In Mitchell's discussion of the relationships between human body functions and evolving technologies he presents the example:
My sexual plumbing is constructed to interface with other, compatible sexual plumbing for the efficient transfer of genetic information in fluid format. Unfortunately, the fleshware connection can be flaky, unstable, and nonstandard (worse than a dial-up modem), but there are numerous illustrated manuals describing recommended configurations and protocols. I am a node in a body-to-body network that, sadly, turns out to be effectively organized for virus propagation as well. Traditional forms of sexual union are circuit-switched and synchronous, with all the intensity and risk that this entails, but refrigerated sperm banks now function as genetic code servers. In vitro fertilization is an asynchronous transaction---the organic equivalent of downloading email, and about as arousing. Blood donations, banks, and transfusions form a similar fluid interchange network; early attempts at transfusion involved synchronous artery-to-vein links, but if I make a blood donation today, I upload to a blood bank and some anonymous recipient later downloads. From the perspective of our genes and viruses, our bodies and their in vitro extensions are just temporary nodes in an evolving propagation network. [Me++ pp. 22-23]
1. What does Mitchell suggest is the significance of these "artificial" fluid flow networks?
2. How does Mitchell draw parallels between himself as a character in this passage and an artificial machine?
3. Is Mitchell leaving out any details of the organic or technological processes that he is comparing that would contradict his point? What are they?
4. What are some other ways that technology can harness human organic resources to bypass normal hominal processes?
5. "In vitro fertilization is an asynchronous transaction---the organic equivalent of downloading email, and about as arousing." What if the e-mail you're downloading is pornographic spam? How does that affect Mitchell's point?
Mitchell, William J. Me++: The Cyborg Self and the Networked City. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2003.
Last modified 1 February 2005