When the 19th century physicist James Clerk Maxwell found himself stuck, he invented a gremlin to put his theories to test. Thanks to this “light fingered fellow” who was able to sort, track and map the behavior of molecules (where human perception failed), Maxwell hit upon the Theory of Electromagnetism. Over a century later, “Maxwell’s Demon”, still in the employ of latter-day science, looks to extend his sphere of usefulness. His choices are surprisingly dandy: recently he appeared in the film “Velvet Goldmine” running a simulation of David Bowie. What next? We caught up with the high-spirited intelligence flitting between gigs and posed a few Questions For Maxwell’s Demon…
Technology is changing the way we apprehend space: our everyday world is becoming a sci-fi landscape. It’s as if our current perceptual habits are outdated and we need to sprout new ones. How do we adapt?
Perspective is everything. In the Newtonian universe the rope hangs, since Einstein, the earth pulls. What we perceive is determined by our relationship to gravity, but once we achieve escape-velocity (as in air/space-travel) our vantage point alters.
But technology has changed our vantage point—machines are human prosthetics at best extensions of the human nervous system. After all, ones sees what the satellite sees—
Technology as human prosthesis is clunky and inelegant. Ideally technology is a means of observing process, human function—to improve it. Technology is a kind of mirror, playback. So think of it this way: when a performer (for example and actor or dancer) responds to playback (as a form of critique), what results is an efficient streamlining: a fluid shorthand we call grace. This prefigures the Smart Body— a body that absorbs and executes the lessons about the organism demonstrated by technology. And in the same manner eliminates its faults.
How would we apply this in the case of the satellite?
If you see what the satellite sees, the you must imagine that your other senses will follow: hearing, touch, taste, smell… In short, You Are There. The Smart Body activates when you take this literally rather than metaphorically. Your motor impulses follow.
There is a trend in current science fiction towards technology that vanishes into the body. In Neal Stephenson’sDiamond Age, neo-tribalists implement group members with bio-technological immune systems. In William Gibson (Neuromancer, Count Zero) the body plays host to an array of nano-gadgetry. Smart?
The Smart Body is stylish—effortlessly clicking all accessories into the right places. Nothing in excess, the most successful fashion icons are noted for their minimal use of “props”. Whatever they wear, these fashion smart, serves to enhance the persona—not eclipse it.
Well if you think of it, jewelry and body decorations had ritual/talismanic function, pretty much the way these future subjects utilize neural implants. What do you make of the neo-primitivist impulse— the whole range of body markers: piercings, scarifications, tattoos— is this the Smart Urge?
Certainly nostalgia for lost Smartness—if you subscribe to antiquity as Paradise Lost. Eden represents a dispossessed godhead—a vanished verticality. Yes.
But I was thinking in terms of ancient technologies such as acupuncture and yoga, which acknowledge the body’s circuitry with the potential for rewiring and upgrade—
It’s one thing to expose wiring, another to make it function. Talismans need activation, as do nanites. The Smart Body when up and running, responds not just to accessories but also it’s environment. The Smart Body discovers hyperspace everywhere, in Nature, in Art, in Technology. You needn’t wait for “futurescapes”—the everyday world is in need of Smart Bodies to liberate it from muteness. The Smart Body plugs in, and the environment springs hologrammatic to the touch. Flat dimensions trigger into pop up universes—
Smart Bodies, activation, how?
Let’s run a simulation: imagine a linguistic text (such as the one before you). Its two dimensions on paper (or screen) expand the moment you engage in reading. Notice, a voice appears, one constructed from the rhythm and assonance of the text—
The writer’s voice?
No, rather the text hums like an engine. In Sanskrit sacred verse, it is the vibratory quality of the words, not their pointed meaning, that produce a shift in consciousness. And this shift is a trance-state: the gene-pool for the Smart Body. And this shift is a stick-shift for your escape-velocity shuttle. And you are approaching zero-gravity consciousness.
And so bon-voyage.
©2000, 2013 onome ekeh (originally published in IndiePlanet, June, 2000)