Sunday, April 19, 2009

Heard About the Freak Show Down Under?

Technology is great. Advancement in medicine is great. But I'm thinking that I wish there were a way to keep the two of them far, far apart. Actually, I know that's a ridiculous idea, but then again, so is this: A guy who had an ear implanted in his arm!! A who that wha......?? Behold!

Oh, what the hell is that?

Meet Stelarc. Also known as Mr. Stelios Aracdiou (if he were going to be normal, that is), he is originally from Cyprus but now hails from Australia. He calls himself a performance 'artist'. (Actually, in this case, shouldn't that be an 'eartist'?) He is also a visiting Professor at the Schools of Arts at Brunel University, so says The Unfortunately, it does not say why he is a visiting Professor, as he doesn't seem to have Professor-like credentials. Then again, I can imagine that an opportunity to listen to a guy like him talk could potentially be a huge draw.

For ten long years, Stelarc looked for "...a surgeon willing to graft the ear on." 10 years? Good. I wish it could have been longer, but I'll take ten. I'm not thrilled with this now, so I can only imagine my dislike for it in 1999. (With all of that Y2K stuff going on at that time, if someone had thrown something like "ear in arm" into the mix, there could have been rioting. Or just utter confusion. Kind of like now.)

The ear was grown in a laboratory out of stem cells. It is still incomplete. Lobeless, if you will. But have no fear! "He also plans to grow a soft earlobe using his own stem cells." Oh, good! I was worried this little experiment might be missing a lobe. Whew! That's a relief. With the lobe and all, that will make it so much more normal than if he had just left it lobeless. Yeah, that lobe should really help this to seem ordinary to people. Or, perhaps not.

What's the point, you ask? Oh, wait, you asked, "What the hell?" That's right. Same thing in this instance. The plan now is to someday "...install transmitters in it, so people can go online and listen to what it is hearing." Um, what?

He's thinking of this procedure as a "...potentially extended Bluetooth system." O....K.....and....? Oh, don't worry. He won't be putting anything else in there with the ear. No, he'll put the receiver and the speaker inside of his mouth, making all of this seem perfectly normal, of course.

Make it stop.

He explains how something like this would work by saying: "If you telephone me on your mobile phone I could speak to you through my ear." (Oh, but you better not! I don't want that! I don't think anyone does!) "But I would hear your voice 'inside' my head. If I keep my mouth closed only I will be able to hear your voice." So, if he opens his mouth, that puts the ear-call on speaker phone? Apparently it does. (By the way, the original plan was to have the ear "attached to the side of his face, but he realized it would wiggle every time he spoke." Well. Get a good picture of that in your head, will ya? Suddenly, having it in the arm doesn't seem quite so odd if you compare it to having a wiggling ear on your face. Nope. That little tidbit makes the ear in the arm sound damn near reasonable. Not completely, but with that comparison? Almost.)

According to a one Dr. Michael Smyth, a computer scientist in Scotland, this really shouldn't be thought of as all that wacky. He says, "We all carry mobile phones everywhere but suddenly when we break the barrier of the skin, it becomes an issue." Why, yes! Yes, it does! See, the skin acts as a barrier in order to keep things out of the body. Doesn't this ear-arm thing defeat the whole purpose of the skin?! I'm pretty sure it does. It defeats something. (Like any hope I had for the future of mankind, for example.)

He then points out: "However, artificial hips have been around for years." What? Yeah, they've been around for years, but do you see anyone with an artificial hip implanted in their nasal passages? I don't think you do!

If there was a more useful purpose for this project, I might be more open to the whole idea. But really, even if that "ear" in his arm has it's own blood flow and is a permanent part of him (and it does and it is), it can't "hear" without some sort of receiver. I suppose the "ear" in the arm is where the "art" comes in. I suppose it wouldn't be artsy enough for him to just clip a microphone to his own ear and let people on the Internet hear what's going on around him that way. Just how exciting is this guy anyway that I'd want to listen to a muffled version of his life as heard as if I was living inside of his arm? (Isn't that what we have Twitter for? Why can't he tweet?) It's sort of like The Fantastic Voyage gone horribly awry.

See, I don't like this for a number of reasons. While it seems technically harmless enough to grow a brand new ear, you know what's going to eventually happen, don't you? Yep, you guessed it. Stem cell fortified and surgically implanted genitalia, that's correct. (Well, it's not really correct. It's actually horribly wrong in my opinion.)

You know, maybe someone wants one thing implanted on top of the other thing for an added dimension of egotistical girth. Or perhaps you just want to have another one implanted somewhere on your body so that you can carry it around with you in case you fall victim to some sort of horrific below the belt mayhem. You'll have a spare! (Perhaps put it somewhere that there's extra room. Embed it in the left butt cheek, for instance. It'd be just like carrying around your wallet in your back pocket!)
It will happen. No matter what the invention and no matter what the intention, if a human being can find some way to implement it so that it has something to do with sex, they will. And they will do it as fast as they can. Fortunately, it took this guy about 10 years to do an ear. Thus, I'm thinking a spare set of genitalia is a long ways off. Just like it should be.

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