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Eugene Thacker
Volume: 11
Copyright Date: 2004
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    As biotechnology defines the new millennium, genetic codes and computer codes increasingly merge—life understood as data, flesh rendered programmable. Where this trend will take us, and what it might mean, is what concerns Eugene Thacker in this timely book, a penetrating look into the intersection of molecular biology and computer science in our day and its likely ramifications for the future.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-9596-6
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. CHAPTER ONE What Is Biomedia?
    (pp. 1-31)

    Cultural anxieties concerning biotechnologies are often played out in the news media, where the latest reports on genetic cloning, stem cell research, gene therapy, and bioterrorism all command a significant amount of reportage on current events. Each of these issues is a discourse of the body, and a discourse that articulates specific kinds of bodies (the body of nuclear transfer cloning, the body of adult stem cells, etc.). The issues they raise are difficult and contentious ones: In which cases should experimentation of human embryos be allowed? In which cases is human cloning warranted? How can engineered biological agents be...

  5. CHAPTER TWO Bioinformatics: BLAST, BioPerl, and the Language of the Body
    (pp. 32-62)

    Diaspora,a science-fiction novel by Greg Egan, opens with the birthing of a “citizen” of the thirtieth century.¹ As may be guessed, neither this citizen nor the birthing process is what we would expect. A “citizen” is a sentient life-form that exists entirely through computer systems and networks, belonging to a “polis.” The polis—a robust, future version of a server computer—may exist in some remote location, such as in deep space or buried far beneath an Earth desert, using wireless and satellite links to transfer citizens to any location on the network. Each polis, as its name indicates,...

  6. CHAPTER THREE Wet Data: Biochips and BioMEMS
    (pp. 63-86)

    In Greg Bear’s 1985 novelBlood Music,Virgil Ulam, a nerdy biochemist working on engineered protein-silicon biochips, takes his research to the extremes of self-experimentation, inserting the “intelligent” biochips into his white blood cells. The biochips begin to integrate themselves into his biological system, improving everything from his metabolism to his skeletal structure, even his sexual performance. As Ulam confides to a friend, “I’m being rebuilt from the inside out.”¹

    However, the biochips’ ability to adapt and improve their own complexity lead to horrifying results. Ulam continues, “Then one night my skin started to crawl... I wondered what they’d do...

  7. CHAPTER FOUR Biocomputing: Is the Genome a Computer?
    (pp. 87-114)

    What if “life” turned out to be a form of computation? “Wang’s Carpets,” a short story by Greg Egan, explores the question of how the boundary between biology and computers may be negotiated in the future.¹ Revised as a section of the novelDiaspora,“Wang’s Carpets” replays a familiar trope in science fiction: the search for alien life, which is also a search for the criteria for alien life. Paolo Venetti, a sentient software “citizen,” comes across a unique type of life-form on the planet Orpheus, some twenty light-years from Earth. The life-forms appear to be immensely large, planar, kelplike...

  8. CHAPTER FIVE Nanomedicine: Molecules That Matter
    (pp. 115-140)

    To begin with, we can discuss the large effects of the very small. Linda Nagata’s science-fiction novelThe Bohr Makerenvisions a near future in which the ability to control individual atoms has become a reality, a primary theme in the emerging scientific field of nanotechnology.¹ Although a number of science-fiction works take up this nanotechnological theme of control on the atomic scale,The Bohr Makeris notable because of the way in which it provides a specific meditation on how the human body may be transformed by nanotechnology.²

    The Bohr Makertakes place in a world defined (and redefined)...

  9. CHAPTER SIX Systems Biology: Parallel CorpoRealities
    (pp. 141-174)

    In “Swarm,” a short story by Bruce Sterling, we witness the intimacies of an alien ethnography. Captain-Doctor Simon Afriel, a member of a future human government alliance called the Ring Council, is sent on an interspecies diplomatic mission to an alien race known as the Swarm. In Sterling’s future world, the human race has split into two factions. One, the Mechanists, relies on cybernetics technologies to develop advanced industrial modes of production and half-robot bodies. The other, of which Afriel is a member, are the Shapers, those who have refused cyborg technology in favor of genetic engineering and wetware. In...

  10. CONCLUSION: The Bioethics of Metadesign
    (pp. 175-194)

    In the midst of considering technological advance, issues of ethics, accountability, and culpability can easily be lost in the “gee-whiz” rhetoric of the mass-media and pop-science discourse. A form of ethical alarmism tends to pervade this discourse, and too often such questions are raised in the form of science-fictional dystopianism: the “grey goo” problem in nanotechnology, the specter of using human cloning to make a slave race, and the fears of genetic technologies run amok are all instances of such ethical alarmism. To be sure, these anxieties—culturally manifest in science-fiction literature, film, and video games—are expressions of more...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 195-222)
  12. Index
    (pp. 223-226)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 227-227)