augmentation Archive

The year 2029 must have seemed a long way off when Masamune Shirow first published his cyberpunk vision, Ghost in the Shell, in 1989. The intervening 28 years to today have seen multiple animated adaptations of his work (two films and a TV series). Despite its age and the inevitable changes that follow from any adaptation, Shirow’s core technological vision has been remarkably unchanged since the first manga.

Ghost in the Shell (1989)

The franchise provides plenty of food for thought relating to cybernetic augmentation, artificial intelligence, and fundamental questions on the nature of humanity and sentience. In this post, I’ll take a close look at one particularly eye-catching concept — cybernetic prosthetic hands that are shown driving computers with blazing speed. Even in our current era of Bluetooth and optical communication, this concept somehow still earns a prominent place in the contemporary canon.

Beyond the Home Row

Keyboards, whether QWERTY or Dvorak, split ergonomic or Maltron, all have 10 keys on the home row. Debates about comparative speed aside, they all have approximately the same number of total


In addition to many fine movies available to stream on Amazon Prime, there is also Dredd, a film 2012 installment in the Judge Dredd franchise. For a film taking place in the 22nd century, the technologies portrayed in the film are, for the most part, remarkably mundane. While spending many production resources on flashly explosions and slow-motion sequences, the high technology of the film is more or less limited to one large computer monitor dressed up in futuristic garb by showing 3D floorplans, windowed security CCTV feeds, the classic Windows star screen saver, and a terminal window — pretty much a regular episode of 24.

The most adventurous piece of technology portrayed is a set of bionic eyes possessed by the “clan techie.” It’s never made clear what these actually do other than serve as eye-candy (pun intended) because the character still uses a computer monitor and displays no special abilities. Their only function is to look pretty – Tron-blue in color with bladed iris adjustable diaphrams – and move the plot forward in an almost negligible way (and even then without any reference to actual functionality). In fact, there’s even a


…which is to say I don’t.

In the realm of contemporary touch-free interface, RFID and NFC are probably 95% of the pie. They are widely adopted in building access control, contactless payments, mobile-to-mobile sharing, supply chain management, and even hospital patient tracking. For these purposes they are remarkably inexpensive to install and maintain, and the technology is mature. Given these benefits, it is not unreasonable that one should want the convenience of contactless access control without the key fob, chip, or smartphone, and so a small community of DIY RFID-implanters has come into existence.

The notion of implanting an RFID tag is not wholly unreasonable (no so different than many other types of mainstream (implants) and alternative (piercings, tattoos, etc.) invasive body modifications). After all, my two dogs have painlessly carried an RFID chip in the skin between their shoulder blades for years now (for non-pet owners: this is a common practice to allow identification of lost pets). Such purpose-build tags are biologically inert and as RFID does not require a local power source, they do not contain any harmful chemicals and do not radiate unless scanned — they are just a little glass, plastic, metal,