin to imagine how they created the engine/system for the portals. It’s truly a masterpiece.
Youtube Video of Portal

Regarding networks, its interesting how biology and computer networks are related. Biological networks were the basis for computer networks. Each aspect of a biological network (ecosystem) works together to support the entire structure. This design was used as a blueprint for computer networks. However, computers have also been influential on psychology, which is, in a sense, a type of biology (at least according to UCLA, since psychology is a life-science instead of social science here). For example, thanks to the computer/calculator/etc, psychologists moved away from traditional behaviorism and towards the learning perspective which incorporates higher mental processes in their explanation for behavior.