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Airport Security vs. Cyborg Steve Mann 748

CompaniaHill writes: "The New York Times (free reg, etc.) has a story on University of Toronto engineering-professor-turned-cyborg Steve Mann's recent run-in with humorless airport security. Apparently his preplanning and documents were sufficient to get him through the Toronto airport security on his way to St. John's in Newfoundland, but not sufficient to get him through the St. John's airport security on his way home. Two days later, after strip-searches, forced removal of implants and x-raying and other ill-handling of delicate hardware, he returned home in a wheelchair. Mann's lawyer is attempting to recover the cost of the $56,800 in damaged hardware, while his doctors are studying his body's response to the removal of the implants, some of which he has had for over twenty years."
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Airport Security vs. Cyborg Steve Mann

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  • by carrolljim ( 412715 ) on Thursday March 14, 2002 @06:51PM (#3165134)
    Good Salon article at http://www.salon.com/tech/feature/1999/10/20/cybor g/ if anyone's interested in more...
    • This new tool [yahoo.com] used at Atlanta's airport could have helped him.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 14, 2002 @07:14PM (#3165293)
      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.
      • No Implants... (Score:5, Informative)

        by outlier ( 64928 ) on Thursday March 14, 2002 @08:06PM (#3165611)
        didn't know he had any implants- does anyone have any more information?

        Despite the claims in the slashdot blurb, Mann does not have any implants. The NYTimes story mentions that electrodes were removed from his skin. These are the same as those sticky things they attach when someone gets an EKG or polygraph test, and are presumably used by Mann to measure physiological things like heart rate or skin conductance. Mann claims that when they were removed he bled -- kind of like ripping off a really sticky band-aid...

      • 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?

        Reading the article Mann sounds to me like he was being a complete jerk. In the first place the prices he puts on his equipment sound rather inflated. Just because you spend $500,000 developing a prototype does not mean that the prototype is worth that amount.

        Second, the ability to pass through airport security unmolested would appear to be a necessary boundary constraint his technology has to meet if it is going to be viable. The claim that his wearable computer is sensitive to X-ray sounds to be more of an ego thing than a reality thing.

        I travel with quite a bit of expensive gear, but it all goes through the standard security.

        Mann was having trouble in Canada, not exactly a country where cops have a reputation for habitually arrogant behavior.

        • Mann was having trouble in Canada, not exactly a country where cops have a reputation for habitually arrogant behavior.

          But then we're not talking professional police officers, are we? We're talking about the sort of people who, finding no better place in life, have chosen to become poorly-paid rent-a-cops. The sort of people who, just by virtue of the fact that they've chosen that job, shouldn't have that job.

          These would be the same people who are man-handling the wheelchair-bound, insist on physically checking babies without first washing their hands, and who routinely confiscate nail clippers yet allow Bic pens onboard. Who confiscate nail clippers from the pilots, of all things!

          These are people who are so stupid as to put a camera up to their face and press the button, to check whether it'll explode. Too stupid to live, too lucky to die!

          Arrogant behaviour from an airport security guard? That's the only behaviour they know.

          Finally, you'll note that he did pass through security unmolested: that's how he came to be on a returning flight.
    • enter borg

      "We are borg resistance is futile, you will be..."

      Airport Security: "Allright buddy, we already went through this before, he didnt get through either, now lets get you to the back room, for a.. personal inspection, and we dont want any bitching if blood spurts out.
  • by decipher_saint ( 72686 ) on Thursday March 14, 2002 @06:52PM (#3165141)
    Welcome to Canada... bend over please.
  • by cygnus ( 17101 ) on Thursday March 14, 2002 @06:52PM (#3165146) Homepage
    my god! what good are cyborgs if they can't even contend with simple airport security officers?

    darth vader would be ashamed!

  • Steve Mann (Score:4, Informative)

    by Xunker ( 6905 ) on Thursday March 14, 2002 @06:54PM (#3165159) Homepage Journal
    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 [wearcam.org].
    • Re:Steve Mann (Score:3, Interesting)

      by jon_c ( 100593 )
      I just found out Steve Mann. There was a film about him at SXSW called CyberMan [sxsw.com]. Pretty interesting (and sureal) flick.

      heres the little blorb about the film

      Part man, part machine, Steve Mann is a self-professed cyborg. Mann suggests we can reclaim our space by turning technology outwards and builds wearable computers in an attempt to alter his perceptions of reality. Cyberman is a layered and engaging look at our over-mediated world and one man's resistance to it.

  • Wages. (Score:5, Funny)

    by saintlupus ( 227599 ) on Thursday March 14, 2002 @06:54PM (#3165161) Homepage
    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 something.

  • 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!

    Anyway, if he's a cyborg, why not just strap on the optional jet pack and fly there yourself? ;)
  • by edrugtrader ( 442064 ) on Thursday March 14, 2002 @06:58PM (#3165185) Homepage
    if anyone read my post a week ago, airport security is simply retarded. they decide they are going to nail someone and they do just that.

    me and my girlfriend had to wait for 2 minutes while they chemical tested all of luggage and carry ons, and shoes and purses for explosives. this was because her shoes (complete with metal shoe lace ends) set off the metal detector.

    later in the trip tourists are posing with the reserve offices for pictures... i saw this many times. tourists have their arms inches away from machine guns carried by 5 foot tall women and all the airport cares about are my stinky shoes.

    then the kicker is the woman on the airplane knitting with HUGE knitting needles.

    this guys sensor that opens doors is going to do about as much damage as my stinky shoe. yes, when i fly i want to be safe, and that is why i defend the 'fly naked' campaign.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 14, 2002 @07:43PM (#3165480)
      True. I flew last week and here are my observations:
      • JFK: NG troops have M-16s (or AR-15s) on their backs--they may as well be unarmed or wearing bullseyes. Two NGs at each entrance. My guess is safety off or round not chambered. Either way they would be fumbling for their weapons (ever tried to grab something that's hanging over your back, especially when someone is shooting at you???) if the shit went down in the terminal. They are easy targets, and a quick terrorist could get two free bullethoses off of two quick shots. Grade: F
      • Paris: CRS troops carrying subbies, finger on the trigger. Grade: A
      • Rome: Carabinieri troops w/ subbies & full-size bullethoses of various origin. Hand on the grip. Grade: A
      • Istanbul: Similar to Rome. Grade: A

      Conclusion: for the most part (except for the phish-head wannabe Richard Reid fiasco...), the European airports know what the fuck they are doing. They can kill a terrorist within seconds. The American airports are still run by a bunch of fucking amateurs.

      • by squiggleslash ( 241428 ) on Thursday March 14, 2002 @09:37PM (#3166038) Homepage Journal
        European airports know what the fuck they are doing. They can kill a terrorist within seconds
        That's great news. Anyone thinking of hijacking an airport terminal and flying it into a building is going to think twice now.

        Or would you hijack a terminal and fly it into a plane? I don't know...

        Personally I'm convinced this is the most absurd crap I've heard in a long time (not your comments, I mean the whole security-at-airports thing.) I went through Boston Logan a few weeks ago, which has taken the stunning step of outfitting its security people in militaristic uniforms as its first defense against evil terrorists. Right.

        And as I accidentally forgot to take my watch off before I went through the metal detector, I got subjected to the full search. Have the wand waved over you, take your shoes off, be patted down several times, shoes going through X-ray, etc. This pointless charade was made a little more bearable by the fact they were similarly tormenting some woman in her seventies next to me - they obviously were searching anyone.

        And I put my shoes on, wandered to the bar, got myself a pint of Sam Adams, served in a plastic glass because, well, those nasty terrorists could abuse cans... and pondered in how many ways I could have circumvented security right then.

        A shard of glass in my hair would have gone unnoticed. Probably would have in my luggage too. But the kicker I thought was the stuff that's clearly not a weapon that could have been in my bag ready to be turned into one. Have you ever taken an empty Cola can and ripped it in half? Makes a "box cutter" look like something you'd let a three year old play with doesn't it? Can you see Boston Logan security telling anyone to get rid of the can of cola in their luggage?

        The solution has been staring everyone in the face since 9/11, and nobody wants to do it because, geez, we'd have to add $10 to every airticket, and that's taxation, and everyone hates taxes right? It's the air marshall system - put an armed guard on every flight, well trained, no nonsense, plain clothed for what extra security that gives. And while you're at it, train the crews.

        But instead we go for crap like this - we search everyone, uselessly, pointlessly, invasively. Some go through saying that, gosh, they feel so darned safe now! And the rest of us go through counting the number of weapons we could have sneaked through. And the terrorists... well, if a complete idiot can see how to get semtex on board a plane, and by all accounts, the individual who did just that last Christmas was just that, you don't have to be a rocket scientist to work out what the future entails.

        The only reason we haven't had a hijacking since 9/11 is because the terrorists know that the passengers of any plane hijacked will gladly give their lives to get the plane out of the hands of the hijackers. They learnt that forty-five minutes into their first attempt, over Pennsylvania. No amount of extra scanning, body searches, and roughed up suspects, will make a difference when the terrorists strike next, only whether the terrorists believe they can get away with it.

      • Military doctrine is set based on the expected threat.

        Before 9/11 the US doctrine towards hijackings was to cooperate, get the plane on the ground, then negotiate. Needless to say, no one ever anticipated that particularly horrific use of airplanes (mainly most people felt that training a pilot for a one shot mission was silly).

        Since then, airports and airplanes have been slowly attempting to adapt to this new "reality" and are trying to make it more difficult to get weapons on board to prevent a hijacking.

        They are NOT trying to prevent a random/terrorist nut job who decides to walk into an airport and start shooting. (Just look at the Arrivals area of ANY airport and you see that there is little to no control of the entrance/exit.)

        Rome and Istanbul *ARE* worried about terrorist/freedom fighters/seperatist groups that want to shoot a whole bunch of people. Because of this they have different doctrine.

        Personally, I'd hate to see someone trying to use an M16 to stop a single individual. Automatic weapons are designed for filling a space with a lot of lead, not for target shooting. (Ask any Army person about "grazing fire".)

        So, they're trying to adjust to the new threat and are slowly coming up with ideas that will work.

        BTW - The possibility of another incident like 9/11 is almost nill. The whole operation depended completely on the element of surprise, the fact that the fourth plane failed once the passengers knew what has happening shows the difficulty of pulling off such an action.
    • Knitting needles?!?! Why, she could have been
      knitting an.... AFGHAN!
  • wow (Score:3, Insightful)

    by geekoid ( 135745 ) <`dadinportland' `at' `yahoo.com'> on Thursday March 14, 2002 @07:00PM (#3165199) Homepage Journal
    ma, this one event deals with a lot of issues. Overbearing security, not having any authority to review situations like this on a case by case basis, whats happens when some one is unplugged, how being "plugged in" for long periods of time might effect you phsyology.

    I hope all the facets of this incident are followed.
  • but it's about 450k. http://wearcam.org/steve5.jpg
    • Heh (Score:3, Funny)

      by autopr0n ( 534291 )
      Man his "late 90s" pic makes him look like a dork. If he's going to go all crypto-cyborg he really needs to use better shades.

      Anyway, he's obviously a dangerous spy. Just look, in the first image, he's waring a t-shirt with a MAP OF CHINA what more evidence do you need!?
  • So... (Score:5, Funny)

    by leviramsey ( 248057 ) on Thursday March 14, 2002 @07:02PM (#3165215) Journal
    forced removal of implants

    In a related story, Britney Spears announced that she would never perform in Canada again.

  • by sulli ( 195030 ) on Thursday March 14, 2002 @07:04PM (#3165228) Journal
    But really, I am surprised to see that, post-9/11 (an incident committed with box cutters) and post-shoe burning guy, people still think the guy should get carte blanche. Behind all those wires, or in the laptop he refused to have X-rayed (WHAT possible laptop can't handle an X-ray?!) could be explosives or other weapons.

    That they destroyed his equipment and pulled off is electrodes was wrong, and they should be held accountable for this. No airport security agent should ever be unprofessional like that (which is why I support the federalization program currently in progress in the US). But the guy had to be inspected.

    • You may want to read a little closer. His wearable computer couldn't go through because it was more sensitive than a laptop. He wasn't carrying a laptop, as far as the article says. His equipment was more sensitive.

      I understand them wanting to check him out, and maybe even a strip search is in order, but when they had documentation signed by his doctor stating everything he's said, and they were unwilling to accomodate his requests to speak in person to his doctor or colleagues, yet still will not make an exception... there is a problem. Furthermore, their disregard for sensitivity of his equipment is a travesty. He may very well be suffering serious problems now because some $10/hour monkey didn't know when to quit.
    • glad to see someone else sees the other side here. how can they validate the doctot's papers? how can they know it's not a bomb? many make the point these security gaurds are generally dubm. and they are. too dumb to tell the difference between a wearable computing aparatus and something potentially dangerous. imagine that. personally I hope they're always more careful than smart...
    • and pulled off is electrodes was wrong,

      Based on this one comment I could claim Mann is a pretty lousy hardware designer.

      What he did was the equivalent of soldering the keyboard to the motherboard. Couldn't he have at least forseen having to one-day disconnect and had instead used a micro molex connector or something?


      • instead used a micro molex connector or something?

        Yeah sure, he should have done that. Then they would have said "Whats that in your skin?"

        RIP, out come the connectors. The point is, by reading the article, if they really don't have the authority to grant any exemptions then they sure as hell don't have the authority to strip search or harm anyone who hasn't put up any physical resistance. I mean, what reason could they have for detaining him without allowing him to speak with his doctor or colleuges?

        Were they afraid he was going to goto the phone and blow someone up? Or shoot someone? If he was going todo that he would have blown up or shot the guards long before they strip searched him.
    • by Tackhead ( 54550 ) on Thursday March 14, 2002 @07:44PM (#3165485)
      > Behind all those wires, or in the laptop he refused to have X-rayed (WHAT possible laptop can't handle an X-ray?!) could be explosives or other weapons.

      With the possible exception of the X-ray issue, I point out that the bomb/drug-sniffing equipment is there for precisely that eventuality.

      Let's give the drooling fucknozzle behind the counter the benefit of the doubt for a moment and think about what would have been reasonable.

      At most, they should have stripped him to check where all the wires/electrodes went, and run the sniffer over each electrode to make sure nothing naughty was concealed beneath the electrode, nor anything else that didn't get X-Rayed.

      Upon finding no explosives and no drugs, they should have let him put his clothes on and travel.

      All of which is beside the point, which is that the goon should have started by reading the goddamn papers Prof. Mann was carrying, that authorized him to carry the gear on the flight.

      (...and called his supervisor when he realized he couldn't understand the words with more than one syllable, and let the supervisor make the call.)

  • by Charlie Bill ( 34627 ) on Thursday March 14, 2002 @07:05PM (#3165231) Homepage
    I'm sure there will be a sheer avalanche of commentary about how jacked up our security policies have become (27 comments and its already started). That being said, I don't know that I necessarily want a dude with enough electronics on him to obscure any sort of security scanning to get through on a doctor's note and the advice of some colleagues. Isn't most of this stuff to be powered down preflight anyways?

    Dr. Mann is clearly trying to push some of these issues by going about like this daily. I suppose I'm a luddite in this regard, but I find the fact that he is _so_ reliant on his tech that he is unable to navigate as a human being (w/o all his electronica) a bit sad and tragic.
    • by GSloop ( 165220 )
      NOTE - Boeing has done studies about cell phone use in airplanes...

      The result?

      Cellphones have no chance of actually causing RF interference in the operation of the plane.

      BUT It's not likely that they'll change the rules any time soon. (The cell network couldn't handle it - they claim...? and there's lots of profit in AirPhone...)

      • by Tackhead ( 54550 ) on Thursday March 14, 2002 @07:54PM (#3165552)
        > [Boeing studies indicate] Cellphones have no chance of actually causing RF interference in the operation of the plane.
        > BUT It's not likely that they'll change the rules any time soon. (The cell network couldn't handle it - they claim...? and there's lots of profit in AirPhone...)

        Actually, both statements are true.

        At 5 miles high and 500 knots, you would be jumping from cell to cell, and/or talking to many towers at once. The phones only worked on 9/11 because the planes were low to the ground.

        The AirPhone system involves phones hardwired to the back of the seat in front of you. There's no RF involved until the AirPhone system sends the signal via the plane's onboard antenna(s). This is worlds apart from having a bunch of individual cellphone transmitters trying to navigate cell tower within their transmission radius. Totally different system.

        As a matter of personal opinion, I don't believe that non-transmitting personal electronics (cameras, CD players, laptops, as opposed to cellphones) leak enough RF to interfere with avionics. But my opinion doesn't matter here - their operation is still prohibited by FAA regs during takeoff and landing. (And devices designed to transmit RF are no-nos during all phases of the flight, IMHO wisely so.)

        With that in mind, as much as I sympathize with Prof. Mann's abuse at the hands of morons, he should deactivate his cyborg-gear during takeoff/landing phases of the flight, and his wireless links for the entire duration of the flight. (Of course, he may very well have done so - on his way down, and as we all know by now, he never made it back.)

  • by AndyChrist ( 161262 ) <andy_christ@ya[ ].com ['hoo' in gap]> on Thursday March 14, 2002 @07:05PM (#3165240) Homepage
    Well, gee, Captain Picard handled it pretty well.
  • by www.sorehands.com ( 142825 ) on Thursday March 14, 2002 @07:06PM (#3165247) Homepage
    I'm sorry, you can't take your pacemaker on the plane with you. Please allow me to yank it out of your chest.

    I'm sorry, you have to check the battery pack to your artifical heart.

    I'm sorry your insulin infusion device must be checked.I'm sorry your breast implants must be removed before boarding.

    • As a diabetic on an insulin infusion device, I'm thankful I don't fly much. I haven't flown post 9/11/01 (not fear, just no need to), and I'm not looking forward to it. I have heard nothing good from diabetics at all about flying these days--even "pumpers" like me have to carry syringes and insuling just in case something breaks in the device, and apparently the insulin + syringe has been getting close scrutiny. The syringe which has a needle too short to deliver IV drugs. What am I gonna do, stab a flight attendant and say "she'll die of insulin shock in an hour!" when there's an entire drink tray full of sugary beverages?? Yep, that's a credible threat.

    • I actually located a page in the magazine provided by Southwest Airlines stating that pacemakers were not included in the list of electronic items that must be shut off during takeoff and landing (true story). Imagine what it was like before that stipulation:

      "Sorry Grandma, we're gonna hafta go lights out until ten thousand feet. I saw this in a movie once with Keifer Southerland once so it should work."

  • AFAIK Steve Mann has no cybernetic implants, nor was there any mention of implants in the linked NY times story.
  • Geez, reading the article, this guy sure looks like a terrorist. After all, I'm sure a lot of people try to blow up planes flying from the decadent Western sin city of St John's (or is it St John? I'm from Canada, and I can never remember that).

    I love the way the security guards seem to make a point out of stopping people who obviously ARE NOT threats. Remember the story about the Medal of Honor recipeient a few weeks ago? Why was he searched? How many other more credible threats stroll onto planes while the security guards are busy with Grampa and Grandma? Maybe the security guards "Atta" pay attention to who is walking by them, and not just pick every third person, eh?

  • Duh (Score:2, Funny)

    by Fizzlewhiff ( 256410 )
    Don't these airport security people watch TV? There are only but a few doctors in Starfleet who could successfully re-assimilate a Borg back into society yet these yahoos try to do it on their own, and without the aid of at least an EMH Mark I.
  • The article (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 14, 2002 @07:11PM (#3165277)
    At Airport Gate, a Cyborg Unplugged By LISA GUERNSEY

    Steve Mann SEEKING COMPENSATION - Prof. Steve Mann, a walking experiment in wearable computers, went through a three-day ordeal trying to board an Air Canada plane bound for Toronto.

    TEVE MANN, an engineering professor at the University of Toronto, has lived as a cyborg for more than 20 years, wearing a web of wires, computers and electronic sensors that are designed to augment his memory, enhance his vision and keep tabs on his vital signs. Although his wearable computer system sometimes elicited stares, he never encountered any problems going through the security gates at airports.

    Last month that changed. Before boarding a Toronto-bound plane at St. John's International Airport in Newfoundland, Dr. Mann says, he went through a three-day ordeal in which he was ultimately strip- searched and injured by security personnel. During the incident, he said, $56,800 worth of his $500,000 equipment was lost or damaged beyond repair, including the eyeglasses that serve as his display screen.

    His lawyer in Toronto, Gary Neinstein, sent letters two weeks ago to Air Canada (news/quote), the airport and the Canadian transportation authority arguing that they acted negligently and seeking reimbursement for the damaged equipment so that Dr. Mann could put his wearable computer back together again.

    The difficulties that Dr. Mann faced seem related to the tightening of security in airports since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. But he had flown from Toronto to St. John's two days earlier without a hitch.

    On that day, Feb. 16, he said, he followed the routine he has used on previous flights. He told the security guards in Toronto that he had already notified the airline about his equipment. He showed them documentation, some of it signed by his doctor, that described the wires and glasses, which he wears every waking minute as part of his internationally renowned research on wearable computers.

    He also asked for permission not to put his computer through the X-ray machine because the device is more sensitive than a laptop. He said that the guards examined his equipment and allowed him to board the flight.

    But when he tried to board his return flight on Feb. 18, his experience was entirely different. This time, he said, he was told to turn his computer on and off and put it on the X-ray machine. He took his case to Neil Campbell, Air Canada's customer service manager at the St. John's airport, and spent the next two days arranging conversations between his university colleagues and the airline.

    The security guards continued to require that he turn his machine on and off and put it through the X-ray machine while also tugging on his wires and electrodes, he said. Still not satisfied, the guards took him to a private room for a strip-search in which, he said, the electrodes were torn from his skin, causing bleeding, and several pieces of equipment were strewn about the room.

    Once his system was turned off, turned on again, X-rayed and dismantled, Dr. Mann passed the security check. When he was finally allowed to go home, some pieces of equipment were not returned to him, he said, and his glasses were put in the plane's baggage compartment although he warned that cold temperatures there could ruin them.

    Without a fully functional system, he said, he found it difficult to navigate normally. He said he fell at least twice in the airport, once passing out after hitting his head on what he described as a pile of fire extinguishers in his way. He boarded the plane in a wheelchair.

    "I felt dizzy and disoriented and went downhill from there," he said.

    Air Canada said that there was no record that any of Dr. Mann's baggage had been lost and that the Canadian transportation agency, Transport Canada, had required that his belongings be X-rayed. "We don't tell the security firms that there is going to be an exception made," said Nicole Couture-Simard, a spokeswoman for Air Canada. "We don't have that authority."

    Transport Canada declined to comment on the case except to say that it was reviewing it.

    Considering that even tweezers may be confiscated when a passenger boards a flight these days, the stricter scrutiny that Dr. Mann faced may not seem surprising. But for him, the experience raises the question of how a traveler will fare once wearable computing devices are such fixtures on the body that a person will not be able to part with them.

    "We have to make sure we don't go into a police state where travel becomes impossible for certain individuals," Dr. Mann said.

    Since losing the use of his vision system and computer memory several weeks ago, he said, he cannot concentrate and is behaving differently. He is now undergoing tests to determine whether his brain has been affected by the sudden detachment from the technology.

    Alejandro R. Jahad, director of the University of Toronto's Program in E-Health Innovation, who has worked closely with Dr. Mann, said that scientists now had an opportunity to see what happens when a cyborg is unplugged. "I find this a very fascinating case," he said

    • Off the top of my head, here are some items that he had, which probably were stripped from him:

      Augmented vision (camera & hud glasses)

      Handheld chording keyboard

      Any mic/headphone setup

      Wireless/cellular hookup

      Without his input/output devices, he would have lost access to his memory enhancement programs (smart conversation tags to lookup keywords, replay stored audio, etc.), vision enhancement programs (recording, environment reconstruction, text overlay), and probably all of his sending/receiving capability.

      I pray that he backed up his rig before he flew. All the data he accumulated/uploaded while in Newfoundland is probably toast. (Why the hell was he in Newfoundland anyways? Was he speaking or just visiting?)

      In one fell swoop they cut him off from his augmented memory and processing, and then threw his visual system for a loop, hence the need for a wheelchair. Oh, and of course, they trashed some very expensive, hard to replace, custom equipment. Not nice. I'd hate to think what might have happened if Mann had needed vital implants (heartrate regulator, insulin, etc.) that would have summarily been stripped along with the rest of his hardware.

      • by Christopher Thomas ( 11717 ) on Thursday March 14, 2002 @08:00PM (#3165579)
        In one fell swoop they cut him off from his augmented memory and processing, and then threw his visual system for a loop, hence the need for a wheelchair.

        I'm a graduate student at the University of Toronto, and interact with Prof. Mann on an intermittent basis (did a project under him a few years back, meet him in the lab whenever I'm borrowing his soldering equipment).

        He can see fine without his HUD. It's not a complete visual transformation overlay - it's a wearable computer display, functionally equivalent to most of the other wearable displays you can buy. He's been working on information-overlay projects for years, many of them successful, but to say that he has "vital" vision-enhancement programs running at all times is a drastic overstatement.

        Likewise, "augmented memory" consists of him either teleconferencing with someone or doing a Google lookup. He's perfectly capable of finding his way through this university, or an airport, without augmentation.

        Use common sense, people. If he was disoriented, I'd suspect it to be the result of a many-hour delay with inadequate food/water or of an overly-zealous search as opposed to loss of any electronics.
        • by kemster ( 532022 ) <kem327&msn,com> on Thursday March 14, 2002 @11:38PM (#3166497) Homepage
          Actually you might be a little wrong there bucko. Years and years ago, when the earth was new, I was an undergrad at MIT and then-Media-Lab-graduate-student Mann spoke in a class I was taking. At the time, I believe he was trying to recruit people to do heavy-duty 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.
    • by rbeattie ( 43187 ) <russ@russellbeattie.com> on Thursday March 14, 2002 @08:05PM (#3165604) Homepage

      Does this guy EVER take a SHOWER?!?!?!

    • "We don't tell the security firms that there is going to be an exception made," said Nicole Couture-Simard, a spokeswoman for Air Canada. "We don't have that authority."
      It looks like it's time for them to to hire another security company. The tendancy to subcontract, then point the blame at the subcontractor only works in the playground - in the real world the person that gives the orders has to wear the blame. In this case we don't have a clue which security company it was, but the airline's name is mud.
  • That poor bastard (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ColGraff ( 454761 ) <`moc.gnirpsdnim' `ta' `1noram'> on Thursday March 14, 2002 @07:17PM (#3165315) Homepage Journal
    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? How could the security dudes not realize what an incredib;e achievement Mann's gear is? I repeat: that poor bastard.
  • What about Kevin Warwick? I imagine he'll never be flying again, either.
  • by funkapus ( 80229 ) on Thursday March 14, 2002 @07:23PM (#3165346) Homepage
    I think the breathless police-state tone of this story is going a wee bit overboard.

    From reading the New York Times article, it doesn't sound like Mann had any "implants" "forcibly removed". It sounds like they tore electrodes off his body. In other words, they pulled tape off his skin, and it caused bleeding. Unpleasant, sure, but it's not like they strapped him down and used a drill to extract chips from his brain. More like they pulled off a Band-Aid too fast.

    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 extinguishers. I don't even know where to start with that one.

    Now, clearly what happened sucks, because $56,000 of gear was lost or damaged. Clearly he should be repaid, and probably security was rude to him. But I don't think it's all that shocking, given that here's a guy, covered in wires and batteries, getting on a plane post 9/11.

    In my opinion, the truly interesting part of this article is that once his technological aids were removed, this guy ceased to be able to complete basic tasks like walking. This has significant ramifications for wearable computing. Is it augmented reality? Or is it a crutch without which he can't function?
    • But I don't think it's all that shocking, given that here's a guy, covered in wires and batteries, getting on a plane post 9/11.

      The world post-9/11 is no different from the world pre-9/11, except perhaps for the fact that people are willing to accept any old damn thing in the name of security. After all, The World Is Dangerous, And We Might Die!!!

      I guess the Terrorist trump card just got its value doubled. I find it laughable that this game has to be played at all.
      • Re:Big-o Deal-o. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by funkapus ( 80229 ) on Thursday March 14, 2002 @08:10PM (#3165639) Homepage
        "Any old damn thing in the name of security"?

        Let's think about this hypothetically. You're a security guard. Your job is to ensure that planes don't blow up. Six months ago thousands of people died because security failed, so there's pressure on you to be extremely careful.

        So this guy shows up at your post and the metal detector goes off. The guy says he can explain, and pulls up his shirt to reveal wires all over his undershirt leading into a couple of boxes, also concealed underneath his clothing. He then helpfully informs you that he's a cyborg, and that he has a letter from his doctor.

        Personally, if I was in this situation, I'd have two concerns. First, this guy's telling me he's a cyborg, which frankly gives me doubts about his mental stability. Second, he's got wires and batteries and all kinds of crap concealed under his clothing. Sure, he's telling me that it's a computer, but it looks like a bomb to me. The boxes are screwed shut, so I can't see what's inside them, and he won't let me run it through the X-ray. These are also custom boxes that look like no computer I've ever seen.

        Now, how're you going to determine the truth of the matter? I seriously doubt a security guard is keeping up on the state of wearable computing, so you're not going to recognize Steve Mann. Mann's got a note from his doctor and other documentation about this equipment, but you have no reason to think that these documents are credible. Maybe you call your boss to see if he knows anything about this, and more likely than not your boss hasn't been informed, because the message has been lost in the corporate fog. Or maybe he has been informed, but he's in the bathroom and you can't get him on the phone.

        So you're standing there at the checkpoint, with a man in front of you whom you have many reasons to believe might be wearing a bomb, and you have only his word that it's a computer.

        I don't think anyone in this situation would just let him hop on the plane. Maybe you disagree, and that's fine. But in that case I sure hope you aren't working in airport security.
        • Re:Big-o Deal-o. (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Above ( 100351 ) on Thursday March 14, 2002 @10:35PM (#3166276)

          You're right, but only half right. I wouldn't
          expect him to be able to just walk through security, for exactly the reasons you describe.
          The $10 an hour guy can't make that decision.
          The problem his the report clearly states he
          spent two days escalating to many
          non-$10 an hour people who at some point should
          have been able to verify his story, and figure out
          a way to get him on the plane.

          Let's also be real here, what terrorist is
          going to spend two days escalting up the food
          chain to hijack a plane.

          The thing that concerns me the most here is
          the lack of consistency. Anyone who travels has
          seen this for years, both pre and post 9/11.
          He had no major issues in one airport, and major
          problems in another. If we're going to have
          security, there should at least be an expectation
          that if you were able to fly somewhere you can
          return in the same state, and that's far from
          the case.

        • by Bodrius ( 191265 ) on Friday March 15, 2002 @12:29AM (#3166631) Homepage
          The solution really seems quite simple, and it's definitely not the one they chose:

          Don't allow him to board the plane yet, get him to stay for some days until management can confirm his documentation (call the universities, for example), then personally oversee his boarding the plane a couple of days later, after a reasonable, non-intrusive search.

          Don't they have to do something like this when someone with special needs of medical attention/equipment needs to travel anyway?

          If the guy happens to be famous enough to appear on the media, you might want to pay for the hotel and new airplane ticket just like when the airlines resell your ticket. But that's strictly a PR move.

          Most likely, he takes charge of the extra expense on his trip, security takes charge of the extra expense of making a couple of phone calls and personally overseeing him for 20 minutes when he finally boards the plane.

          No strip search, no destroyed equipment, little wasted time for other passengers and most likely no lawsuits.
    • by Tackhead ( 54550 ) on Thursday March 14, 2002 @08:05PM (#3165603)
      > 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 extinguishers. I don't even know where to start with that one.

      I do - if you've followed his research, you'd know that his glasses continually project data streams onto his eyes.

      (example - he walks up to a price display at a store twiddles with his fingers, and sees, projected into his vision, the price of the same object at the competing store.)

      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 on foot.

      (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.)

      > In my opinion, the truly interesting part of this article is that once his technological aids were removed, this guy ceased to be able to complete basic tasks like walking. This has significant ramifications for wearable computing. Is it augmented reality? Or is it a crutch without which he can't function?

      "Yes and yes."

      And that's precisely the kind of stuff he's researching.

      (Once my snowshoes were removed, I ceased to be able to walk in 4-foot-deep snow. Are my snowshoes a mobility-augmentor or a crutch?)

    • Nevermind. They closed the loophole.

      Damn slash code wouldn't let me post this without changing something, so how's this for a change: Slashdot is starting to really suck.


    Why didn't he just take a boat back or something? Did they not allow him to simply leave?
  • by JPriest ( 547211 ) on Thursday March 14, 2002 @07:30PM (#3165398) Homepage
    computers and electronic sensors that are designed to augment his memory, enhance his vision and keep tabs on his vital signs.

    Since losing the use of his vision system and computer memory several weeks ago, he said, he cannot concentrate and is behaving differently.

    "they" have seem similar occurrences in individuals that often use PDA to jot down things in that some individuals tend become dependant on the technology. I am sure this case is making for an interesting study, but I am more curious on learning more about some of the devices he has wired himself into and how he uses them. So far this is probably the best link [cbc.ca] I have found detailing the technologies he is using.

  • STEVE MANN, an engineering professor at the University of Toronto, has lived as a cyborg for more than 20 years, wearing a web of wires, computers and electronic sensors that are designed to augment his memory, enhance his vision and keep tabs on his vital signs.

    Jeez, I wonder what his wife thinks of all this?

    Oh, wait... :)
    • Jeez, I wonder what his wife thinks of all this?
      Steve Mann is married, and the answer to your question is in this interview [eyetap.org] (well, his version of it :-) )
      Mann met Betty in 1984. At the time, his then-crude wearable system required him to "metallicize" his hair with a special silvery paint so it would conduct electricity. He admits his circle of friends at that time had gotten a little small, with many people put off by his technological persona.

      "When I first met the person who was later to become my wife, I had already committed myself to being a cyborg, having modified myself into that way of existence," Mann recalls. "But she accepted me for what I was at a time when I was probably the only one on the planet living this kind of life."

      There is hope for us all ... :-)

      Sig: What Happened To The Censorware Project (censorware.org) [sethf.com]

  • "I've got a web server on my body. The I.P. address of my body is"

    And the link [slashdot.org], it seems as though my traceroute dies somewhere in Newfoundland.

  • by StormyMonday ( 163372 ) on Thursday March 14, 2002 @07:44PM (#3165483) Homepage
    It's about control.

    It's both control of the passengers (You *will* drop your trousers and paint your arse green!) and control of the drelbs who run the security checkpoints (follow *every* rule *exactly* or you're fired!) Security- related professions are magnets for rule-bound control freaks.

    Most of the stuff is ridiculous. "Turn the laptop on and off". Tweezers. Fingernail clippers. Very little about security and a whole lot about "I'm in charge and you're not!"

    Control freaks at play.
  • by dazedNconfuzed ( 154242 ) on Thursday March 14, 2002 @07:48PM (#3165509)
    Two years ago Steve Mann had a very similar run-in with AirCanada, they being very hostile towards him bringing his equipment on-board, and damaging some of his equipment in the process.

    His detailed description with photos is at Air Canada Irresponsibility [engwear.org].
  • by RyanFenton ( 230700 ) on Thursday March 14, 2002 @08:06PM (#3165614)

    What if a person required such tools in order to move, breathe, or even think? Would this not be the equivalent to destroying an experimental respirator which has already been O.K.'ed by a doctor?

    Don't get me wrong, NOT searching would leave the possibility for a person claiming to be sick to be used as a bomb - but to RIP electrodes from a person's skin is reactionary, cruel, if not downright monsterous.

    They could have just denied him access to the plane instead.

    Ryan Fenton
  • Mann is a jackass (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jon_c ( 100593 ) on Thursday March 14, 2002 @08:11PM (#3165650) Homepage
    I just saw a 90 minute film on Steve Mann called Cyberman at SXSW in Austin, basically he has for about 20 years now hooked up a camera and video screen to his glasses. I believe his setup can now zoom, playback and bring up a crude command line prompt, he also has a single hand keyboard for input, and yes he walks around with this all the time. He also has renegade antennas setup around his city to stream video from his head to the web.

    However a few times they showed him going into retailers like walmart and gap with a consumer video camera (just to start shit). When an employee asks him to not bring the video camera in, he starts being a little smart ass about it. like "Well don't you have video cameras in here, why can you video tape me and I can't video tape you", "What if I told you that my glasses we're a video camera, would that be ok?". generally not agreeing with the store and making a jackass out of himself.

    I also saw him take off his glasses constantly, he would slip them off to do something, then put them back to walk around (then look around like a space cadet ), but it did not seem that he was in any way disoriented without his gear. So I don't buy that all of a sudden once his stuff was busted up by the security guards (which we're just trying to do there freakin job) that he started bumping into things, or at least not more then normally.

    I think what happened at the airport is that for "I'm cyberman" reasons he opted to keep his gear on, got shit from the security guards, proceeded to be a complete smartass while thinking, "if they fuck with me, I have it all on film", but when they broke his gear and is alibi that's when he really god pissed. I'm sure he was already expecting shit, but maybe hoping he could have covert footage of it to show the 8 o-clock news as well.

    • Agreed. Mann may well be a jackass.

      So, is there something in the Canadian constitution against that?

      Article XVII, subsection C, Clause 256 -
      Any person deemed to be a jackass, as defined by Slashdot shall be subjected to physical harm and have any mobile computing devices damaged by persons of low intelligence, authority and wages.

  • Cyberman (Score:3, Informative)

    by VoiceOfRaisin ( 554019 ) on Thursday March 14, 2002 @08:13PM (#3165660)
    a couple of days ago i watched the nature of things [cbc.ca] special on Steve Mann. they have a website [www.cbc.ca] about him with lots of pictures and information.
  • ... and I have a computers lecture right before Professor Mann's course (check it out at http://wearcam.org/ece1766.htm) in the same room.
    Hence I see Steve Mann, usually on a weekly basis.

    All you Slashdot'ers will be relieved to know that he is still using his wearable computer, his display glasses still work, etc.

    I personally have doubts about this article for three reasons:
    A) The issue has shown up in a NY times article, yet I haven't heard about it from any of my campus news sources OR the Toronto Star (www.thestar.ca)

    B) I've never seen Professor Mann wearing electrodes as mentioned in the article, and can see no reason as to why he would (his system is not biometric, to my knowledge he uses a sort of keypad as well as visual feedback of his eyes to interface with it)

    C) Even though Professor Mann wears his device most of the time, my computers professor (who I believe knows him personally) has seen Professor Mann remove his device without disability.

    I've emailed my computers professor to see if he knows any more about this story, I'll reply if I find out any more.

    Eamon McDermott
    ENGSCI 0T5
  • I'm not impressed (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ckedge ( 192996 ) on Thursday March 14, 2002 @09:50PM (#3166102) Journal
    Letters from doctors and airlines mean nothing. Their pieces of paper that are easily forged.

    No rational security guard or "manager" doing their jobs would have the knowledge or authority to make the kind of exceptions to security procedures that this guy expected.

    I am highly concerned he was let through Pearson security so easily. Ripped from his skin? Disoriented and couldn't walk straight? Half a million dollars of equipment? Whatever. Cyborg? If it is that bad, he should not have been flying, not without a Transport Canada ruling, like are needed for other highly exceptional circumstances.

    Give me a break. The "article" as well as the Slashdot lead in all sound *HIGHLY* one sided.

    I give this side of the story a credibility rating of 2 out of 10, and the possibility that Professor Steve Mann is a pompous jackass a 7 out of 10. That the people in St. Johns did their job as we've requested them to do? 8 out of 10, losing points for putting his video glasses in with the baggage and not keeping track of his possessions.

Exceptions prove the rule, and wreck the budget. -- Miller