[-empyre-] An Illuminated nano_Play for the New Year(s): or a pharmakon gesture for the last year(s) by the *particle group*

Ricardo Dominguez rrdominguez at ucsd.edu
Tue Dec 30 01:10:30 EST 2008

An Illuminated nano_Play for the New Year(s):
or a pharmakon gesture for the last year(s)
by the *particle group*


[The stage is dark now. Slow illumination of two white lab workers at
opposite ends of a long table and a large screen behind them. Each sits
facing a computer.]

PRELUDE in stereo, or alternating lines between Dr. Ludin and Dr. Dominguez

Fabrication 1

Let the particle go a short way and it will show you
where the levels of meaning rises and falls,
its blended muse traveling into a mold, the pebbles in dust—duplicated
triangles and mountains miniature as the desire to change.
Let the particle move toward diminished containment—
with insistent allure.

Fabrication 2

There is no such thing
as the smallest particle of matter,
so go forth towards other scales.
Go forth,
prey, go forth,
dwell between – PAR/T (i) C-L=E/s
you there – (i) – hear –.

(We are clean now. Begin.)


Dr.Ludin: Particle! Particle! burning bright
In the labs of the night,
What posthuman hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful trans_patenttry?

Dr.Dominguez: In 2005 researchers in the University of Texas in the United
States found that carbon nanotubes squirted into the trachea of mice
caused inflammation of the lungs and granulomas (tumour-like nodules of
bloated white blood cells in the lining of the lungs), and five of the
nine mice treated with the higher dose died almost immediately.

Dr.Ludin: In what gene deeps or skies
Burnt the ownership of thine eyes?
On what code dare it aspire?
What IP dare seize the fire?
And what patent, and what part,
Could twist the WIPO of thy heart?
And when thy particles began to beat,
What dread sensor? and what dread fleet?

Dr.Dominguez: In another nanotoxicity experiment in 2006 at Tottori
University, Japan, researchers showed that within a minute of contacting
the mice’s tiniest airways, carbon nanotubes began to burrow through gaps
between the surface lining cells and into the blood capillaries, where the
negatively charged nanoparticles latched onto the normally positively
charged red blood cells’ surface, thereby potentially causing the red
blood cells to clump and the blood to clot.

Dr.Ludin: What the atomic force hammer? what the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the chip? what circuit grasp
Dare its deadly errors clasp?
When the nanities threw down their gears,
And watered ownership with their tears,
Did K. Eric Drexler smile his work to see?
Did nano-carbon 60 who made the Lamb make thee?

Dr.Dominguez: Researchers from the University of Rochester, New York, in
2006 reported an increased susceptibility to blood clotting in rabbits
that had inhaled carbon nanospheres (buckyballs, an isotope of carbon
shaped like a tiny football). Buckyballs present in water at 0.5 parts per
million were taken up by largemouth bass, which suffered severe brain
damage 48 hours later, the extent of the damage being 17 times greater
than that seen in non-nano scale particles tested.

Dr.Ludin: Particle! Particle! Burning bright
In the labs of the night,
What posthuman hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful trans_patenttry?

Dr.Dominguez: Nanoparticles in the lungs are translocated to the
circulatory system and from there throughout the body, accumulating in the
liver, spleen, and bone marrow. Nanoparticles inhaled through the nose and
air passages are translocated to the brain through the olfactory nerves,
and accumulate in the brain. Nanoparticles can enter the body through the
skin; and quantum dots injected into the skin accumulate in lymph nodes
with potential effects on the immune system.

Dr.Ludin: Particle! Particle! Burning bright
In the labs of the night,
What posthuman hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful trans_patenttry?

[First lab image appears on the screen.]


Dr.Dominguez: Particle Capitalism! Particle Capitalism! Burning bright In
the labs of the night, What posthuman hand or eye Could frame thy fearful

Dr.Ludin: “It is true that one cannot patent an element found in its
natural form; however, if you create a purified form of it that has
industrial uses – say, oxygen – you can certainly secure a patent.” - Lila
Feisee, Biotechnology Industry Organization’s Director for Government
Relations and Intellectual Property (2006).

Dr.Dominguez: We are no longer under the sign of natural selection or even
artificial selection—we are now under the force of particle selection.
Everything on the planet, from indigenous aromas to public spaces to our
atoms, is now forced to march into the World Intellectual Property
Organization (WIPO) filters of globalization. The neo-liberal matrix that
started to emerge fully in the 90’s has played itself out on three stages:
digital/Virtual Capitalism, genetic/Clone Capitalism and
nanotechnology/Particle Capitalism. Each of these stages of techno-capital
is being integrated via a new “deep harmonization” of the global
Intellectual Property agenda: copyright laws, trademark laws and patent
laws. A process that starts in the research chambers and ends in ownership
enclosures, from patenting technology to patenting life, from patenting
information to patenting atoms and creation of Trans_patents.

Dr.Ludin: Particle Claimed! Particle Claimed! Burning bright In the labs
of the night, What posthuman hand or eye Could frame thy fearful
trans_patenttry 3,156,523? “What is claimed is Element 95.” – from Glenn
Seaborg’s US patent 3,156,523, issued November 10, 1964 – the shortest
patent claim on record.

Dr.Dominguez: Remember that almost as soon as scientists figured out how
to manipulate life through genetic engineering, corporations figured out
how to monopolize it. A dangerous precedent was set back in the 1960s when
a Nobel Prize-winning physicist “invented” the chemical element Americium
(element no. 95 on the periodic table) and acquired US patent #3,156,523.
In the US alone, patents awarded annually on nano-scale products and
processes have tripled since 1996. The current nanotech patent grab is
reminiscent of the early days of biotech – “it’s like biotech on steroids”
in the words of one patent attorney. At stake is control over innovations
that span all industry sectors – from electronics, energy, mining and
defense to new materials, pharmaceuticals and agriculture. As the Wall St.
Journal put it, “companies that hold pioneering patents could potentially
put up tolls on entire industries.”

[A voice of Dr. Carroll from a recording or live reading also possible]

Trans_Patent 6608386: Sub-nanoscale electronic devices and bacterial
July 12, 2006
By Assignee(s) Yale University/YU (New Haven, CT)
Inventors: Reed; Mark A. (Southport, CT); Tour; James M. (Columbia, SC)

Sometimes Lila would feel a bit itchy as she floated in her partner a few
hours before integration-birth. Most birthing was now a trans_patented
condition involving sub-nanoscale trading – it was the only way to pay the
cost of life now. So every hour during this last trimester Lila and her
partner would ferment mass nanowire production on her in-vitro skin in
collaboration with the Yale University Inc., nanoteria colonies. She could
feel the oldest most sustainable microbes on the planet staging WIPO-2
contracts for the latest off-scale metal-changing particles. Hundreds upon
hundreds of Yale University Inc., products were waiting impatiently for
Lila to catch a bit of crying air at the edges of her partner’s canal to
install and run – for just in time delivery. Delivery was all that
mattered now.

Dr.Ludin: Governments, industry and scientific institutions have allowed
nanotech products to come to market in the absence of public debate and
regulatory oversight. An estimated 500 plus products containing invisible,
unregulated and unlabeled nano-scale particles are already commercially
available (including food products, pesticides, cosmetics, sunscreens and
more) – and thousands more are in the pipeline. Meanwhile, no government
has developed a regulatory regime that addresses the nano-scale or the
societal impacts of the invisibly small. This unregulated agenda is being
driven by the new protocols of Venture Science the core of Particle

Dr. Dominguez: Only a handful of toxicological studies exist on engineered
nanoparticles, but it appears that nanoparticles as a class are more toxic
than larger versions of the same compound because of their mobility and
increased reactivity. This raises serious health concerns because
nanoparticles can slip past guardians of the body’s immune system, across
protective membranes such as skin, the blood brain barrier or perhaps the

Dr. Ludin: Some governments and scientists are belatedly conceding that
nano-scale particles raise unique risks for health, safety and the
environment.  Given the knowledge gap, some experts recommend that release
of engineered nanoparticles be minimized or prohibited in the environment:

“Release of nano-particles should be restricted due to the potential
effects on environment and human health.” – Nanotechnology and Regulation
within the framework of the Precautionary Principle. Final Report for ITRE
Committee of the European Parliament, February 2006.

Dr Dominguez: “Until more is known about their environmental impact we are
keen that the release of nanoparticles and nanotubes in the environment is
avoided as far as possible. Specifically we recommend as a precautionary
measure that factories and research laboratories treat manufactured
nanoparticles and nanotubes as if they were hazardous waster streams and
that the use of free nanoparticles in environmental applications such as
remediation of groundwater by prohibited.” – Royal Society and Royal
Academy of Engineering, “Nanoscience and Nanotechnologies: Opportunities
and uncertainties,” July 2007.

[A voice of Dr. Carroll from a recording or live reading also possible]

Dr. Carroll: Late Onset of Particle Capitalism (i)

27 07 2006

Strike when the iron is hot: the spot bubbles to the
surface—red-faced—some malicious, illicit strawberry, singed below a soft
cap of hair, I discover it there by accident, demand an explanation. Vague
mumblings of scalp stimulation, postpartum emotion in high gear. I dream
of an embedded chip, my son’s induction into the matter market. What
matters is this: He is okay. Well, temporarily. Weeks later, the market
crashes, so to speak—in the ER, we become parental footnotes while the
real work is done—intubation, a central line, the social worker in talcum
tones. The doctor lays down her hand, a pack of worst case scenarios that
fan out across the table. He may not make it through the night and if he
does we cannot predict the extent of the “devastation.” Devastation? Loss
of limbs, loss of hearing, loss of vision, permanent brain damage,
multiple organ failure. Unable to process listing-as-event, I adhere to my
own paranoid versions of the tale: they are removing the chip*,
deactivating the product. He is temporarily checked into an upscale
refurbishing clinic. On a respirator to regain consciousness, he
manufactures nipple dreams, which intersect with my own fantasies of his
lopsided smile, an escape-artist’s grin. In other words: recycling lines
pared out to me, choking on their saccharine-sweet cadences, I wish first
that he might live and then greedily branch out to demand additional
reassurance. The white-coated herds that hoard expertise like pocket
change prove all too accommodating, commodity-trading interpellation: late
onset GBS, bacterial meningitis; each one of us, a petri-dish, navigating
the birth canal.


Dr. Ludin: We wish we could take grey goo off the Center for Responsible
Nanotechnology’s list of dangers, but we can’t. It eventually may become a
concern requiring special policy. Grey goo will be highly difficult to
build, however, and non-replicating nano-weaponry may be substantially
more dangerous and more imminent.

We identified several severe risks.

Economic disruption from an abundance of cheap products

Economic oppression from artificially inflated prices

Personal risk from criminal or terrorist use

Personal or social risk from abusive restrictions

Social disruption from new products/lifestyles

Unstable arms race

Collective environmental damage from unregulated products

Free-range self-replicators (grey goo)

Black market in nanotech (increases other risks)

Competing nanotech programs (increases other risks)

MORE CAN BE IMAGINED or perhaps sounded:


Some of the dangers described here are existential risks, that is, they
may threaten the continued existence of humankind. Others could produce
significant disruption but not cause our extinction. A combination of
several risks could exacerbate the seriousness of each; any solution must
take into account its effect on other risks. Some of these risks arise
from too little regulation on a global scale.

Dr. Dominguez: Working nanotechnology will be a significant breakthrough,
comparable perhaps to the Industrial Revolution—but compressed into a few
years. This has the potential to disrupt many aspects of society and
politics. The power of the technology may cause two competing nations to
enter a disruptive and unstable arms race. Weapons and surveillance
devices could be made small, cheap, powerful, and  numerous. Cheap
manufacturing and duplication of designs could lead to economic upheaval.
Overuse of inexpensive products could cause widespread environmental
damage. Attempts to control these and other risks may lead to abusive
restrictions, or create demand for a black market that would be very risky
and almost impossible to stop; small nanofactories will be very easy to
smuggle, and fully dangerous. There are numerous severe risks—including
several different kinds of risk—that cannot all be prevented with the same
approach. Simple, one-track solutions cannot work. The right answer is
unlikely to evolve without careful planning.

[A voice of Dr. Carroll from a recording (perhaps)]

Dr. Carroll: When Lily was lucky, she got a contract for weapons. The pay
was good because it was dangerous. The weapons would come gushing suddenly
out of her with much loss of blood, usually in the middle of the night: an
avalanche of glossy, freckled, somewhat transparent bits of weapon
goo-particles, each one with a number of soft blue eyes and rows of bright
sharp teeth. No matter how ill or exhausted Lily felt, she would shovel
them, immediately, into rusted tin cans or milk cubes and tie down the
lids with auto-clean tape. If she didn’t do that, immediately, if she fell
asleep, the particles would eat her. Thrashing in their containers as she
carried them down the steps, the particles would speed eat each other,
till nothing was left – the last one left would always eat itself – “the
highest state of artificial evolution,” her sister would whisper to her
before the accident. She would have to hurry, shuffling as fast as she
could under the weight of so many containers, to the Neighbors. The
Neighbors only paid her for the ones that were left alive. It was

Dr. Ludin: It’s a Small World After all – Nanoera Inc.

Dr. Dominguez: Particle Capitalism does not represent a new phase of
capitalism in a temporal sense – yet, at the same time there is an uncanny
sense that something new is happening here.

Dr. Ludin: Your Matter Is Our Market – NanoMiX Corp.

Dr. Dominguez: Particle Capitalism is not just an encroachment of capital
on a new domain of science. But that this new domain of precise atomic and
molecular manipulation is now being constituted as a business plan about
what constitutes material reality – as just another tale of the matter

Dr. Ludin: Reassembling Your World One Atom at a Time – NanitesNow Inc.

Dr. Dominguez: Particle Capitalism functions as unregulated form of
venture science that implodes the ethos of science to the valuation of
life-as-matter with the valuation of the market.

Dr. Ludin: Market Catch Your Self – NanoCatch Inc.

Dr. Dominguez: Recombinant society falls quickly before nano-fest destiny.
Biotechnology, like digital networks, becomes a side event before the next
state of command and control society. Each of us will rapidly become the
by product of artificial nanotechnology “vitamins”, interdependent
molecular subassembly engines, and marked by inter-linked “termination
dates.” We will become more than replicants and less than nothing. The
cross-roads between the imaginary and all too real construction of
nanotechnology is perhaps already behind us.

Dr. Ludin: In the game of life and evolution there are three players at
the table: human beings, nature, and machines. I am firmly on the side of
nature. But nature, I suspect, is on the side of the machines.

Dr. Dominguez: Not much difference between a banana and a human. Same
Atoms, just arranged differently.

Dr. Ludin: Not much difference.

Dr. Dominguez: Not much difference at all.

[Both lab workers shut down their computers, eat a banana, and walk away.]


An illuminated nanoscript by Amy Sara Carroll, Ricardo Dominguez and Diane
Ludin for iPod nano video presentation created for the *particle group*
project installation at Gallery at CALIT2 (http://gallery.calit2.net):


In(rez)solute/resolution(s) for 2009! To all softskins!

from the *particle group*
Ricardo Dominguez
Assistant Professor
Hellman Fellow

Visual Arts Department, UCSD
Principal Investigator, CALIT2
Co-Chair gallery at calit2
CRCA Researcher
Ethnic Studies Affiliate
Center for Iberian and Latin American Studies Affiliate

Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics,
Board Member

University of California, San Diego,
9500 Gilman Drive Drive,
La Jolla, CA 92093-0436
Phone: (619) 322-7571
e-mail: rrdominguez at ucsd.edu

Project sites:
site: http://gallery.calit2.net
site: http://pitmm.net
site: http://bang.calit2.net
site: http://www.thing.net/~rdom

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