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September 13, 2009

Rapture of the nerds
Posted by Avram Grumer at 01:04 AM *

Alex Lightman, writing for h+ Magazine, on “Sex and the Singularity”:

[W]e will be installing bioports into our body, a la The Matrix or Sleep Dealer, each of which can stimulate our nervous system. In heterosex, men penetrate women, but with this, men and women will interpenetrate each other, multiply, and, as with USB 2.0 daisy-chaining, so will men, women, and androids be able to multiply-interpenetrate, locally or remotely.

John Milton, on arguably the same topic:

Whatever pure thou in the body enjoyest,
(And pure thou wert created) we enjoy
In eminence; and obstacle find none
Of membrane, joint, or limb, exclusive bars;
Easier than air with air, if Spirits embrace,
Total they mix, union of pure with pure
Desiring, nor restrained conveyance need,
As flesh to mix with flesh, or soul with soul.

(Lightman link via Andrew Sullivan.)

Comments on Rapture of the nerds:
#1 ::: bbot ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2009, 01:47 AM:

Wow, pretentious. Very Gibson.

Also: A "bioport"[*], in the form of a direct connection to the nervous system, sounds terrifically insecure. You're going to need to do some level shifting anyway, so it would be much wiser to manage it with an implanted computer, then communicate with that wirelessly.

At this point, there is no penetration being performed, even figuratively.

*: Bioport(tm) is the registered trademark of BioPort Corporation, which among other things, manufactures anthrax vaccine. The word itself is not at all generic, and the context is very similar.

#2 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2009, 03:10 AM:

Of course, due to community and employment-contract constraints most people will have to deal with anti-penetration simulation filters, limiting them to group cuddles.

#3 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2009, 08:56 AM:

And then, in the middle of their doing the Deed, the bioports decide they need a software upgrade, followed by a reboot.

Comedy ensues.

#4 ::: Angiportus ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2009, 09:26 AM:

How many dimensions are involved? Are some connections possible only in even or odd numbered dimensions? Is knowledge of topology useful here?
Actually sounds like more fun and less mess. But in addition to Serge's concern, I hope there's a backup power supply. Whether "penetration" is figurative or not, and whatever entities are involved. [Now that I am fully awake, I guess I'll actually read the Gibson article]

#5 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2009, 09:49 AM:

Serge #3: Not to mention the possibility that, in media res the bioports receive an email informing them that if they send their access information they will receive TWENTY MILLION DOLLARS that just happen to be available in a security company in Spain. Thanks, of course, to the peculations of a now-defunct Nigerian dictator.

#6 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2009, 11:09 AM:

I suppose now might be a good time to mention the existing work on the insecurity of remotely accessible pacemakers?

#7 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2009, 11:16 AM:

I sing the body electric.

#8 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2009, 11:23 AM:

There's nothing new about this magazine. It's basically the Mondo 2000 crowd again, and I saw them in 1989, or maybe it was early 90's.

Smart drugs and cryogenics and virtual reality and the electronic version of turn on/ tune in / drop out.

Those guys are spoofed a little in The Guy I Almost Was, by Patrick Farley.

#9 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2009, 11:24 AM:

"If your bioport stays on for more than four hours..."

#10 ::: Virge ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2009, 11:42 AM:

We substitute technology at will
to engineer away the strange and weak
so long as we have funds to foot the bill.

First horns, then aids, ear implants, next: a pill?
New spectacles? Now lasers trim and tweak.
We substitute technology at will.

With help now Jack can bend his way to Jill
and saline slugs lend jugs a fresh physique
so long as she has funds to foot the bill.

Most drives our genes had honed us to fulfill
we've seen subsumed by our hedonic streak.
We substitute technology at will:

from barbell tongues to toys that throb to thrill,
to plastic partners styled in cyborg chic,
so long as we have funds to foot the bill.

Soon brain enhancement should extend our skill
to help us guide the docile and the meek.
We'll substitute technology at will
so long as you have funds to foot our bill.

#11 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2009, 12:00 PM:

But but but.

USB doesn't daisy chain. It's point to point. Firewire is the one that chains.

#12 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2009, 12:05 PM:

but with this, men and women will interpenetrate each other, multiply,

Run for your lives. The seventies have come round again.

#13 ::: Raphael ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2009, 12:06 PM:

I guess most of the stuff along these lines will go the way of the rocket car.

#14 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2009, 12:09 PM:

*applauds Virge*

#15 ::: Alex ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2009, 12:49 PM:

Some other issues - what about collision detection, and the possibility of a broadcast storm*? Isn't this just going back to the days of hubs?

* in context, perhaps a sudden climatic surge of many-to-many communication would be desirable...

#16 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2009, 01:00 PM:

Applause to Virge at #10, and apologies for initially misreading his name as 'Viagra' after Serge's #9.

#17 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2009, 01:01 PM:

I have a post in moderation, probably because I used a drug-name starting with 'V'.

#18 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2009, 01:25 PM:

Virge #10: Wish I'd thought of that! Nice.

#19 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2009, 01:29 PM:

Raphael #13: Rocket car? I want my jet pack.

Now, of course, Avram, we have the intriguing possibility of a future in which the expression "jack off" will come to mean something completely different.

#20 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2009, 01:53 PM:

Fragano, 19: The heck with both of those--where's my self-cleaning house?

#21 ::: Larry ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2009, 02:25 PM:

God I hope it's not based on USB. Just what we need to deal with, buggy chipsets that either cause crashes or variable speeds. The last one there makes me very queasy when picturing it.

Anyone here ever play Cyberpunk or Shadowrun?

#22 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2009, 03:00 PM:

Virge @10:
Very good.

Larry @21:
So if you don't have a USB 2.0 bioport, but only the low speed 1.1, then you just can't keep up?

#23 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2009, 03:00 PM:

Pericat #12: Bell-bottom trousers and all?

#24 ::: Larry ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2009, 03:11 PM:

Bruce @22: Or worse, you start getting buffer underruns on the other side (or would it be overruns on the slower end?)

#25 ::: chris ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2009, 03:29 PM:

@22: Great, now I'm picturing ads for how to enlarge your bandwidth to please your partner better. At least they probably won't try to claim to be able to do *that* with all natural herbal products.

#26 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2009, 03:42 PM:

Mary Aileen @ 16... apologies for initially misreading his name as 'Viagra' after Serge's

I'll take that as a compliment.

#27 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2009, 03:53 PM:

Hmmm... My post has been sent to Limbo.

#28 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2009, 04:02 PM:

Larry @24

Are we talking computers, or Thomas the Tank-Engine?

#29 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2009, 04:11 PM:

Dave Bell @ 28... The Little Engine that Could?

#30 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2009, 04:12 PM:

Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: For the experiment to be a success, all of the body parts must be enlarged.
Inga: His veins, his feet, his hands, his organs vould all have to be increased in size.
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: Exactly.
Inga: He vould have an enormous schwanzstucker.
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: That goes without saying.
Inga: Voof.
Igor: He's going to be very popular.

#31 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2009, 04:32 PM:

Schwantzstücke, Serge. 'Piece of dick'.

#32 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2009, 05:35 PM:

Fragano, #5, I got a many-times-forwarded email last night from a neighbor whom I would have thought knew better. If I forward the letter to lots of people, Microsoft and AOL will give me $245. Uhhuh. I deleted it and am deciding whether I'll tell him how those things work.

#33 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2009, 05:37 PM:

Xopher @ 31... I stand... ah... corrected.

#34 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2009, 05:51 PM:

We're bent on becoming immortal
With adult content streaming our portal
We're among the chosen
Our bodies are frozen
Our lifestyle isn't affordable

#35 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2009, 06:05 PM:

What page is the quote on? I find the article hard to navigate?

#36 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2009, 06:22 PM:

Daisy-chain, Daisy-chain
Give me your answer true,
I have a crazy brain
All for the love of you!
It won't be a stylish portal,
I can't afford to be immortal,
but you'll look great
when we interpenetrate
on a bicycle built for 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 ...

#37 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2009, 06:51 PM:

Marilee #32: When I was a boy it was bottle-tops. Now...

#38 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2009, 06:53 PM:

Now, from McAfee and Norton....

Electronic condoms. Remember, nothing beats practicing safe hex.

#39 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2009, 06:56 PM:

Do you want to REALLY please your partner. We at Web Decelerator can show you how. For only $29.95 per hour, we promise a truly AMAZING connectivity experience.

#40 ::: Larry ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2009, 06:58 PM:

Dave @28: I was thinking more along the lines of the energizer bunny combined with "safe computing" practices.

#41 ::: Alex ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2009, 07:22 PM:

This could save Microsoft; imagine if they reused the WIndows codebase. Heeerrrres' Clippy!

"Hey! It looks like you're attempting to induce orgasm in your partner(s)!"

Followed by:

Microsoft Windows Management Console
This action might change your mood, relationships, parental status, or sexual orientation. You may wish to consult your human resources representative.

Yes No?

Followed by:

General Protection Fault
0xgh8x4hf
DEADCHICKEN

(Oh, the computer came too soon. Again.)

#42 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2009, 07:26 PM:

What a hideously reader-hostile web site that was.

#43 ::: Paul Duncanson ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2009, 07:34 PM:

Erik @ 35: It's in the left-hand column of the image of page 76.

I don't think I can take seriously people who claim to cover technological and cultural trends that "are changing and will change human beings in fundamental ways" who still, in 2009, present the online edition of their magazine as a series of images of print pages.

#44 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2009, 08:04 PM:

I think the whole trope/trend began with the late 80's Whole Earth Review issue with the theme "Is the Body Obsolete?"

#45 ::: Virge ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2009, 08:27 PM:

Alex @ 41: Clippy! *splutters coffee*

Paul Duncanson @ 43: I think we should separate the people who write about technological and cultural trends from those who format and publish their words. However, you're right that it doesn't present the H+ community in a good light. It's a painful user interface.

What does surprise me is that in the space of two paragraphs, Alex Lightman can talk of brain emulation, replication and reintegration, but then envisage the ultimate sensual pleasures as physical plug & socket operations. It's like looking forward to having flying cars and imagining how awesome the tyres will be.

#46 ::: landondyer ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2009, 08:41 PM:

John Varley:

"In five years, the penis will be obsolete," said the salesman.

[Steel Beach]

#47 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2009, 08:49 PM:

Yup, editor in chief of h+ is R.U.Sirius, also known for Mondo 2000, Reality Hackers, and High Frontiers.

I thought it looked a little familiar.

#48 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2009, 09:01 PM:

#24: Oh, great. Now you have me imagining VR sex orgies involving steam trains.

Horrifyingly, somebody, somewhere, is probably into that:

"Whistle! Whistle now!"

TEEEEEET!

"AAAAAAaahhhhh! Ooooohhhh Edward!"

PLEASE AUTHORIZE ANOTHER $10.00 FOR ANOTHER FIVE MINUTES OF SIM TIME.

#49 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2009, 09:19 PM:

24, 28, 48:
switch engines?

#50 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2009, 09:44 PM:

Whatever shifts your gears.

#51 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2009, 09:46 PM:

Or...no, I'm not going to make a "firebox" joke.

#52 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2009, 09:52 PM:

TexAnne @ 51... C'mon. You know you wanna.

#53 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2009, 10:06 PM:

"No, not in the caboose!"

#54 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2009, 10:11 PM:

I don't think USB or Firewire is quite it. Wouldn't bio-port sex be SCSI?

#55 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2009, 01:19 AM:

Clifton: only for those you look down on.

#56 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2009, 03:53 AM:

Allan Beatty #42: What a hideously reader-hostile web site that was.

You've got that right; I wonder if it was done that way for Digital Rights Manglement reasons?

#57 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2009, 04:11 AM:

Allan Beatty #42 & Earl Cooley III #56:

Yes. But experience can be made (slightly) less painful if you download the whole issue as a 22MB pdf file and read it that way. So it's clearly not a copy protection measure, more a reader repelling one.

#58 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2009, 04:22 AM:

"In heterosex, men penetrate women."

No, in heterosex, men and women experience mutual pleasurable stimulation of nerve endings, usually with concurrent pleasant emotional states, often but not always while a penis is in a vagina. Is this about not enjoying penetrative heterosex? Because that appears to be the implication, at least to me.

"I do not enjoy penetrative heterosex" does not automatically imply "Something is wrong with the human body in its current form and it needs to be replaced with something better." It's like musing, "Well, French fries give me a bellyache; better install a feeding tube." What about checking out other options on the menu or learning how to be a better cook?

#59 ::: Sarah S. ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2009, 09:36 AM:

John Donne wrote about it way before bio-ports.

http://www.luminarium.org/sevenlit/donne/ecstacy.htm

#60 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2009, 03:12 PM:

The design of the H+ website is indeed painful to behold; I gave up reading it after a couple of tries. A shame too; I'm fascinated§ by what the posthumanists are dreaming up these days.

And this sort of speculation about simulated sex isn't very new; see Regina Lynn's blog, for instance.

§ In a somewhat bemused, "what are they thinking of?" kind of way. The idea that its "obvious" that some as-yet-to-be designed virtual reality world based on as-yet-to-be-understood simulations of the human psyche and soma will be more interesting to live in than the physical world we currently inhabit baffles me.

#61 ::: Keith Kisser ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2009, 06:23 PM:

The whole Bioport thing sounds fairly outdated. It's not 1986 anymore, why not just go for the wireless upgrade? People could interface without even touching. Your nervous system could extend beyond your skin and with the right sort of biofeedback stimulation, the entire physical world could be like one big polymorphous genital.

Then we'd all be like Saint Theresa, wandering around in an ecstatic haze.

#62 ::: Sarah W ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2009, 07:22 PM:

Is anyone else reminded of Woody Allen's Sleeper?

"We wanted to have sex, but there aren't enough people . . . "

#63 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2009, 08:57 AM:

Jenny Islander @ 58... in heterosex, men and women experience mutual pleasurable stimulation of nerve endings

"Aaaahhhh... You stimulate me, Primat!"

#64 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2009, 09:31 AM:

I can think of one or two places on the net already, which cuggest how things might pan out.

1: Nobody involved is actually making something useful. In the early days of such things, the participants were mostly students, who had access to the primitive virtual worlds of the time.

2: Much of the time, participants are sitting around, waiting for something to happen, and bitching about the suckitude of computer games.

3: When something does happen, it involves breasts with cup-sizes in the latter half of the alphabet, and erections big enough to trigger a catastophic shortage of blood in the brain (So what's new?)

4: Events resemble porn movies more than they do reality.

Incidentally, users of the direct nervous interface systems may require a degree of spoofing so that the local effects do not affect their enjoyment of the virtual world: a sort of Virtual Interface Autonomous Genital Reality Augmentation.

#65 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2009, 09:45 AM:

Dave Bell #64: What of those who prefer Copulatory Interface Automatic Levitatory Interpersonal Systems?

#66 ::: Theophylact ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2009, 11:04 AM:

Clifton Royston @ #54: I was indeed surprised when I first learned that SCSI was pronounced "scuzzy" rather than "sexy".

#67 ::: dajt ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2009, 12:39 PM:

I believe the pronunciation of SCSI depends on where you're from and how you view the technology. I think the fact that "scuzzy" seems to have won out says something about it, but maybe I've spent too long dealing with recalcitrant scanners, flaky tape drives, and poorly designed host adapters.

And I agree with Keith Kisser in #61, wireless is definitely the way to go, for the obvious logistical reasons if nothing else.

And I'm still waiting for implanted cell phones. They'll be the first step.

#68 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2009, 01:04 PM:

dajt 67: And I'm still waiting for implanted cell phones. They'll be the first step.

I don't think so. Upgrading would require surgery, and even a standard port won't solve the problem: the Connector Conspiracy will defeat that tactic.

Add in the fact that the people most likely to adopt new tech are also the people most likely to adopt the NEXT new tech six months from now, and you're left with not much appeal for implanted cell phones.

#69 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2009, 02:31 PM:

SCSI has been "scuzzy" for the 20? years I've been dealing with it. (Mind you, that's usually better than most of the alternatives.)

#70 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2009, 03:19 PM:

#63 Serge
Jenny Islander @ 58... in heterosex, men and women experience mutual pleasurable stimulation of nerve endings

"Aaaahhhh... You stimulate me, Primat!"

Yeah, sorry. I was trying to say, "Sex, ur thinkin about it rong" in Geek.

But, seriously, starting a description of Sex 2.0 by saying, "It will expand upon heterosex, which is about a man penetrating a woman, so Sex 2.0 will be penetrate-ier" just leads me to mutter, "Dude, RTFM. Or go online and RTFFAQ."

#71 ::: dajt ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2009, 04:23 PM:

#68 Xopher: Actually, an implanted Bluetooth headset that connected to the speech and hearing centers of the brain would be the obvious first step, and carrier neutral and (semi) upgrade friendly. On the other hand, the wire/brain interface *is* the hard part.

I only want the implanted quadband GSM radio (hmm, but how would you insert/remove the SIM card) so that it can be powered by blood chemistry rather than batteries and so that I won't have to devote a hand/pocket/etc to carrying it around.

And I have a sneaking suspicion that by the time we have such technology, one would most likely upgrade it in place, possibly by downloading DNA/RNA "reconfigure yourself" datagrams to it. (They could be delivered in convenient little protein capsules. . .)

#72 ::: Henry Troup ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2009, 10:42 PM:

#71 in one of Elizabeth Moon's books, a character accidentally acquires a "cerebral ansible" - it's software running on her standard cerebral interface. If the hardware is flexible enough, all kinds of things are just applications. One of the reasons that cell phones have so many functions is that the basic DSP is capable of lots of things, given the right software.

But personally, twenty or more years ago I remarked that eventually they'd start drilling holes in programmer's heads; at that point I need to go back to actually working for a living.

And I still wear glasses, because I'm not willing to look at the output end of a serious laser. I think laser eye surgery is an interesting minor case of where people's tolerance for revising the body ends.

One of the several Singularity panels at Anticipation, someone*remarked that feature creep in cellphones may be a prototype meme for the singularity - "this thing keeps doing more and more, what if it goes out of control?"

* I think it might have been Robert Charles Wilson, self-described "Singularity agnostic"

#73 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2009, 10:51 PM:

I think laser eye surgery is an interesting minor case of where people's tolerance for revising the body ends.

It isn't recommended for people with myopia; it's quite possible that surgery will make things much worse.

#74 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2009, 11:15 PM:

Jenny Islander @ 70... Sex 2.0 will be penetrate-ier

"Hold me closer!"
"If I hold you any closer, I'll be in back of you."

#75 ::: Dr. Psycho ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2009, 11:41 PM:

Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: For the experiment to be a success, all of the body parts must be enlarged.
Inga: His veins, his feet, his hands, his organs vould all have to be increased in size.
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: Exactly.
Inga: He vould have an enormous schwanzstucker.
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: That goes without saying.
Inga: Voof.
Igor: He's going to be very popular.

Serge @31: That scene was the only one I have ever seen in the theaters and on TV which was actually funnier in the "edited for television" version, in which Inga said, "He would have an enormous personality".

By God, actually funnier.

#76 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2009, 12:05 AM:

P J Evans: really? I thought myopia was nearsightedness, and as far as I can tell, laser eye surgery is just fine for that. I was nearsighted and astigmatic, and my vision is good enough to drive without glasses now.

I do know that for people who are VERY nearsighted, laser surgery isn't a good solution, because they would have to remove too much of the cornea to get adequate correction.

Maybe presbyopia (unable to focus on close distances)?

#77 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2009, 01:04 PM:

Surely someone on this board has read the Journal Entry about this. (Which I am NOT looking up on a work computer.)

#78 ::: Henry Troup ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2009, 01:23 PM:

#73 - I googled and found a study of LASIK in high-myopia patients suggesting a limit around -10 diopters. Which happens to be about my correction!*

The findings show that LASIK for myopia over -10 D is a safe and effective procedure in the long-term.

196 high myopic eyes of 118 patients, preoperatively needing at least 10 diopter (10 D) corrections to achieve 20/20 vision, were evaluated ten years following surgery. Uncorrected vision was 77% of best-corrected vision (BSCVA) before surgery. BSCVA improved 1 line. Only 5% of eyes lost more than 2 lines of BSCVA and 40% avoided the use of glasses. 119 (61 %) of eyes were within ± 2.00 Diopters at 10 years. Only 2 eyes (1%) developed corneal ectasia. The retreatment rate was 27%.

"corneal ectasia" isn't as much fun as it sounds like, as a further search reveals.


Personally, a 40% chance of "no more glasses" doesn't change my opinion of the procedure - but that's for me. I could probably turn this into a strictly financial model, based on the lifespan of a set of glasses vs. the $1K per eye for LASIK.


*I've reached the point where if I drop my glasses in the morning, I go get the spare pair so I can find my glasses.

#79 ::: Chris Quinones ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2009, 02:00 PM:

72 et seq. re: laser eye surgery: I've never been interested, because one eye is much less nearsighted than the other, enough so that I can move around and function without having my glasses on for brief stretches. The other one is not that severe either; I expect aging to reduce the nearsightedness as time goes on. I may have one nearsighted and one farsighted eye some day.

#80 ::: Vef ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2009, 02:15 PM:

There was a wonderful panel on this at Eastercon last year. At the end a woman at the back raised her hand:

"On behalf of the 50% of the room who already have sex with machines, I'd just like to say: welcome!"

#81 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2009, 02:55 PM:

Chris, #79: I expect aging to reduce the nearsightedness as time goes on.

I thought the same as you when I was younger, and I am sorry to have to say that this is not how it works. I now have severe myopia and the beginnings of age-related presbyopia at the same time, in the same eyes. It is quite frustrating, and I don't understand how it happens well enough to explain it, but there it is.

#82 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2009, 03:10 PM:

Lee:
The way it worked for me is that one eye continues to be nearsighted, and the other is now farsighted. The brain, marvelous device that it is, continues to integrate both images without my really noticing a difference between the two except when I do an eye exam.

There was one point, a few years back, where the one eye was working as Chris suggested on its journey from near- to far-sighted. I actually passed the vision test for my drivers license, and for the first time didn't have a mark on my license saying glasses required. (I wear them anyway for driving, of course.)

My annoyance with the other eye is that while it is still near-sighted, it can't focus as close as it used to, so I no longer have microscopic vision available for reading tiny print, looking at minute pieces of electronics, etc.

Conclusion: YMMV

#83 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2009, 03:40 PM:

It is sort of inevitable that a thread about machine sex should divert into a discussion of vision.

#84 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2009, 06:20 PM:

Dave Bell:

It's the vision thing.

#85 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2009, 06:31 PM:

Dave Bell @ 83... Makes sense. Machine sex would be considered masturbation and we know what happens to the eyesight of those who commit that practice.

#86 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2009, 06:38 PM:

Implanted cell phones have a downside: unless you put the RF section of the phone in some other part of the body than the head, and run wires to it from the brain interface, you're going to be irradiating the brain from inside. I wouldn't go there without extensive long-term research on the effects of microwave near-field radiation on the brain.

Another concern, assuming some sort of downloadable firmware/configuration/radio protocol capability, is security. We've already got problems with pacemakers being reprogrammed by blackhats; imagine what an imaginative hacker could do with a direct brain interface.

Meanwhile, back at the original topic:
Put direct-connect sex and AI together, and you get virtual fembots ans studbots. Hmmm, I see another version of the Turing Test raising it's head1 here.

1. Sorry, couldn't resist that.

#87 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2009, 06:44 PM:

Serge @ 85:

And if they go at it too hard, it could become the rupture of the nerds.

#88 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2009, 06:55 PM:

Speaking of implants and vision, here's a weird story:
http://www.cnn.com/2009/HEALTH/09/16/tooth.eye.vision/

#89 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2009, 07:04 PM:

Erik Nelson @ 88:

"Eye tooth"? Are they serious?

#90 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2009, 08:09 PM:

Bruce Cohen @ 87... Wouldn't it then be more appropriate to call it the rupture of the dork?

#91 ::: Cassie ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2009, 09:51 PM:

Dr. Psycho @75

One of the things on TV I have laughed hardest at was the edited version of The Rock, the one with Sean Connery. At one point there is a large explosion while Connery is talking to some manner of headquarters on the phone. The man he is talking with commences screaming "SHUCKS! SHUCKS!" with great vigor. I'm not sure what happens in the next 5 minutes or so of the movie, since every time I've seen it I've been laughing too hard to pay attention.

That said, I think editing an action movie and creating comedy is different than editing comedy to make it more comedic.

#92 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2009, 10:37 PM:

Lee @ 81
Ain't it wonderful? A focal range of about six inches, starting about six inches in front of your nose.

My mother said she didn't understand why my father would take his glasses off and get down really close to something to look at it, until she saw me doing it too. ('Read the bottom line on the chart.' 'What chart?')

#93 ::: Henry Troup ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2009, 11:36 PM:

#92 - My focal range is currently between two and four inches. That is, I can read type that is closer than four and further than two inches. A few years ago, the near point was actually closer than the end of my nose, so I guess I am getting that middle-aged farsightedness. I found a paragraph of extremely small type disclaimers in an advertisement, and I could read it better without my glasses. I'd guess about 4 pt type.

As for eyes with wide variation, I know some people get different contact lenses for each eye instead of bifocals. The brain will happily synthesize the two images, one for distance one for close work. The results are good enough that it is acceptable for bus drivers here. (You have to see the road and examine tickets and passes - continuous close and far tasks.)

#94 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2009, 12:01 AM:

I noticed my eyes had gone over the hill when I started having to hold embroidery farther away to see it. Any more, I have to take off my glasses and get really close to see some things. (It's interesting when it's easier to read a book without bifocals than with them.)

Unfortunately, age doesn't fix myopia, it just messes with it.

#95 ::: Brenda Kalt ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2009, 12:10 AM:

LASIK: Highly recommended here. But don't go cheap. The surgeon's skill does matter, not just what generation of what machine s/he uses.

After having LASIK, I wear glasses part of the time, especially when at a computer. (I expected to.) My eyes don't tire as fast with glasses.

No more:
"Those lenses are special order. Two weeks."
Extra charge for extra-thick lenses.
Industrial-looking frame style because the frame has to support the weight of the lenses.
Prescription sunglasses.
Glasses required while driving.

Hello to:
Wraparound sunglasses!

#96 ::: Brenda Kalt ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2009, 12:21 AM:

Meanwhile, the next bodily enhancement I want (not even permanently attached) is a h***ing a*d that picks up only the frequencies of consonants.

I hate to even say the words--I don't feel old enough. But I have serious trouble hearing various consonants, particularly f. The rest of my hearing range is about normal. I don't need a general increase in volume, just those few sounds.

Where's a good inventor when you need them?

#97 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2009, 12:25 AM:

Dr Psycho @75 and Cassie @91, there's also the TV version of The Big Lebowsky, where "This is what happens when you fuck a stranger in the ass" becomes the incomprehensible "This is what happens when you find a stranger in the Alps".

And the TV edit of Snakes on a Plane: "I have had it with these monkey-fighting snakes on this Monday-to-Friday plane!"

#98 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2009, 07:25 AM:

Brenda, if my parents are any indication, you'll seem younger using an assistive device and not saying "What?" or missing the sense of things all the time.

Besides, you can always blame it on too many rock concerts, rather than aging, right?

Whether they make a device that will sharplen just the particular sounds you need, I have no idea!

#99 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2009, 08:40 AM:

Brenda @ 96: I'm 45 and have been wearing hearing aids for more than 40 years. I have never been mistaken for an older person based on my hearing (although I've been mistaken for older based on my personality, but that changed around age 30). If you need them, wear them -- it's a socially-disabling problem when you can't hear well enough.

Alas, my hearing is affected by age and it will become a race between the continued loss of hearing versus the continued improvements in aids. I'm not going back to a behind-the-ear without being dragged, kicking and screaming. In-the-ear are so much better.

Also, with respect to consonants, that's what lip-reading is for. Most of the consonant sounds are visible. Of course, if you're Late-Deafened, you've never had to lip-read, so this is just another exhausting and confusing thing. Being born HOH, I was a natural lip-reader before I got my aids.

#100 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2009, 09:42 AM:

96: I have serious trouble hearing various consonants, particularly f. The rest of my hearing range is about normal.

Move to Hawaii, where consonants are as rare as penguins. Or Glasgow, where they are present but ignored.

#101 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2009, 09:45 AM:

Dr. Psycho @ 75... I wonder if the Bride owns huge tracts of land, and a cabin in the Alps.

#102 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2009, 09:45 AM:

Dr. Psycho @ 75... I wonder if the Bride owns huge tracts of land, and a cabin in the Alps.

#103 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2009, 09:47 AM:

Avram @ 97... "This is what happens when you find a stranger in the Alps"

This conversation is starting to go downhill.

#104 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2009, 09:51 AM:

Ginger @ 99... I've been mistaken for older based on my personality, but that changed around age 30

What happened? As for myself, it always sounds funny when a younger person (which is almost everybody I work with) calls me 'sir'. As one of them said, it's better than beuing referred to as 'hey you!'.

#105 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2009, 10:49 AM:

103: I think Avram may be taking the Piz.

#106 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2009, 11:16 AM:

It looks like research on selective frequency amplification is ongoing and that newer digital hearing aids are better at it. See this article from the American Speech and Hearing Association, for example.

It's precisely the sort of signal processing problem that engineers really, really like, so I'm not surprised it's being worked on. I don't know how good the technology is right now.

#107 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2009, 12:25 PM:

Serge @ 104: For some reason, that age became the pivot point around which I swung, and now people think I'm younger than my age. Other than my grey hair, I don't have a lot of indicators of age (I stay out of sunlight, and don't have a lot of wrinkles). That, and my youthful outlook keep me young in appearance. (/tongue-in-cheek)

Caroline @ 106: Yes, the newer digital aids have selective signal processing, which has enhanced my ability to hear a cat sneeze in the other room. However, it also adds ambient sounds like HVAC, so it is sometimes harder to hear than before. I'm glad engineers like this kind of problem, because I want my hearing aids to continue improving while remaining small.

#108 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2009, 01:18 PM:

Ginger @ 107... Because I live in New Mexico, staying out of the sun isn't really an option, and I'm not sure how wrinkly I am, but, while my hairline has receded, my youth hasn't. (My wife says I'll be a silly old man when I'm old, whenever that's going to be. As I get older, I find that 'old' keeps turning into a much older age than mine. That was brought to my attention when I watched Harold and Maud and found myself thinking that Ruth Gordon wasn't that old.)

#109 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2009, 01:23 PM:

Some enchanted evening
you may meet a stranger
you may meet a stranger somewhere in the Alps
and somehow you'll know
you'll know even then
your monday-to-friday routine won't be the same again.

#110 ::: clew ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2009, 08:53 PM:

#61: Wireless connectivity, like being a theremin. Dancing would be even more fun.

#111 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2009, 05:07 PM:

Caroline @ 106:

About 4 years ago I finally broke down and replaced my 10 year old single analog hearing aid with 2 new digital units. Mine are set up with 2 modes: one hunts for speech and tries to filter everything else out when it finds it (also does dynamic compression and automatic gain control to keep the speech at the same level), the other has fixed gain and frequency response, while doing some sort of magic to the high frequencies¹ where I have something like 80-90 db loss. The result of the second mode is that music sounds more like it did when I could hear the highs.

Given what I know about digital signal processing, I believe that any hearing aid at least as powerful as mine can be programmed for most any kind of adaptive enhancement; the limitation for customization would seem to be the user interface of the programming software, which was designed ot be understandable by an audiologist, so it represents the device in terms of frequency bands and db amplification. Anything more sophisticated would probably have to be done at the factory with direct DSP programming.

The one problem I have with my current aids is that they remove phase information from the sound, so I can't tell direction, or easily filter one conversation out of several. The next generation of aids solved that by allowing the left and right hearing aids to talk to each other via a wireless link. I'd love to get newer units for that reason and because the newer ones talk bluetooth (so I could connect them to my iPod without the rather fragile cable connectors I have to use now), but these things don't cost a lot less than a used car, and my car-buying strategy is to buy a 3-5 year old car every 10-15 years. I could maybe buy new hearing aids every 8-10 years.

1. The manual and the manufacturer's web page say something about folding the highs back into the lower part of the spectrum, which is certainly feasible, but they don't say anything about how they do that without making the various folded overtones collide in massive dissonance.

#112 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2009, 06:01 AM:

(Late, as usual ...)

Back in the mid-eighties, as a naive student who'd just read "Neuromancer", I wanted to be the first guy on my block to have a direct computer/brain interface implant.

Now, in the late noughties, as a post-dotcom burnout case, I want to be the first grumpy old man on my block to have a cranial firewall.

(Have just shelled out for my first pair of prescription reading glasses, dammit.)

Mind you, there's one bio-implant I'd happily pay for right now, if it was available: a pair of audiophile-grade drivers bonded to my eardrums, powered by something I can jack in to my iPod. I'm pretty sure that if I could eliminate the air gap between my Shure earphones and the inner ear the sound quality would be just a tiny bit better ...

#113 ::: Cadbury Moose ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2009, 06:28 AM:

Clew @#101

The "coley"[1] dancers in John Brunner's "The Shockwave Rider"?

Cadbury.
[1] from "coleostat", but I'm sure thee days you'd do it with infrared lasers (or visible ones like in Jarre's "Laser Harp".

#114 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2009, 06:19 PM:

clew @101, Cadbury @113 (originally Keith @61) … or developed from Wii-tech?

#115 ::: Cadbury Moose ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2009, 06:29 PM:

epacris @ #114

Wii-tech? That sounds vaguely urological, like Cheez Whiz.

Cadbury.
This product may contain whiz from more than one species.

#116 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2009, 07:27 PM:

Cadbury Moose @ 113:
There are special effects people working in theater and dance who are tracking actors and dancers with video cameras plugged into computers and keying the video effects and/or sound/music off the positions of the dancers. Cheaper then lasers, though maybe not quite as cool, and much cheaper than commercial motion-tracking gear.

#117 ::: geekosaur ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2009, 01:58 AM:

Clifton Royston @69 (...no comment...):
The original vendor-specific interface was SASI, pronounced in the obvious way, and the vendor-neutral version was supposed to be pronounced "sexy".

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