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Captain Cyborg faces Canadian challenge

Toronto Terminator to lower Warwick into molten steel?

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Our old mate Kevin "Captain Cyborg" Warwick would be well advised to charge his laser pulse rifle, put on his shades and leathers and get aboard his Harley because if he doesn't run for the hills it's a definite date with the molten steel for the cybernetic self-publicist.

Warwick's nemesis comes in the form of equally media-savvy anarcho-cyborg Steve Mann, a potent hybrid of Canadian and miniature video technology making a welcome return to El Reg.

The last time we spotted The Toronto Terminator was when he was strip-searched by Air Canada, on account of his body-hugging hardware.

Incredibly, instead of taking this outrage like a cyborg and laying waste to the entire airport and everyone in it, Mann decided to take it like a man and sue instead.

This restraint is because, whereas Kevin Warwick has dedicated his life to the subjugation of mankind to the will of his lizard masters, white hat Mann is determined to show how the fusion of silicon and flesh will lead eventually to the emancipation of humanity.

It all very simple: you stick a little screen and video camera in front of one eye, and hey presto! While the so-called "EyeTap's" camera gives you "a recordable, real-time view", the screen is packed with "messages or programming code fed by a computer and wireless transmitters" strapped to your body. Blimey.

Naturally, there has to be a buzzphrase for this mind-expanding experience: Mann has opted for "mediating reality", and readers who can feel the obligatory whalesong welling up in the background will not be disappointed: "The wearable computer allows me to explore my humanity, alter my consciousness, shift my perspectives so that I can choose - any given time - to see the world in very different, often quite liberating ways," is how Mann put it in his 2000 tome "Cyborg: Digital Destiny and Human Possibility in the Age of the Wearable Computer".

Yes indeed. Back down on earth for a moment, how will this gadget possibily contribute to the advancement of the species? Mann insists that "wearing computers and cameras will give people more power to maintain their privacy and individuality", and furthermore cites "the power of wearable computers to filter out advertising and other [objectionable] elements of daily experience".

In fact, Mann really seems to be punting the EyeTap as a sort of counterintelligence weapon, turning the surveillee into the surveillor. He has on occasion ventured into the dark heart of the black helicopter conspiracy - shopping malls - simply to give 'em one for the common man. He cares not that filming is prohibited. After all, isn't he being filmed by the store's security system?

You get the idea. Fight fire with fire, use the system's own weapons against it, or, if you prefer your revolution to the scent of joss-sticks: "level the power dynamic."

It's all interesting stuff, to be sure. What's rather more scintillating, though, is the mouth-watering prospect of an apocalyptic Mann-Warwick head-to-head. Captain Cyborg versus The Toronto Terminator - the bookies would have a field-day.

What they won't, however, be taking bets on is whether the cyberhuman is a genuinely practical proposition. Many believe it an inevitability, but as Steve Mann himself notes: "Any prediction can turn out to be a combination of codswallop, kerfluffle [sic] and flapdoodle. A lot of people try to predict the future, and I guess one question is, why should I listen to them?"

We couldn't agree more.

Bootnote

Cheers to Ross Luker for this neat bit of Terminator surveillance.

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