NEW FICTION: WORLD IN PROGRESS by Lori Ann White

Paul Raven @ 01-12-2010

Well, here we are: the last piece of Futurismic fiction for a while. But talk about ending on a high note! When Chris sent across Lori Ann White‘s “World In Progress” for me to look at, it felt as if she’d been carefully following the stuff I blog about here day after day, picking out some of my favourite riffs, memes and ideas, and rendering them down into one wonderful – and very human – story. It’s a super piece, and I’m proud to be publishing it; scroll down, read on, and find out why. 🙂

World In Progress

by Lori Ann White

And in The Far Corner, Wearing a
Too-Tight Jock Strap and a Crown of Thorns–

CLOSE UP on a face.  Calm, pale, waves of black hair brushed back from a broad forehead.  Retro Guy.  Grade A, 100% Pure Professional Athlete.  No drugs, no mods, no tweaks, no prods.  Just like the old farts ordered.

He’s staring at the wall above the mirror through eyes blue as an Artic bay.  Pan to the wall, to the framed honest-to-god newsprint, photo of a thick-necked thug in too-tight jacket.  He’s small, like Retro Guy, like they all used to be, but the smug grin and his squinty eyes radiate “big guy” waves.  He’s got one arm around a sad brunette.

The caption: “Bruisin’ Brawler Gene O’Connor: ‘No God-Damned Upgrades!  My Boy Will be a Real Boxer, Just Like His Old Man.'”

The camera pans back to Retro Guy’s face.

“Hey, Old Man,” he whispers.  “This fight’s for you.” Continue reading “NEW FICTION: WORLD IN PROGRESS by Lori Ann White”


We have the (experimental) technology; we can rebuild you!

Paul Raven @ 03-02-2010

cyborg headLost an ear during the Reservoir Dogs Re-enactment Society meeting? No problems – we’ll just grow you a new one on a nanocellulose framework [via NextBigFuture]:

Previously, Paul Gatenholm and his colleagues [at Chalmers University, Sweden] succeeded, in close co-operation with Sahlgrenska University Hospital, in developing artificial blood vessels using nanocellulose, where small bacteria “spin” the cellulose.

In the new programme, the researchers will build up a three-dimensional nanocellulose network that is an exact copy of the patient’s healthy outer ear and construct an exact mirror image of the ear. It will have sufficient mechanical stability for it to be used as a bioreactor, which means that the patient’s own cartilage and stem cells can be cultivated directly inside the body or on the patient, in this case on the head.

“As yet we do not know if it will work. It is an extremely exciting project that brings together expertise in image analysis, prototype manufacturing, biomechanics, biopolymers and cell biology. If we succeed it will open up a whole range of new and exciting areas of use.”

And while we’re speaking about ears, did you ruin your frequency response curve watching avant-noise bands play dingy bars and lofts in eighties New York*? You’ll be needing a hearing aid, then… but not some ugly uncool thing lodged in your ear canal. We’ve got one that’ll slip over one of your back teeth [via BoingBoing]:

There are other hearing aid devices that utilize bone conduction. Most, however, use a titanium pin drilled into the jaw bone (or skull) to transmit sound to the cochlea. SoundBite seems to be the first non-surgical, non-invasive, easily removable device. While they are likely years from retail production, Sonitus Medical plans on having SoundBite ITMs fitted to each individual’s upper back teeth and fabricated fairly quickly (1 to 2 weeks).

Oh, so all that wide-bandwidth noise and late-night hedonism has burned out some of your brain-meat, eh? Well, we’ve got organic transistors that mimic the function of human synapses [via NextBigFuture again]… though quite how we’d patch them into your existing wetware is a bit of a mystery at this point. But hey, they’re called NOMFETs, so the internet should find plenty of macro jokes to make about ’em!

A biological synapse transforms a voltage spike (action potential) arriving from a pre-synaptic neuron into a discharge of chemical neurotransmitters that are then detected by a post-synaptic neuron. These are subsequently transformed into new spikes, leading to a succession of pulses that either become larger or diminish in size. This fundamental property of synaptic behaviour is known as short-term plasticity, which is related to a neural network’s ability to learn. It is this plasticity that Vuillaume and colleagues have succeeded in mimicking.

In the NOMFET, the pre-synaptic signal is simply the pulse voltage applied to the device and the output signal is the drain current, explains Vuillaume. The holes – the charge carriers in the p-type organic semiconductor employed – are trapped in the nanoparticles and act like the neurotransmitters. A certain number of holes are trapped for each incoming spike voltage and in the absence of pulses, the holes escape in a matter of seconds

This time delay is carefully adjusted by the researchers by optimizing nanoparticle number and device geometry. “The output of the NOMFET is thus able to reproduce the deceasing or amplifying behaviour typical of a synapse depending on the frequency of spikes,” said Vuillaume.

Er… your health insurance is fully up to date, right? [image by Bistrosavage]

[ * Guess who’s been reading a Sonic Youth biography this week… 🙂 ]


NEW FICTION: BITING THE SNAKE’S TAIL by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Paul Raven @ 01-02-2010

Our second story of the new decade is yet another return visit from a Futurismic fiction alumnus. We loved Silvia Moreno-Garcia‘s “Maquech” enough to publish it back in 2008, and “Biting The Snake’s Tail” takes us back to an exotic and ecologically crumbling Mexico City… but this time it’s in a noir-ish near-future police story, where what you don’t see is even more important than what you do. Enjoy!

Biting The Snake’s Tail

by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Cops don’t go into the alcazabas. They’ll do raids every few months and confiscate mod-drugs for the sake of the TV cameras, but they don’t care what happens in the alcazaba’s colorless alleys. The gang leaders have established their own code of conduct, so what happens in the alcazaba is the business of the people who live there and not of the outsiders circling and enduring these cities within a city.

That’s why it was so bizarre to see all those officers in their blue uniforms running around La Catrina. I bet they were also pretty surprised to see me there in full gear with Arkasha at my side.

Gonzalo hadn’t told me what was going on. All he said was I had to get to La Catrina fast. Therefore, I was wearing the exo and the helmet, just in case things were really nasty. Arkasha was an added form of insurance. It’s funny how many people will run at the sight of a large dog, but not of a gun. Continue reading “NEW FICTION: BITING THE SNAKE’S TAIL by Silvia Moreno-Garcia”


I like my beef… er, ripped?

Paul Raven @ 18-02-2009

With a regular application of the right chemicals, it’s amazing what you can do to a living creature. Observe:

Belgian Blue cow

That’s a bull of the Belgian Blue breed, which has a genetic anomaly that suppresses the production of a hormone called myostatin that inhibits muscle growth – hence the ‘double muscling’ seen above.

“So what,” you say. Well, myostatin inhibitor drugs are being developed with the intent of treating muscle-wasting diseases like muscular dystrophy in humans. And we all know how the street finds its own use for things… as does the sports arena, the university, and the boardroom.

Double-muscled beefcake – coming to a gymnasium near you, very soon. [via SentientDevelopments; image from Kottke article, no attribution available]


Smart drugs and body-mods to usher in a new Enlightenment?

Paul Raven @ 07-03-2008

pills Of all the rumours coming in from the O’Reilly Emerging Technology Conference this year (my complimentary tickets for which obviously got lost in the mail somehow, worse luck), I’ve been most intrigued by Quinn Norton‘s talk – and I’ll bet we’ll be hearing a lot about it from the transhumanist bloggers in the next few days, too.

Apparently Norton discussed the potential of new cognitive drugs and body augmentation to produce a “second Enlightenment” – a global stimulation of intellectual pursuits that might encourage seditious thoughts and behaviour, much to the consternation of repressive governments. [image by ninjapoodles]

I can see what Norton is saying, and I have a certain sympathy. But it’s hardly a new idea, though; look back at rave culture in the late eighties and early nineties here in the UK, or Douglas Rushkoff’s early books, and you’ll see similar ideas being advanced. But the internet wasn’t even out of its infancy at that point, so things are arguably different now – if only at a the level of global interpersonal communication.

What do you think – is Norton a harbinger of change, or a wide-eyed techno-utopian?

[ PS – if anyone finds an audio recording or YouTube video of Norton’s talk, please send Futurismic the link via the Contacts page and we’ll put it up here for everyone to enjoy. ]


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