Tag Archives: Maryse de la Giroday

FrogHeart at the 2012 S.NET conference, part 5: informal public dialogue/science education and transhuman narratives

Anne Dijkstra’s presentation (at the 2012 S.NET [Society for the Study of Nanoscience and Emerging Technologies] conference on “Science Cafés and scientific citizens. The Nanotrail project as a case” provided a contrast to the local (Vancouver, Canada) science café scene I wasn’t expecting. The Dutch science cafés Dijkstra described were formal both in tone and organization.  She featured five science cafés focussed on discussions of nanotechnology. The most striking image in Dijkstra’s presentation was of someone taking notes at one of the meetings. By contrast, the Vancouver café scientifique get togethers take place in a local bar/pub (The Railway Club) and are organized by members of the local science community. (There are some life science café scientifique Vancouver meetings which may be more formal as they take place at the University of British Columbia.)

I was quite fascinated to hear about the Dutch children’s science cafés that have been organized by the parents featuring presentations by children to their peers. It’s a grassroots effort/community-based initiative.

The next and final presentation set was when I presented my work on ‘Zombies, brains, collapsing boundaries, and entanglements’. (People at the conference kept laughing when I told them when my presentation was scheduled.) Briefly, my area of interest is in neuromorphic engineering (artificial brains), memristors and other devices which can mimic synaptic plasticity, pop culture (zombies), and something I’ve termed ‘cognitive entanglement’. My basic question is: what does it mean to be human at a time when notions about what constitutes life and nonlife are being obliterated? In addition, although I didn’t do this deliberately, this passage from my Oct. 31, 2012 posting (Part 1 of this series) touches on a related issue,

His [Chris Groves’ plenary] quote from Hannah Arendt, “What we make remakes us” brought home the notion that there is a feedback loop and that science and invention are not unidirectional pursuits, i.e., we do not create the world and stand apart from it; the world we create, in turn, recreates us.

I have more about this ‘conversation’ regarding artificial brains taking place in business, pop culture, philosophy, advertising, science, engineering, and elsewhere but I think I need to write up a paper. Once I do that I”ll post it. As for the response from the conference goers, there were no questions but there were a few comments (I’m not the only one interested in zombies and the living dead) and a suggestion to me for further reading (Andrew Pickering, The cybernetic brain: sketches of another future).

My ‘Whose electric brain?’ talk on March 15, 2012

Later this week (March 15, 2012), I will be giving a talk in Vancouver,

The Canadian Academy of Independent Scholars

Notice of Meeting

Date:  Thursday, March 15, 2012

Time:  7:30 pm

Place:  Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, BC campus, 515 West Hastings Street (between Seymour and Richards Streets) in the Diamond Alumni Lounge, Room 2065 (second floor)

Speaker:  Maryse de la Giroday

Topic:  Whose electric brain?

Memristors are collapsing the boundaries between humans and machines and ushering in an age where humanistic discourse must grapple with cognitive entanglements. Perceptible only at the level of molecular electronics (nanoelectronics), the memristor was a theoretical concept until 2008. Two different researchers without knowledge of each other had postulated its probable existence respectively in the 1960s and the 1970s. Traditionally in electrical engineering there are resistors, inductors, and capacitors. The new circuit element, the memristor, was postulated to account for anomalies that had been experienced and described in the literature since the 1950s.

Conceptually, a memristor remembers how much and when current has been flowing. In 2008 when it was proved experimentally, engineering control was achieved months later in both digital and analogue formats. The more intriguing of the two formats is the analogue where a memristor is capable of an in-between state similar to certain brain states as opposed to the digital format where it’s either on or off. As some have described it, the memristor is a synapse on a chip making neural computing a reality. In other words, with post-human engineering we will have machines that can think like humans.

The memristor moves us past Jacques Derrida’s notion of undecidability (a cognitive entanglement) as largely theoretical to a world where we confront this reality on a daily basis.

A Brief Bio:

Maryse de la Giroday is a science communications consultant and writer who focuses on nanotechnology and science in Canada. Her blog (www.frogheart.ca) offers “Commentary about nanotech, science policy and communication, society, and the arts” and it currently enjoys an average of 50,000+ visits per month.

She has a BA (honors-Communications) from SFU and an MA (Creative Writing and New Media) De Montfort University, UK.

As an independent academic, she has presented on the topic of nanotechnology at the 2009 International Symposium on Electronic Arts, the 2008 Congress of Humanities and the Social Sciences, the 2008 Cascadia Nanotechnology Symposium, and the 2007 Association of Internet Researchers.

She gratefully acknowledge the 2011 grant from the Canadian Academy of Independent Scholars which makes the publication of her latest paper, Whose electric brain? possible.

I expect to be exploring ideas about machines and humans as buttressed by the notion of the memristor. The talk will be recorded (tarted up/edited) by Sama Shodjai and posted, in the near future, here and elsewhere online.

ISEA 2011: Biosynthetics and Body – Machine Relationships

ISEA (International Symposium on Electronic Arts) 2011 is being held in Istanbul, Turkey from Sept. 14-21, 2011. I submitted a proposal for a paper which was accepted and I have been included in the Biosynthetics and Body – Machine Presentation (from the presentation webpage),

Art and Life: Biocybrid systems and the reengineering of reality by Diana Domingues, Adson Ferreira da Rocha, and Cristiano Jacques Miosso/ ColourBlind by Alan Dunning and Paul Woodrow/ Morphogenesis by Christophe Viau/ Whose electric brain by Maryse Simone de la Giroday/ Fish and Chips, MEART and Silent Barrage, pioneering cybernetic organisms from the SymbioticA research Group by Stuart Bunt

I’m very excited about the conference and it overlaps with the 12th Istanbul Biennial, which runs from Sept. 17 – Nov. 13, 2011. My fellow presenters are quite exciting too. I’ve looked up each presenter and linked to information about them and/or their work.

Diana Domingues exhibition website providing some biographical info. in English.

Adson Ferreira da Rocha (faculty page in Portuguese?)

Cristiano Jacques Miosso (a paper on biocybrid systems he co-authored with Diana Domingues and Adson Ferreira da Rocha)

Alan Dunning (a biography of Dunning on the Fondation Langlois website; he lives in Alberta, Canada)

Paul Woodrow (faculty page at the University of Calgary [Alberta, Canada])

Christophe Viau at Biodesign (en français)

Maryse de la Giroday (me)

SymbioticA (Stuart Blunt) laboratory webpage and newsletter description of Stuart Blunt’s career at the University of Western Australia and his role at SymbioticA.

It’s an eclectic group of artists, engineers, a neuroscientist, and me (a writer). I’d love to attend although it seems unlikely. If you have any ideas for creative (or not)  fundraising for an independent scholar scheduled for a Sept. 19, 2011 presentation at ISEA 2011, I’d love to hear them.

In the meantime, here’s a link to a lengthy (34 mins.) conversation between the two curators (Jens Hoffman and Adriano Pedrosa) selected for the 12th Istanbul Biennial.