Comixed: Enhanced. May 2010, Contact Theatre, Manchester

The Comixed: Enhanced Conversation

Let the conversation begin

During the FutureEverything Festival on the 15th May 2010. Comixed: Enhanced took place at the Contact Theatre as part of the PlayEverything event.

A cyber-scientist, a cosmologist and a futurologist all put forward provocations to stimulate the audience into a conversation around issues revolving around the enhancement of our bodies. The debates where captured by a variety of means, video, photography and using social media.

We invite you to explore the debates and join in the conversation. If you would also like to produce further content, tweet, or remix what is found here feel free and tag it with the #cmxd hashtag.

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Comixed: Enhanced – The Remix

Comixed: Enhanced – The Remix from Manchester Beacon on Vimeo.

Artists Richard Ramchurn and Mauro Camel ran video remix workshops with people who had been participated in Comixed: Enhanced. The object of the workshops were for people to re-interpret, mash-up and reconfigure the content that was captured through the Comixed: Enhanced event. As well as introducing people to video mashups, some of the examples can be seen in our last post, they created a mashup of their own. Enjoy.

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Comixed: Remixed Videos

As part of Comixed: Enhanced we ran an afternoon of video remix and mashup workshops to enable people who had been in the day?s earlier debate to create videos from the footage shot and material provided. The workshops were ably run by Comixed: Enhanced video artists Richard Ramchurn and Mauro Camel.

The views and opinions expressed within these videos are those of the workshop participants… use the comments function to tell us what you think.

The Videos

Comixed: Remixed 1 from Manchester Beacon on Vimeo.

Comixed: Remixed 2 from Manchester Beacon on Vimeo.

Comixed: Remixed 3 from Manchester Beacon on Vimeo.

Comixed: Remixed 4 from Manchester Beacon on Vimeo.

Comixed: Remixed 5 from Manchester Beacon on Vimeo.

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The Future is Looking Good – The Conversation

Posted by julian | Augmentation,Cosmology,Enhancement,Futurology,Technology | Monday 24 May 2010 12.34 am
Conway Mothobi

Following on from Conway Mothobi’s provocation found here. We publish the transcript of Conway’s provocation looking at the future of space travel.

Transcript

Ok folks, can you all hear me?

When I was told about this I thought ‘How fantastic, this talk is about human advancement and enrichment, and that picture there is of the space shuttle launch yesterday of Atlantis.

Within in the area of space sciences etc, we know that the President Obama is cut all funding to the moon.

Does anybody know who Mike Collins is…? Just three, ok…He went to the moon – this is the guy who was sitting in the command module, just making sure everything goes ok.

Now that costs a lot of money. When two spaceships were lost, that was a lot of money lost and a lot of lives lost. Each launch we are talking about a billion dollars. So how do we move forward? The way to move forward is now to look at the existing research and say ‘Hey, how can we actually begin to enhance and enrich the human being and making sure that we can continue with space exploration – and go beyond the moon!’

We do that by saying we are going to move into stem cell research; look at what is actually happening within the nanotechnologies etc and produced astronauts who are about one inch tall (25mm), weighing about four grams each – found that each astronaut is the size of a simple land mouse.
But what kind of people are we talking about? We are talking of things happening, this happening within thirty years, where by you know dry ice, that gives you all the smoke out, that’s minus 78 degrees centigrade, i.e. Celsius and with that we can actually help these people in holding because we can actually go low temperatures.

How much heat can they handle? Boiling oil at about 300 degrees Celsius
They can handle very low pressures. That’s how to explore space exploration.
Now people might say, ‘oh well, that’s just out there thinking’, but fifty years, this week, the laser was invented. Technology can move forward.

Fifty-two years ago a fine physicist gave a lecture in Brazil and held up a pin and said the tip of this pin was what we will one day have the library of Congress contained in. And everyone laughed at him, thinking he was a madman. And nowadays people are walking around with things like iphones etc, but it is not as fanciful; the reason why we are going to have to have people that size behind those kinds of exploration is that it is cheaper because it means that we can have space craft with a size the size of a drinks can; easier to launch – it means that we can launch a dozen missions at once. The people who would lose – they’re not easy to lose – because if there is a burnout, they can handle it.

As a simple experiment, I’ll ask you a very simple question. People keep on saying, ‘Oh, people like these are an enhancement, and I say yes! People will prefer enhancement, because this is beyond Jordan, but we are talking about the enhancement of the capabilities of human beings engaged in endeavour, which can add to add to beyond where we are now. So, with these little people whom we have we are going to have a situation where by; what with space exploration what we are trying to do is understand our universe. But the Earth is one part of that thing, the whole planet and as Neil Armstrong once said as they were going round the moon – you’ve all seen the pictures picture of the blue planet – and he said, ‘ You can’t come out into space in order to discover air.’ Right now we’ve got all the various satellites etc, which are looking at the air – that’s where we are getting the data.

So my provocation to you is that yes, we need to invest in such situations; such situations are possible. A few years back, I’m not sure how many of you are familiar with the Rosetta, not the stone, but the spacecraft. The Rosetta is a mission, which is actually chasing a comet. This was launch about six years ago and is going to hook up with the comet in 2014, but the interesting thing about Rosetta chasing a comet around the sun is that we have got it as a robotic mission, but you have to have a test. You can’t have a mission round the sun and go how are we built that raft. That is why we need the little people to actually land out there. The current technology that we have is the mission to find out…there will be a landing craft that will shoot out of the main spacecraft and land into the ice of the comet. Then you actually can test all that data.

I’m bringing you to the whole point of miniaturization; why it is important and how we ourselves can do it. Of course what they did for this particular thing is that they went down to the chemistry lab and said we need this test this to land on a far off comet – this is the lab, this is what we want to test. And at the moment – that little lander that is going to land – anyone here a size 6 shoe, think of the shoe for that and what it is that those engineers constructed a laboratory which is the size of a kid’s shoe box. And that is what they are going to be using in 2014 to make all the tests.

So, we’ve got that technology, we are not sure that it is going to work. But, the important thing about humans is there are particular areas in which we can’t go to, where it is it is too dangerous to work, but we need other people to go out there, it is dangerous because of pressure, temperature etc. But we now have the technology to actually make and construct something like that can do that.

And to finish off – I am very confident that this is going to happen – there is a paper that came out this week. This week at the California Institute of Technology a DNA rockets – you can actually tell a robot that is so tiny and specifically what to do. This is one area of miniaturization, there are areas in medical miniaturization and – people might’ve seen small solders – they look like a plague of ants. That is it – we will get people who are one inch tall and we will get that in the next 30 years.

Thank you.

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Learning is going to change – The Conversation

Posted by julian | Augmentation,Education,Enhancement,Futurology,Technology | Monday 24 May 2010 12.13 am
Mike Ryan

Following on from Dr Mike Ryan’s provocation found here. We publish the transcript of the debate that looked into the rewards and challenges that a change to a non-linear, bite-sized, lifelong learning environment will bring.

Transcript

Mike Ryan

My job for many companies is to look at the future and how the world has changed and if you look at Manchester in the 1900s compared to now, it is a very different place compared to now on virtually any level. One of the problems I think for the city of the future, is the one I think that hasn’t changed dramatically in all that time – The way that we teach and the way that we learn. And this is something that is long overdue in catching up with the way in which the world works. I’ve done a lot of research into the way the young people are changing and technology is causing them to become very good multi-taskers, but also very good at understanding short very quick pieces of information. So they are, short-form people, short-form learners and that is characterised mainly by the way people surf the web. The people who are generally planning education are from a generation before, who are long-form, into the deep reading of books and the detail that’s there. And I foresee in the future, a clash between the two types of learning materials and learning types, which will cause problems in the education system that, are probably manifesting themselves already. I think in the world of the future, you wont have to know anything anymore, because all the facts that are available, in the world are on the internet. You need to know which are true, and which aren’t, but it is the process of understanding and interpretation that we need to teach, rather than the facts themselves. I don’t think people need to be examined on facts anymore. They need to be examined on the process, on the understanding and the learning and how they implement those things. More controversially, do we want a linear education system, when we are living in a digital world?

There is a concept at the moment that you study when you’re young and then you go and do work for the rest of your life. That was based around a Victorian model which said that you joined a bank at the age of 17 and at 65 you left and got a gold watch and you enjoyed you’re retirement. We are now looking at a world where people have 14-15 maybe 20 jobs in their career, and for those different jobs you need different skills. That really leads me to believe we need a lifelong learning model rather than a linear one at the beginning of life. This is something, which I’m very passionate about, is that we start to look at how we learn through the whole of our lives in a bite-sized way, which suits us. We’ve also seen things like Facebook and the way in which people use YouTube and other devices to try and provide a feedback mechanism because people want to communicate with what they know. I think again education is going to be doing an awful lot more with those sorts of worlds, because the social network side of our online world is ripe to be used for learning in a whole different way and this is something that schools are going to have to start to get used to. Very much a personal view, the Building Schools for the Future programme that is going on in our world at the moment in the UK is very interesting, but building new schools with interactive whiteboards isn’t changing the fundamental model and that really is where money is being wasted. A lot of money is going into building things but not a lot of money is being spent on how we are going to change what happens in those buildings.

So my provocation for you is that learning is changing and I suppose the key connection with Mark Gasson’s work is that some point in the future, maybe we will live in a world where the internet is augmented into our world ion a different way and I’ve been looking at the development of nanotechnology in contact lenses where you actually get a wireless connection in your contact lenses and information from the internet is being pulled in real-time in front of your periphery while you’re walking around. This is something that I believe will become commonplace, so you’ll never not know someone’s name. You’ll never not know where it’s going to be. And in that complex world of information and information assimilation, The skills to refine that information and to filter it, to the point where that information is useful, I think is going to be the biggest in demand in companies, organisations and by individuals.

Discussion

Conway Mothobi

You mention that education has changed, is that tight? I wouldn’t agree with you more, but I think it is more to do with actual society. If you look at education right across the world you’ve actually got what are called ‘summer holidays’, where everybody leaves school, leaves college, etc. Isn’t that predicated on the age-old system of actually farming, whereby people were told, “you can’t be in school, you’ve got to go and do the harvesting”. So if we move away from actually doing it, wont you agree that what you have to do is to scrap the whole thing of an academic calendar, and also the provision of whiteboards etc. That’s a waste of time, to be honest with you, and provide much more interactive stuff, using such things as the social networks for education, and actually the whole notion of examination is important because personally I wouldn’t like someone slicing me up in theatre and saying, “Ooh, I wasn’t quite sure which was the heart and which was the lungs when I was doing my biology.” I mean that’s not on is it. We have to sort of balance this. I know it’s quite trendy to say, “exams are bad etc.” But I think it depends how that person might actually affect you.

Mike Ryan

It’s assessment I think and the other thing you’ve just mentioned now is the fact that game playing should have far greater influence on how we learn, because if you look at the way some of the more interesting ways that people enjoy and understand things. Actually by doing game playing and that way of learning is incredibly popular with that age range that is coming through at the moment. It’s not being tackled very well by the educational system.

Women speaking

Question

What I find interesting is how limited risk assessment is in this type of research. Because imagine if everything fails, technology is bound to fail, if you don’t teach people basics what will happen? For instance I remember the New Year when they saying systems would fail, in hospitals doctors found out that they didn’t know how to work the most basic things without technology. From where I’m from they had to go and find doctors who knew how to perform the most basic lifesaving things without the use of technology. I’m thinking, you can’t just prepare people for the next thing to come. There must be some kind of history behind it. People have to be prepared for when technology fails because that’s one of the risks, the nature of this technology failing, for some reason. If you have a society where people walk around with information being fed to them and all of a sudden someone pulls the plug, what’s going to happen? It’s going to be the Dark Ages all over again. So I think we should be careful, I think being futuristic doesn’t have to be flying up in space and let’s forget everything and let’s forget facts and that two and two is four. I just think that would be really, really risky.

Question

I have two points one is that we are only saying that people moving from job to job require different kinds of skills. I think you have the wrong notion of skills. Skills where defined differently in the 17th Century than they are now. I think that would be very difficult for a bar tender to become a doctor, so I think something persists there in terms of knowledge. If I mover from job to job within the service economy, then there are certain kinds of skills I require time and again. So I think there is a problem there.

Another thing that really interests me, I can’t really tackle it myself, is the question of identity. Now if I think of myself, my self-identity – the self, is based on the knowledge I have. Now if I understood your technology idea, it means I go through the world and I’m feed by information that comes from the internet, rather than from myself. Now I don’t know whether this kind of vision that you have just proposed, which I think is a very, very dark vision. I wonder whether or not I’m completely losing my self-identity? What happens – it is a psychological question, a philosophical question, that would be my point – So what happens to the self in this kind of world?

Question

It’s to do with the way teaching, no if people have the access to information there isn’t necessarily the same focus on learning facts, because you can get facts beamed to you all the time. So what do we shift the focus to? Is it learning how to learn? Is it learning how to apply facts? Is it philosophy? It’s a bit more practical a bit more near to the future. I the near future how will we change the way we teach people?

Mike Ryan

First of all I’m not saying that we need to abandon the basic principles of jobs and the information that they need. What I am saying is that the way that we learn it shouldn’t be done from a textbook. That could be done in many more crazy ways than just paper and figures in a book. In terms of where that information is and how to interpret that information, I don’t see many people in our world having any problem with that. As far as the cultural identity problem, I don’t think a world knowledge economy is going to count for very much longer, I think we are in the latter stages of that as a concept. The knowledge economy is based around knowledge and information, which is now contained in a database. I think we are going to move towards a care economy, which is going to be more spent around humanness.
Effectively if we have the ability to tap into information that we need to know, as and when we need it rather than a whole chunk of it at one point in our lives. We will be freer and have more time when we are learning to rediscover our humanness, to rediscover the importance of humanity against this information world. So I think a balance of those two things will actually make things better rather than worse.

Moving forward to your point… I think it is a very exciting time for the future and the examples that we had of someone working and becoming a doctor, “Why not” is my answer. The barriers for going into careers now are lowering. Not so long ago you had to do 7-9-11 years apprenticeship to become a craftsman, making wood furniture and things like that. Those sorts of timeframes are changing as our world is changing and I think, why do we not have more people making a crossover into different careers? Why do we not have the opportunity to try different things? Maybe with the bite-sized way that learning can be broken up into manageable chunks. Why can’t I be on the bus going home studying for my medical exams, at some point if I’m working in a bar during the day? Why not give me that opportunity using technology in an augmented kind of way.

Discussion

Response

There are some skills that you just need to spend years and years learning them. That will always be the case so… That’s my point.

Response

Some of the things added to the en reassured us as to what your thinking is. There is a temptation in a debate to say something quite dramatic and to go to extremes. This idea of relying on technology concerned me. I am doing some work on behalf of Creative Partnerships. We go into schools, to work with schools, to get teachers to take a more adventurous approach to what they are doing in the classroom and what is my concern is how do we get more and more teachers to engage with that, because there can be temptation sometime for the practitioners that we take into schools do nothing more than entertain the children, we want actually to change practice. Also, topically, we have just had a change in government and there are concerns about cuts, so where do we generate the debate and keep the focus critically on continuing that kind of approach in education, maybe integrating it a bit better into some of the things that have been done by government and educationalists.

Response

I think the context of where we at now in the country, there seems to be areal paranoia that we are not producing solid things and products. I think that subject is at quite difficult time for the government to say a lifelong learning approach is going to be one that produces anything useful for the country, which is sinking.

Mike Ryan

But by the same token you’ve got 40% of 18-24 year olds out of work at the moment and most of those aren’t even at ‘level 2’ in terms of learning. The only way that we can get them into jobs is by training, and that training is going to have to be bite-sized… I think it would be best if we adopt that kind of training now in order to preserve a generation that is out of employment.

Response

The way it is going on with technology as well and I’m an advocate. The irony is that education or education institutions themselves are perpetuating the need for education in this old fashioned way. I have worked in education for eleven years teaching FE (Further Education) and HE (Higher Education). Ironically I spend much of my time teaching people things that I have taught myself, yet you are in that very structured environment and again that is another thing that needs to be looked at and broken apart maybe.

Question

What do young people think about your provocation, about this whole concept of bite-sized learning? Interestingly enough the two youngest people in the room have left. Which says a lot.

Mike Ryan

I have been involved in the URT diploma, which is one of the schemes the Government stated as couple of years ago, which is looking at the way that we engage people in a different way of learning. It was very ambitious and I think it’s not failed but it certainly hasn’t done as well as it could of done, purely because it’s been delivered in that traditional educational model by practitioners in schools. I have been in Rochdale talking to some learners there, who are doing an IT diploma. Giving them ideas about what we could do that could be slightly different. So I found out that they’ve all got Facebook access and that they use YouTube and we were trying to teach them how to code and do different things. I said, “I’ll tell you what, our company will give you an iPod touch” so the person in three months time has got more people downloading a Facebook app that they made, that does something than anybody else. There’s a challenge there to go off in Facebook and try and get as many friends as possible to use the app that’s there. I thought that was a perfectly innocent thing to do, as Facebook is used by many people and is all there. From the teacher’s point of view, they are banned from using it on college premises. I said how many people use and everybody put up their hand and there is this disconnect. The school thinks that it is above all and thinks that none of this stuff happens and outside of that world it is going on everywhere else. In many ways you have got to get them to grow up and do something different. I’ll contrast that with something I saw in South Manchester which was part of an IT diploma, teaching the group how to fly planes, and that was to teach them responsibility. If they are flying as plane and they crash it, they are dead and that is quite an interesting different approach to being taught. But that’s how great differences are in education. It is an interesting experiment and it is interesting as it is creating a level of maturity that wasn’t there before.

Being filmed

Question

Are you aware of the consequences of human nature with all these aspects of the internet. There is nothing better than meeting somebody you have never met before after a year or two and remembering their name. There is nothing more challenging than standing in front of somebody trying to remember a name, then you remember it and everybody lights up and that is something that will be lost with the eye-retina information. People will just stop being interested in each other, not being remembered, people will just loose interest in each other on a one-to-one basis. Which will be a shame.

Mike Ryan

But we have information overload and we are required to remember an awful lot of things, and maybe some of that we shouldn’t be remembering. Or at least it’s just too much to remember

Response

Technology today could allow everyone in society to wear a name badge, but nobody likes wearing name badges, you have to understand why it is.

Response

The point I would just like to add is we also have to think education is also about institutions and power. The Prime Minister came from a very privileged background, from an education establishment that is teaching people but is also conforming them to the status quo. Changing the way we teach people is great but we have to consider there are these institutions already around that have another remit.

Response

That is absolutely nothing to do with education. That is just that guy was in that building for that period of time and met those people. It is nothing to do with what he was taught when he was there. That was thirty years ago and look how far we have come in thirty years, what is going to happen in the next thirty years? Him going to Eton has nothing to do with education.

Response

Education is fine, you can just learn. It’s also how we behave socially, it is about how we engage with people socially, it’s not just about information it’s more skilled than that. If it was the case then we would not have people who have power coming from certain institutions.

Response

Exactly, it’s not to do with the information they were given while they were there. That’s exactly what Mike was saying, it is not to do with the information that they learn. It’s to do with broadening out education, to new ways of education people. Nothing to do with the education that he learnt by himself whilst sat in that building. It was the people he met. He didn’t learn anything that nobody else can learn.

Response

It also about the degree in which you are open to influence, from others that might be part of your culture. There is a culture within school like Eton, it’s whether that person can listen, for example to the rest of the country in terms of what we want and the people who are in power govern the country so there can be these small cultures that spring up which might be a norm to someone like him. You are taking in information in different ways, through your senses. Not just data, it’s all stuff that influences us. So I would have those same concerns about two politicians have such great power and they are both went to private school.

Question

I was interested in Mike’s comments about the term Knowledge Society. That is very interesting particularly in the world of the internet. What is it that we educate people in. Information overload is talked about quite a lot, but I also think that we haven’t got a clear idea about what information, knowledge etc. You teach people. It is only cultural education do you teach people about … do you teach people about the immigrant experience, whatever else… And the thing that concerns me sometimes, with the internet is that a lot of information is not on there. I’m not a teacher but some of my friends are English teachers and I do worry that some of the books that they teach in schools are the same books they taught me in school thirty years ago. Modern classics like Lord of the Flies, 1984. I do worry that there is a collective memory loss about the knowledge that we should probably be teaching people. There is quite a laziness about some of the things we are teaching because there is a sense that there is a lot of information out there and we just need to identify a few key facts and that’s it.

Mike Ryan

Well we look at how information is broadcast these days and if you think about the main social media 25 years ago was a 2.5 hour feature film now you have a two minute video on YouTube that has ten times as many viewers than something that appears on actual TV. So we are seeing the compression of information in all aspects of life. I don’t think education is immune from that. I’m not saying that will necessarily create problems, but it is something that education has to progress. Because the audience that are going into school and are then starting to learn are requiring that short titbits of information, rather than the depth that we had maybe 30-40 years ago. That played off in the future is something that we have to address. I haven’t got the answer to it, but what I’m saying is that if you go into a primary school now and start to look at how the young people are interacting and working, there multi-tasking by what they can do at the same time, but they are also very hungry for lots of little things, bite-sized access to information rather than at depth. I agree that we loose something if we don’t have depth, but I don’t think we are taught deep pockets of learning is going to work with that age group.

Man responding to Mike Ryan

Question

I think, when I think about technology and young people are talking about internet access to all kinds of information. A school is kind of curation, identification of what information is useful. Like curation and also talking about in the same ways talking about the chips that help us. That she can be looking forward to a technological future and not expecting that everyone will have this information, have the access to information, access to devices. It’s giving people the skills to cope when things go wrong.

Mike Ryan

The digital report that was published by Fast Futures that the government commissioned in January of this year, which was looked at future jobs to 2020. One of the biggest aspects when looking at the types of jobs there will be is online curation. Such as cyber bullying mentors, people who actually help you if you are being bullied online. People who are there to authenticate, because one of the things we have on the internet is trusted/untrusted sources. You probably trust what’s on a BBC website but you may not trust what you get from a torrent. That is giving people life skills to be able to spot. What is very interesting is that if you look at all the things like the invasion of various chatrooms by people who are there for dubious purposes suggests that children who have grown up with the internet, natively start to navigate this world of truth/untruth. In a way that perhaps we’ve had to learn retrospectively, they’re learning as they are growing in and means it’s less of an issue to them as it is to us.

Question

I think technology has failed to enhance education. I work in education for ten years I work in a University and I have a feeling that the university is trying to adapt to the last few academic years to falling standards. I would like to take the Eton argument as I think If you want to make some sort of survey about social backgrounds in this room, I would suggest that most of us come from a relatively middle class background. We are very vocal, some of us could probably associate ourselves as a certain powerful elite in society. I think that this sort of skills really don’t come from the engagement of technology. I think this does create power relationships in our society, which are not considered in your argument.

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