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Wetwares: Experiments in Postvital Living

Richard Doyle
Volume: 24
Copyright Date: 2003
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    Wetwares ranges over recent research in artificial life, cloning, cryonics, computer science, organ transplantation, and alien abduction. Moving between actual technical practices, serious speculative technology, and science fiction, Doyle shows us emerging scientific paradigms where “life” becomes more a matter of information than of inner vitality—in short, becomes “wetwares” for DNA and computer networks.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-9401-3
    Subjects: General Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xi)
  4. ZERO Welcome to Wetwares, N.0
    (pp. 1-17)

    THE BOOK was virtually complete. A disturbingly lively sheaf often appeared in his dreams—as an item of conversation, an agent in the author’s life, a proliferating growth or graft that pleasured itself, alloaffectively, by gnawing persistently but delicately on the torn contours of dream space—and it became impossible to conceive of a daily life immune from its effects.Wetwareshad probably become irreversible, kneading and needing the future. “Life may not advance, but it expands.”¹

    The author, nonetheless, was not always so sure. There was always some story. Perhaps another chapter needed to be written, many sentences deleted....

  5. ONE Representing Life for a Living
    (pp. 19-41)

    EVERYONE KNOWS that in 1953 James Watson and Francis Crick diagrammed the structural and functional characteristics of the double helical molecule deoxyribonucleic acid. Much of the rhetoric of this remarkable achievement suggested that Life’s secret had finally been uncovered, and that Life was therefore localized in the agency of genes. Watson, writing in his autobiography named for a molecule, put it this way: “In order to know what life is, we must know how genes act.”¹ The action and manipulation of nucleic acids became the hallmark of a molecular biology that no longer analyses organisms but—in symbiosis with stock...

  6. Chapter 2. Simflesh, Simbones: At Play in the Artificial Life Ribotype
    (pp. 43-61)

    AS BOTH familiar and attribute of a network, life has been distributed out of the organism and into the living room. Formerly attributed to the cyborg assemblage of organism and machine, announced by the tell tale metronomic, metonymic, cybernetic beep and the flashing of a pixel on its screen, vital signs now refer to an intense textuality at play in the life sciences, a textuality in which “life” chiasmatically implodes into “information,” and signs ecstatically code and decode themselves to vitality in an out-of-body experience. No longer distributed among the machine/organism nexus, vital signs now refer to the sovereign and...

  7. THREE Disciplined by the Future: The Promising Bodies of Cryonics
    (pp. 63-87)

    IFTHE contemporary hegemonic life sciences, with their incessant and productive substitution of DNA softwares for corporeal organisms, trouble our traditional conceptions of the organic body,thencryonics—the organized freezing of human bodies or heads in preparation for their revival—would seem to deploy a less elusive corporeality. A body is frozen, preserved, encapsulated against the entropic operations of time. Sealed off, stopped, suspended, nothing would seem so clearly isolated and autonomous as the cryonic body. Mute, it would seem outside the discursive networks that enable artificial life. Frozen, its very status would seem to forbid its connection to...

  8. FOUR “Give Me a Body, Then”: Corporeal Time-Images
    (pp. 89-99)

    SO WHOSE car was this anyway? It was like waking up in a strange room, those few moments before you figure out where you are, where the bathroom is, the time. A friend lent me his car to drive the hour or so—distance always being imploded into hours in “The Southland”—from Irvine to Rancho Cucamonga, and for a blink, a long one, I forgot that I was encased in somebody else’s appliance, hurtling past Disneyland. The cars ahead slowed, and I fumbled around with the map, wondering if I had already missed one of the numbers I was...

  9. FIVE “Remains to Be Seen”: A Self-Extracting Amalgam
    (pp. 101-119)

    IT SEEMED likely that I would begin working on the interview in the near future. Sometime soon. A Friday would be best. At some blurred point in the past, Thursdays had become consumed, gnawed away by teaching and the anticipation of a weekend. Friday was like a relief from the continual imaging of a future that wasn’t so imminent, instantaneous. In a few days, I would have the capacity to be worked over by the delays and relays of writing.

    Without a doubt, this is the source of my flight, this uncanny overtaking, even possession, that seems integral to ecologies...

  10. SIX Uploading Anticipation, Becoming Silicon
    (pp. 121-143)

    WHY RESPOND with such an outrageous demand, an expletive that, if Nixon had said it within his relentlessly taped Oval Office, would be deleted from any transcript? Why this demand from a machine?

    It is not so clear these days what a machineis,exactly. The transformations of the life sciences and its cultural ecology that I have attempted to narrate thus far have turned the organism/machine opposition into a smudge, the topology of which I have described as “postvital.” No longer a sovereign site of interiority, a vital inside that struggles with an inanimate outside, organisms in the contemporary...

  11. SEVEN Dot Coma: The Dead Zone of Media and the Replication of Family Values
    (pp. 145-171)

    I have argued incessantly throughout this growth that the massive changes wrought by the narratives and practices of molecular biology have shifted the very concept of life at play in contemporary culture as distinctions between living systems and machines have begun to blur and morph.¹ No longer attached to organisms, life becomes an emergent attribute of information systems, networks without any obvious center. In the example of artificial life, contemporary culture is beginning to be populated with entities whose “life” is both uncertain and difficult to locate. Uploaders form a futures market for a subjectivity franchise on the Internet domain,...

  12. EIGHT “Take My Bone Marrow, Please”: The Community in Which We Have Organs in Common
    (pp. 173-179)

    THIS SEGMENT will emerge out of a problem, the problem of how to give something that you quite simply don’t have. Perhaps only a

    scholastic—one who owns a franchise on the production of distinctions—would be troubled by this problem. “How many absences can you fit on the head of a pin with angels dancing on it?” they might puzzle. “How could you possibly balance anything on a pin that wasn’t there?”

    Nonetheless, you see the problem. From a certain conceptual perspective, you just can’t do it. Giving, for example, can only emerge from the given, that which is...

  13. NINE Wetwares; or, Cutting Up a Few Aliens
    (pp. 181-191)

    EVERY FEW months, my mailbox houses an improbable visitor.Transplant Video Journal,a simulated television news program produced by Novartis Pharmaceuticals, finds itself sandwiched among surreal garden catalogs, earnest supplications from vaguely left nonprofit organizations, bills, and postcards from friends working hard to keep in touch.¹ The sight of the tape in my mailbox, wrapped in the proverbial plain brown wrapper, its return address cryptic, excites. My father, after all, was a mail order pioneer.

    The small bowel is not the most transportable configuration of human tissue. More an ecology than a well-defined, autonomous organ, the small bowel teems with...

  14. TEN Sympathy for the Alien: Informatic Ecologies and the Proliferation of Abduction
    (pp. 193-216)

    ON ANY ordinary day—to the extent that there are such things—I see an awful lot of aliens. Most of them are Grays, with olivine eyes that take up most of their eggshaped faces. Come to think of it, most of them are nothingbutface, eyes adorning backpacks, skateboards, bumper stickers, tattoos. And none of them move. Not even a little. They are, strictly speaking, liquid, conforming to the space of their containers, miming the rhythm of their vehicles. When I am not looking, they seem to replicate. I mean, how else did so many of them suddenly...

  15. Notes
    (pp. 217-232)
  16. Index
    (pp. 233-236)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 237-237)