Eduardo Kac Artist Presentation

Eduardo Kac Presentation 2


Spatial Temporal Biological Boundary Gradation and Senescence

Many advances in the realm of artificial intelligence are now occurring. A new and related branch of investigation building upon these studies is the robotic paradigm of neosentience, or an intelligent, embodied, multimodal sensing and computational robotic system (Seaman and Rossler 2008). With the ability to learn, intelligently navigate, interact through natural language, generate simulations of behavior, create, display mirror competence, and gain contextual knowledge through multimodal sensing, the neosentient exhibits the mechanistic triumphs of the human body. The human, however, is rapidly shifting in how it interacts with the external environment. Organic, compartmentalized, and discrete interactions are being replaced with inorganic, nebulous, and gradation-based relationships. With rapid changes occurring in the way the humans relate to their environment, the neosentient, and its potential for multimodal sensing and intelligent interaction with other entities, may be defined both spatially and temporally.

There have been numerous models proposed to define an entity as living or non-living. An integral portion of many of these theories is defining the boundary between the external environment and the actual living organism. The traditional and biological view of living things takes root in compartmentalization. A discrete boundary exists between the organism of interest and the environment. Amongst program, improvisation, energy, regeneration, adaptability, and seclusion, Koshland has classified compartmentalization as a key component of a living entity (Koshland 2002). This requirement of sequestering functional parts has been defined as crucial for organisms on the terrestrial (McKay 2004) as well as extraterrestrial level (Ricardo 2009). Additionally, life has been strongly classified as being based in organic materials. The atoms of oxygen, nitrogen, hydrogen, and carbon have been identified as the fundamental building blocks for life. With the exception of a few metal ions, organic molecules have predominantly been associated with living systems (Shapiro 2007).

With recent advances in the fields of biomedical engineering, neuroscience, materials science, and computer science, these traditional definitions of life are being challenged. In particular, there has been a significant progress made expanding the interface of the external environment and the organism. New theories of what defines a part of a living organism are trending away from absolute boundaries and compartmentalization. In the realm of human health, numerous advances in prosthetics for damaged body parts are already being implemented. Cochlear implants, mechanical devices implanted within the inner ear, are being utilized to augment hearing and provide sensation back to those who have damaged their sensory organs. Artificial limbs and prosthetics, far more functional than ever before, are being given to patients for amputated appendages. These devices often restore not only the ability to engage in normal daily activities, but also provide them with the skill and prestige to participate in sports—displays of heightened and refined physical ability. Additionally, transplants for organs from donors of not singularly human origin, are being performed daily. The completion of the Human Biome Project has closely linked the microflora of the intestinal tract to human health. It has now become clear that there is an intricate and intimate linkage between the human genome and intestinal microbiome. Collectively, microorganisms and the human make up the human metagenome, revolutionizing medical intervention and care (Hattori and Taylor 2009). The boundary between the living and the environment is becoming increasingly nebulous.

Furthermore, researchers are looking into the use of inorganic and other “new” macromolecules. These new collections of atoms could be used to synthesize life and recreate the formation of the first cells. Silicon in particular has showed promise. The element has the same valence electron pattern as carbon, the “backbone” of most life on earth and has the potential to show similar bonding properties. Many physicians are looking towards utilizing artificial parts for transplantation. Widespread use of xenogenic transplantation utilization, fetal brain cell transplantation, and transplantation of isolated cells proved wrong. Research for the twenty first century mostly likely will consist of hybrid and entirely artificial, implantable devices (Rowinski 2007).

From these changing dynamics, I will argue that we must view the body in both space and time. This new view will have important implications subsequently for the neosentient. In reflecting upon the importance of spatial location for the neosentient, I will draw upon the embryological model of sequential induction. To further emphasize that the environment is only not influential at an infinitely large distance away, I will draw upon the physics theories of gravitational and electrical potential energy. In examining the role of time and the environment in relation to the neosentient, I will examine aging and degradation of mechanical and chemical elements.

I will next look at the implications of this new viewing of the human and neosentient form for the established definition of the neosentient. Sensing and application potentials, interactions with other neosentients and humans, senescence, and senility for the neosentient will all be explored. Subsequently, I will reflect upon how our own definitions of sentience and senility may change. Senescence and aging may trend towards having an inorganic rather than organic basis. Products of material science research are being implemented for sports health and medicine. Health and the process of aging may be limited more by materials than by biological elements.

From this analysis, I will reflect upon the important questions this new definition of boundary will address. In particular, the value of aging and death for the neosentient is worth exploring as the boundary between living and non-living is blurred.

Duke Professor Doing Interesting Brain/Machine Work

“Miguel Nicolelis, M.D. Ph.D., is the Anne W. Deane Professor of Neuroscience at Duke University, Professor of Neurobiology, Biomedical Engineering and Psychology and founder of Duke’s Center for Neuroengineering. Although for the past decade, Dr. Nicolelis is best known for his pioneering studies of Brain Machine Interfaces (BMI) and neuroprosthetics in human patients and non-human primates, he has also developed an integrative approach to studying neurological and psychiatric disorders including Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, schizophrenia and attention deficit disorder. He has also made fundamental contributions in the fields of sensory plasticity, gustation, sleep, reward and learning”


Foci Network Model for Thinking about Behavior?

Really interesting paper about First-Order Conditional Independence (FOCI) networking. Though this discusses utilizing  foci-networking to estimate a coexpression netowork from microarray data (and for gene knock out work), it could be a very interesting way to think about how the neosentient “generates simulations of behavior (it ‘thinks’ about potential behaviors) before acting in physical space”.

One figure from the paper:

Porous Scaffolding

Perspective on the future of tissue engineering and utilizing biomaterial scaffolding to grow cells on/within.

This article brought to my attention the dimension of time in examining boundaries. An increasing number of technologies that will be implemented involve integration into the body at different points in time. This is reminiscent of a multiple births; the cells involved in tissue engineering having an almost fetus/placenta-like dependence on the biomaterial scaffolding for growth.

Organ Regeneration

^Interesting article detailing future directions for tissue and organ regeneration. This is pertinent to our discussion of the cyborg, senescence, and sensory enhancement.


Essentially, we should be able to engineer enhanced-functioning organs and tissues (biological, though possibly chimeric). This would be accomplished through over-expression and knockout gene constructs, or transgenic strain synthesis.


It seems as though the cyborg (and possibly the neosentient) could have biological (though possibly transgenic) roots.

Biological Enhancement and the Cyborg

Is an organism still considered a cyborg if the additive parts (for enhancement) are biological rather than electronic, mechanical, or robotic?

Face transplants, hand transplants, and tissue engineering are gaining significant momentum in the medical realm, and the battle against senescence is being fought more viciously every day. Replication of biological structures (and their subsequent sensory-enhancing components) may follow a pattern of general to more specific. For example: organism replication, organ replication, developmentally similar structure replication, cellular replication. Will procedures performed to counter senescence and replace sub-par functioning structures by replacement with biological replicates be considered cyborg engineering?