Charles Stross: Accelerando (2005)

16 February 2016, dusan

“The Singularity. It is the era of the posthuman. Artificial intelligences have surpassed the limits of human intellect. Biotechnological beings have rendered people all but extinct. Molecular nanotechnology runs rampant, replicating and reprogramming at will. Contact with extraterrestrial life grows more imminent with each new day.

Struggling to survive and thrive in this accelerated world are three generations of the Macx clan: Manfred, an entrepreneur dealing in intelligence amplification technology whose mind is divided between his physical environment and the Internet; his daughter, Amber, on the run from her domineering mother, seeking her fortune in the outer system as an indentured astronaut; and Sirhan, Amber’s son, who finds his destiny linked to the fate of all of humanity.

For something is systematically dismantling the nine planets of the solar system. Something beyond human comprehension. Something that has no use for biological life in any form…”

Publisher Ace Books, New York, July 2005 / Orbit Books, London, August 2005
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 License
ISBN 0441012841 / 1841493902
390 pages

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Adrian Mackenzie: Transductions: Bodies and Machines at Speed (2002)

24 October 2013, dusan

“What do the patented data structures embedded deep in the code of an online computer game or the massively complicated architecture of the latest supercomputer used to simulate nuclear explosions have to do with culture, life or meaning? Why does technology attract such wildly differing responses – from fervour to boredom to distrust?

Transductions explores these questions by drawing on science and technology studies, contemporary critical theory and corporeal theory. An exploration of complex technologies such as online computer games, genomic databases and the global positioning system reveals how the borders between bodies and machines, between what counts as social and what counts as technical, are no less diverse and complicated than culture itself. Indeed, they constitute a crucial dimension of contemporary culture. Through a critical analysis of the widely accepted notion that technology speeds everything up, Transductions argues that there are only ever differences in speed. The question for us now is how can such differences be represented?”

Publisher Continuum, London and New York, 2002
Technologies: Studies in Culture & Theory series
ISBN 082645884X
231 pages

Reviews: Matthew Fuller (Convergence, 2003), Kim Toffoletti (Culture Machine).

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See also Fibreculture Journal’s issue on “Trans” (2011) co-edited by Mackenzie.

Marcus Wohlsen: Biopunk: DIY Scientists Hack the Software of Life (2011)

19 January 2013, dusan

Bill Gates recently told Wired that if he were a teenager today, he would be hacking biology. “If you want to change the world in some big way,” he says, “that’s where you should start-biological molecules.”

The most disruptive force on the planet resides in DNA. Biotech companies and academic researchers are just beginning to unlock the potential of piecing together life from scratch. Champions of synthetic biology believe that turning genetic code into Lego-like blocks to build never-before-seen organisms could solve the thorniest challenges in medicine, energy, and environmental protection. But as the hackers who cracked open the potential of the personal computer and the Internet proved, the most revolutionary discoveries often emerge from out-of-the-way places, forged by brilliant outsiders with few resources besides boundless energy and great ideas.

In Biopunk, Marcus Wohlsen chronicles a growing community of DIY scientists working outside the walls of corporations and universities who are committed to democratizing DNA the way the Internet did information. The “biohacking” movement, now in its early, heady days, aims to unleash an outbreak of genetically modified innovation by making the tools and techniques of biotechnology accessible to everyone. Borrowing their idealism from the worlds of open-source software, artisinal food, Internet startups, and the Peace Corps, biopunks are devoted advocates for open-sourcing the basic code of life. They believe in the power of individuals with access to DNA to solve the world’s biggest problems.

You’ll meet a new breed of hackers who aren’t afraid to get their hands wet, from entrepreneurs who aim to bring DNA-based medical tools to the poorest of the poor to a curious tinkerer who believes a tub of yogurt and a jellyfish gene could protect the world’s food supply. These biohackers include:

– A duo who started a cancer drug company in their kitchen
– A team who built an open-source DNA copy machine
– A woman who developed a genetic test in her apartment for a deadly disease that had stricken her family

Along with the potential of citizen science to bring about disruptive change, Wohlsen explores the risks of DIY bioterrorism, the possibility of genetic engineering experiments gone awry, and whether the ability to design life from scratch on a laptop might come sooner than we think.

Publisher Current, a member of Penguin Group, 2011
ISBN 1101476354, 9781101476352
272 pages

review (Bart Penders, Nature)

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