here's some comments, etc.
Sunday March 31, 2002 [top_title.gif]
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
Airport security staffed by idiots
Why are airport security officers idiots? Is it the minimum pay? Is
it the boring job?
They've refused 80-year-old veterans. They've tried to confiscate a
US veteran's Congressional Medal of Honor -- because of the five-point
star on the medal.
Now, Air Canada has refused University of Toronto professor Steve
Mann, the world's first human-computer "cyborg", because of all the
wires he has had implanted and attached. Why? Did they think his
liver was made of C4? His kidneys of nitroglycerine? His brain of
Or were they just too asleep to do any thinking whatsoever.
At airport gate, a cyborg unplugged
Steve Mann, an engineering professor at the University
of Toronto, has lived as a cyborg for more than 20 years.
At an airport in Newfoundland, Dr. Mann went through
an ordeal in which he was ultimately strip-searched and
injured by security personnel. - New York Times
Just heard about your ordeal with the airlines.
What a shame. I really hope everything works out
for you. It must have been very frightening and
angering as well.
I read what happened to you over at slashdot at the airport, pretty nasty
stuff. Could you wind up being the first cyborg martyr in history? An
interesting thought :) So on behalf of all the computing bunch at Latrobe
University, and Bluebox Technology our condolences.
CEO and Founder
Subject: Airport Insecurity
your work has gotta be some of the coolest stuff i've ever
heard of. period. one article said you've been stuff like
this since apple ii's were the neatest things out there, and
if you've been able to build wearable and biofeedback based
equipment since then and are still doing so, just don't get
discouraged by a few neanderthals.
Purrhaps it isn't helpful, or maybe you already know, but
there are those of us out there who think you're a boon to
humanity, and though i'm sure this must hurt, don't let it
stop you man.
with condolences and congratulations,
PS: lawsuit the living shit out of those bastards.
Subject: Your Airport Fiasco
I must say, I'm very sorry to hear about your
mistreatment as a result of the tightening of airport security, and I
fully believe that they had no right to do that. People with metal rods
implanted on their innards can get through security, and if losing your
computer affects your ability to function as much as that person losing
his implant, I think you should be offered the same treatment as that
person. After all, would they require you to detach and attach a
prosthetic arm while having it X-Rayed? What if that arm had sensors
that allowed you to feel hot and cold? What you're doing will someday be
great for us all, and I'd give many things to be in your shoes and be
able to test technology such as that. As stated in the NYTimes story,
someday we will all be wearing computers and some may not remember how
to function without them. Good luck in your fight, and perhaps someday
the average person can benefit from your research.
I read about your major incident at the airport, what a disgrace.
"One day our computers, and books were wiped away from us. Where
would you start?"
I saw the Times article about what happened in the airport and just wanted
to say hi, and express my support. It's really unfortunate that security is
so stupid and incompetent. I'm sure you have the sympathy of all of us who
travel with large amounts of portable computing gear.
Good luck with your case. Perhaps the airlines will learn that hiring
minimum-wage workers to provide security is not a good idea, since they
don't seem to be able to comprehend that.
Subject: a Cyborg Unplugged & The Future of VR and Medicine
I know Steve has gone for years view the world rotated either
90 degrees. After adapting to the sensory augmentation (assuming he is
still doing it) for so long it makes very good sense in coming un-plugged
he would be bumping into things as suffering things such as dizziness.
Steve illustrates the point that there is a razor fine line between what we
(could or will?) be as cognitive beings and the system.
With such little separation between the two, you can't just shut the system
down and expect that there will be little or no consequences.
The Security folks really don't have any idea what they are dealing with.
In the late '70s I was going through the DFW airport in Dallas, Texas with my
Sonicguide. The security people took the unit from me and ripped the cable out
of its electronics box. They thought it must be a bomb. They did eventually
pay for repairs of the unit but I was without it for nearly a month.
I got a full settlement.
Sure hope you can get your stuff fixed!
I can't beleive that the airport security did that to you.
I also read the story about what happened to you on the NYtimes.com web site.
Are you okay???
I e-mail interviewed you during the middle of January, and then this incident
happened to you in the middle of February. It's now the middle
of March and last night I was actually reading your book Cyborg that you
helped to have sent to me for me to review, and read about this incident
that happened to you. I'm so angry that the airport security did what they
did to you. They violated you!!!
I would like to do another e-mail interview with you Steve about the airport
first one that I did with you. I will also connect my review of your book
to both of my interviews. The second interview would be the same format as
the first. 10 questions. Please let me know if your interested in doing this
second interview with me.
But before we do this next interview.... please e-mail me back and let me
know that your physically and mentally okay. I hope your okay.
Once I have finished the review of your book, we will do the second
interview that will be about the book and the incident with Air Canada.
But I really want to know.... are you okay? Have you fixed your WearComp?
Is everything back to normal with you?
I want to make sure that your okay and that your WearComp work is back on
track after this terrible thing that happened to you at the airport.
First of all, my best wishes for a speedy recovery to Steve. That's
some really harsh shit right there.
1. That matches every definition of cyborg I can imagine, which is
cool; I didn't think we had gotten that far.
2. It implies that he's getting some *really* impressive enhancement
from his gear to be *that* disoriented without it.
Very interesting, if horribly unpleasent, stuff.
Saw the NYT story about the airport. AircanadainAir, or whatever they
are now, should be completely ashamed (once again). Pic 4 U! :)
I'm sorry to hear that you received brian damage because of what happened
at the airport. I'm very angry at what airport security did to you.
I will be finished reviewing your book very soon, and will post the review
on my site. When your book review is completed, I will let you know, so
that we can do our second interview together.
I hope you feel better soon and can get WearComp fixed so that you will
be able to return to your normal state of being.
>I'd have to counter those questions by asking, how is Steve's reaction
>to having his prostheses carelessly removed and damaged any different
>than had the same been done to a near-sighted person's glasses or a
>hearing-impaired person's hearing-aid or cochlear implant?
Perhaps wrongly, that sounds to me like a "rhetorical question" which
suggests that the answer should be that it is a mild inconvenience.
However, here's a different view: for many years Steve has used that
system more as a powerful 'thinking aid' than as a sensory
enhancement; he uses it not only to retrieve information (both
graphic and text) and for many short-term memory uses. So perhaps
the right question might be more like asking.
"...how is Steve's reaction to having his prostheses carelessly
removed and damaged any different than had he been deprived of
various parts of his brain, or of the misery and grief of a
closest and most intimate companion or of a large part
of the machinery involved with his everyday activities, both
personal and professional."
I don't know the answer, but the analogy with losing a sensory or
motor prosthetic might not cover this new kind of situation.
I think there is something people who haven=92t spent time with Steve easily
miss- That under all of those wires is someone who- thinks very deeply
about the human issues here, cares very much about the implications of all
of this, and feels the pains of humanity and hope for a better human
quality of life. I am grateful that some cares, hopes and believes for the
better of mankind is exploring these issues.
These are things which are hard to know about Steve unless you have spent=20
some time with him. I spent numerous occasions at the Media Lab talking=20
with Steve. And to tell you the truth, the thing that always struck me the=
most- wasn=92t just the chips and algorithms- it way how Steve thinks so=
much about what these things mean and imply for mankind.
>Hi Steve, Brenden et al:
>On a more personal note, the article in the Times made me want to cry.
>Steve, you probably don't remember me but we met a couple of times at MIT.
>On one occasion I was with Rita and within hours of talking to you, we
>received a call from a news organization that was doing a bit on you and
>wanted permission to use our images from your web site. So my experience
>of your cyborgian experiment is very personal, immediate, and to use the
>technical term, "affective."
>...and when I read about them dismantling you (really that's what
>it felt like...like you personally were being disassembled)...I felt that
>it was an affront to everyone...both as a violation of so-called "civil"
>rights, and as a destruction of both a work of art (you) and a scientific
>accomplishment (also you.)
>It is ironic that while you are the supposed "cyborg," the security people
>are more like actual robots. They have no ability to apply human qualities
>such as judgement, compassion, insight, or any kind of real intelligence
>to their job. In reading this story, I was struck by their complete and
>total inhumanity. If there's anything I...and I will venture to say "we"
>on behalf of all of us...can do to help or support you in terms of getting
>compensated and getting back "up and running" so to speak, please do not
>hesitate to let me know. I'd be happy to help out in any way I can.
Your courage, curiosity, and imagination have always been a source of
inspiration for me. Therefore, I was very concerned and upset to read the
NY Times article about how you were brutalized by the airport personnel in
Newfoundland. Thank you for the work you have done; I deeply hope that
you will not only recover but be able to use the results of this terrible
event in furthering your work.
Gratefully and regretfully,
I'd be a little pissed off if someone stripped me naked and ripped
electrodes out of my skin. I can understand wanting to X-ray his
equipment, but really...
By the way, I hate Air Canada. They screwed up and "lost" my return
ticket for a round-trip flight, and then made me pay for it. (I had no
idea what I was doing and the girl working took the wrong ticket
before my first flight.) I never did get my money back. That charge
also put my credit card over its limit for the first time ever. Yep, I
hate Air Canada all right.
"Canadian cyborg Steve Mann encountered ridiculous problems
when trying to board an Air Canada flight from Nfld to YYZ.
This is *not* Kevin Warwick, the British psuedoscience jackass who's
been walking around for a few years with an RFID pet tag under his skin.
It is Professor Steve Mann (http://eyetap.org/mann/), one of the first
inventors of a *real* wearable, and a downright cool guy. I didn't
know he had any implants- does anyone have any more information? I'd
imagine his equipment would be a bit more advanced than the snake-oil
Warwick's been showing around.
Man, that's not just bitter, that's just savage. I'm really disturbed
just reading that. I feel that there is a lawsuit here based not only
on equipment damage, but also on humiliation and emotional abuse. I
mean, how can they possibly have the right to do that? I understand
that you give up some civil liberties when there is suspicion at an
airport, but those guards cannot cause you harm for no reason, I
cannot believe they'd have that authority.
For those of you who don't know, Prof. Mann is generally considered to
be the "Father" of Wearable computers, having contstructed one of the
first ones out of an Apple 2 in the early 80s to portably control his
photographic equipment. He is now a professor at the University of
Toronto; he also has an informative personal web page
Wow, I can totally cripple someone far more learned than me _and_ make
seven dollars an hour! Woo-hoo!
Seriously, though, next time, take another route home. Zeppelin or
What the hell? What if someone has a pace maker? And X-Ray radiation
really isn't the type of stuff that you want to play around with. I
hope he takes them for all they're worth.
I thought that people with metal implants got papers stating what kind
of implant and where they are? Even so, that treatment was utter bull;
you'd think that at a certain point you would just know that the guy is ok!
How are they going to explain the necessity of ripping that stuff off
his body? Could he conceal a bomb under an electrode?! I highly doubt
it. and I hope they enjoyed doing it, because they're not going to
enjoy the lawsuit.
This was Air Canada
A monopoly in "Canaduh". Above any kind of boycott or reprisal.
Basically, fly with us, or walk. And if you don't like our attitude,
eff you. Stop flying? We'll just get the government to tax your ass
harder to pay for all our surly, incompetent staff.
He's a Flippin' World REKNOWNED SCIENTIST!!! He's not carrying a bomb!
He had papers describing what they were!
And someone pulled electrodes out of his body?
Okay, maybe his suit is a little odd, but there should be a more
streamlined way of getting stuff like this okayed-- Give someone
somewhere the ability to okay this crap before they get to the
As for myself, I look up to this guy, and the way he was treated
shouldn't be taken. No matter what the political situation, he's a
scientist, and he's got papers explaining what he has, and no $6/hr
guard should have gotten within 100 feet of him.
I'm not sure about this, but what about people who wear (or might in
the near future) equipment to help them live? Maybe like a pacemaker,
but external... For all the security guys knew about it, some of his
toys might have been regulating his bloodflow or his heartbeat, and if
they just ripped it out... Should there be some sort of additional
training implemented to give the security personal some recognition as
to what constitutes "bad" technology? As there gets to be more and
more medical ailments treated with tech, I have the feeling that the
security people will be a little more careful as to just what they
graphics work (i.e. when he moves his head side to side, his camera is
taking discrete pictures of a room/building/whatever at different
angles. He was working on algorithms to put them all together and make
them coherent). Anyhow, the point is, I distinctly remember him saying
that he got nauseous when he removed his visor. The reason was very
simple. He spent all of his waking life (outside of the shower) in a
2D world. His body was so used to it, that living in 3D took some
serious getting used to, and he would feel sick. My guess is that this
is what happened. Ever feel like your eyes need some adjusting after
staring at a 2D object (such as a movie theatre screen) for hours at a
time? Now image doing that 24/7 for years and trying to re-adjust to
the real world.
To be so completely integrated into one's computers - it must be a
godlike feeling, to have all that data available at will. And then to
lose all that power, all that data and insulation from the day-to-day
world - no wonder Mann feels crippled. I remember reading that people
who depend heavily on electronic organizers to store contact info have
a harder time remembering phone numbers and addresses, and I know that
my spelling skills have deteriorated slightly since I started relying
more on spellcheck.
I know this is something that's not really going to sound right, but
"rape" is the best word I can think of to describe this. Where the
hell were this guys lawyers?
The reason that he ended up in a wheelchair was that since he no
longer had his cyborg navigation gear, he supposedly got confused
while walking around the airport and hit his head on a pile of fire
If he's worn such glasses for a long period of time, and if he's doing
some other sorts of tricks with prisms and mirrors to allow the
merging of eyeball-data with bitstream-data before it hits his retina,
the loss of the glasses could very well hamper his ability to navigate
(I'm reminded of an old experiment in depth perception where they gave
subjects glasses with prisms that shifted their "vision" 30 degrees to
the right. The first day, everyone was bumping into the left-hand side
of every door they tried to walk through, as you might expect. After a
few weeks, their brains "retrained" themselves to see the world with
the glasses on, and everything was fine. Then they took the glasses
off and everyone was bumping into the right-hand side of things until
their brains "unlearned" the glasses.)