The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'blade runner'
New advances in neural imaging are shedding light on what makes a psychopath a psychopath:
In a landmark 1991 E.R.P. study conducted at a prison in Vancouver, Robert Hare and two graduate students showed that psychopaths process words like “hate” and “love” differently from the way normal people do. In another study, at the Bronx V.A. Medical Center, Hare, Joanne Intrator, and others found that psychopaths processed emotional words in a different part of the brain. Instead of showing activity in the limbic region, in the midbrain, which is the emotional-processing center, psychopaths showed activity only in the front of the brain, in the language center. Hare explained to me, “It was as if they could only understand emotions linguistically. They knew the words but not the music, as it were.”
Today, Kiehl and Hare have a complementary but complicated relationship. Kiehl claims Hare as a mentor, and sees his own work as validating Hare’s checklist, by advancing a neurological mechanism for psychopathy. Hare is less gung ho about using fMRI as a diagnostic tool. “Some claim, in a sense, this is the new phrenology,” Hare said, referring to the discredited nineteenth-century practice of reading the bumps on people’s heads, “only this time the bumps are on the inside.”
But the problem is that “psychopathic behavior”—egocentricity, for example, or lack of realistic long-term goals—is present in far more than one per cent of the adult male population. This blurriness in the psychopathic profile can make it possible to see psychopaths everywhere or nowhere. In the mid-fifties, Robert Lindner, the author of “Rebel Without a Cause: A Hypnoanalysis of a Criminal Psychopath,” explained juvenile delinquency as an outbreak of mass psychopathy. Norman Mailer inverted this notion in “The White Negro,” admiring the hipster as a “philosophical psychopath” for having the courage of nonconformity. In the sixties, sociopathy replaced psychopathy as the dominant construct. Now, in our age of genetic determinism, society is once again seeing psychopaths everywhere, and this will no doubt provoke others to say they are nowhere, and the cycle of overexposure and underfunding will continue.One researcher is doing research on prison inmates (a population in which psychopathy is greatly over-represented, as one might expect) using a brain scanner and tests reminiscent of the Voigt-Kampf test in Blade Runner, measuring their responses to moral questions non-psychopathic individuals would respond to viscerally.
The fMRI machine started up with a high-pitched whirring sound. I began to see photographs. One was of a baby covered with blood. I thought first about the blood, then realized the circumstances—birth—and rated the moral offense zero. A man was lying on the ground with his face beaten to a bloody pulp: I scored this high. There was a picture of Osama bin Laden. I scored it four, although I felt that I was making more of an intellectual than a moral judgment. Two guys inadvertently butting heads in a soccer game got a zero, but then I changed it to a one, because perhaps a foul was called. I had considered deliberately giving wrong answers, as a psychopath might. But instead I worked at my task earnestly, like a good fifth grader.
(via Wired News)
Wired has an interview with Ridley Scott about the soon to be released final cut of Blade Runner:
It's the same as trying to do a monster movie. You know, Alien is a C film elevated to an A film, honestly, by a great monster. In this instance, my special effect was the world. That's why I put together people like [industrial designer] Syd Mead who were actually serious futurists. The big test is saying, Draw me a car in 30 years' time, without it looking like bad science fiction. Or, Draw me an electric iron that will be pressing shirts in 20 years without it looking silly. I wanted the world to be futuristic and yet feel — not familiar, because it won't be — but feel authentic. One of the hardest sets to design was the kitchen. It's easy to fantasize about Tyrell's giant neo-Egyptianesque boardroom, but imagining a bathroom and kitchen in those times, that's tricky. Nevertheless, fascinating. I love the problem.The piece also includes pullquotes from various luminaries about Blade Runner:
J. Craig Venter, Geneticist:
"The movie has an underlying assumption that I just don't relate to: that people want a slave class. As I imagine the potential of engineering the human genome, I think, wouldn't it be nice if we could have 10 times the cognitive capabilities we do have? But people ask me whether I could engineer a stupid person to work as a servant. I've gotten letters from guys in prison asking me to engineer women they could keep in their cell. I don't see us, as a society, doing that."
Ray Kurzweil, Futurist
"The scenario of humans hunting cyborgs doesn't wash because those entities won't be separate. Today, we treat Parkinson's with a pea-sized brain implant. Increase that device's capability by a billion and decrease its size by a hundred thousand, and you get some idea of what will be feasible in 25 years. It won't be, 'OK, cyborgs on the left, humans on the right.' The two will be all mixed up."
A journalist administers the Voight-Kampff test to six mayoral candidates in San Francisco, and discovers that at least half of them are replicants. (via DPH)
A survey of Anarchist and Libertarian Societies in Science Fiction; encompassing everything from Stateless to Libertaria to Port Watson, including pirate anarchist utopias, Randian-Heinleinian gun-toting anarcho-propertarianisms, the psychedelic milieus of Burroughs and Robert Anton Wilson, H.G. Wells' Fabian socialism and the "fascist-socialist" utopias of H.P. Lovecraft's alien races.
I found this on this page of essays, which is a few links away from Ken MacLeod's blog. The page has a number of other intriguing essays, including one on Christian symbolism in Blade Runner and Iain M. Banks' notes on the Culture, his post-Singularity anarchosocialist utopia.