2007-01-04

Diseased transgenic robots

Transgenic dog/cows made of hacked I-Cybie robots, in performance art about bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), a.k.a. Mad Cow Disease, and issues in cow cloning (newly approved by the FDA). Part of Dog[LAB]02 by France Cadet.

Suddenly these pathological symptoms start to appear and invade the whole pack. One animal, then two, then three… the whole pack seems touched by this epidemic. The animal shake, stumble, fall down, get up painfully.

Then the pack of clones starts to exhibit an uniform and synchronous behaviour: all the robots start to shake and bleat all together at the same time. They can't stand up any more on their feverish paws. The mad cow disease seems to be here!

The tremors become more and more intense, then suddenly, they all fall down at the same time. Once lying on the floor, they groan with quavering bleats which seem to be insignificant when they are alone, but when we hear the 30 cries of the dying clones, they become frightening.

This is the end... The clones become clones again. The pack is dying in unison.




The artist notes, "By using a whole pack of robotic dogs, the aim is to create a much more frightening impression than was possible with the single dog of Dog[LAB]01, which often inspired amusement – something the artist did not intend. [LOL] The use of multiple robots also evokes contemporary anxieties about cloning, the spread of new diseases, and genocide. The dramatic death of the robots challenges the utopian dreams of transhumanists in which robotic technology is seen as a means of overcoming our mortality. As Luciana Parisi emphasizes, the novelty of Dolly, the cloned sheep, was not that you could clone an adult mammal, but that our genes and organs can be designed and shaped. The point is not solely that it is now possible to reproduce artificially, but that human beings can be reproduced from scratch."

Also burgers. Researchers funded by Kirin (the brewery) claim to have bred mad-cow-disease-resistant cows by knocking out prion protein genes. [Article epub ahead of print but Nature appears not to have put it online yet.]

Which is great since the alternatives of people ceasing to eat beef, modifying factory farm feeding methods (and laws), and/or international trade restrictions seem to have been too hard to do. Instead of vegetarianism, here's genetic engineering. Simple. But:

"By knocking out the prion protein gene and producing healthy calves, our team has successfully demonstrated that normal cellular prion protein is not necessary for the normal development and survival of cattle," [said] James Robl.


Prions are now optional? I must investigate further. Perhaps toward cyborg transgenic cows; robots with cloned prion-free muscle tissue, and...

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