Approaching social issues exploiting hormones- Sound Racer [science rant]

I was a firm supporter of the idea that we are surrounded by prosthetic items all around and anyway. I posted about this previously [here, here]. We are embedded in prosthetic artifacts that make up our culture - out technical, mechanical, communicative and also social values all hinge upon devices, contraptions, pieces and parts, items, objects and things. That was why it was so weird to see the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie not understand that there are no real watches or fake prosthetic hands, or to see Hans Op de Beeck believe that his wide usage of airplanes, internet, website and other technology was still human whereas wearing a prosthetic was not.

The question of what prosthetic to buy is thus a very valid question.

Because in terms of prosthetic add-ons, they all compete. They *all* compete.

Recent new prosthetic arms [Otto Bock Michelangelo hand, BeBionic and BeBionic v2 hand, new Vincent hand, iLimb and iLimb pulse] cost more than a car. Their prices and cost are so high (ranging between 35'000 to 110'000 CHF) that no self respecting insurance should cover these given you can't even deliver a decent hedge cutting or furniture moving with these. These prosthetic arms are basically useless (practically speaking) items that are created to be paraded around. For that, their questionable value contradicts their massive prices. If anything their value is probably social and in fact exactly this social value was realized and exploited by a youngster who managed to get his iLimb branded by Mercedes' F1-team. Cool for a 15 year old, but not too interesting for a 44 year old such as myself.

Other products in that price range compete with prosthetic arms now that we do agree they will end up as self funded adventures. And given that, we wonder what social problems we have, and what social problems we want to solve. And given *that*, we wonder what cultural and technological prostheses might be at least as worthwhile getting than a prosthetic "bionic" arm or such.

So what was it we were after?

Touch. Of course we want to touch. Touch people, touch objects. Touch as such appears to be difficult when wearing a prosthetic arm, and easier when using the naked stump. Or the stump covered by a sleeve or sock. Body powered arms solve that problem well, transmitting some touch, bump and positional feedback really nicely. But what are body powered arms worth, socially, and how do we know whether they are cool to wear? Maybe wait until I get around to reviewing that design study about prosthetic arms that I was allowed to review since a while now. Also, the issue is complicated by the fact that protection of a sensitive stump is worth a lot as well. I once participated in a study that used electrodes to feed prosthetic touch signal back to my disabled arm - with the slight complication that even tiny signal feedbacks would then roar up my phantom pains. To the point where I would pay if I would not have to wear a feedback containing arm. The last thing I want is amplified touch feedback. I want my stump out of harm's way, for sure. So wearing any prosthetic that encases the stump with a socket might actually solve that particular problem. Touch or no touch? That is the question. So given that the touch problem is almost impossible to pose, it is even more impossible to solve. Get a body powered arm and forget about it.

Attention. We want attention - maybe as the survivors that we seem to sometimes portray ourselves as. Or that other people may see ourselves as. Maybe we cannot look past being that. We seem to survive agonizing disability, daily, or so it appears. Given, that this is an obvious role it is all to easy to take it on, one may have to actively reject such a notion if one finds it all too ridiculous. Of course, missing a limb is not anything near real survival for many of us and we are not at any immediate risk - but if there is any historically established and well implemented disability that can be safely shown as monstrosity, as object of disgust and voyeuristic attraction, then it certainly is an amputated limb. Really, however, I find that limb loss is a fact nothing that required me to mobilize survival skills at any time so far. At the same time, it is a lot more boring, more cumbersome, physically challenging, particularly on a longer time scale, and it is socially disabling in a frustrating sense. It sucks, one might actually resignate. The solution is not aggravation of its meaning though. In a sense we cannot escape attention even if we want to. Then, communication becomes key.

Communication. I find that communicative aspects become so much more complicated and confusing once a visible disability continuously distorts the everyday force field that surrounds our encounters. As a key mediator in averbal communication, the way the disability looks is highly relevant. However, communication is a very wide field - and maybe money is better invested in a language or craft hobby course than in a new prosthetic arm. Or in a smart phone.

Competent. Sure we want to be seen as competent - but once that starts and you are in fact seen as competent then you have to work as a competent person, live up to the expectation and that can be quite difficult. After all an amputation does slow you down and working up to average speed can be an extremely sweaty experience. It thus helps to avoid looking too competent if full work loads make you nervous. You may want to maintain a subdued apperance. Also, coming across as competent may have different aspects. Maybe for that you don't need the latest prosthetic arm - but a hair cut. So, evaluate cautiously.

Gadgets. While all of the above paints a rather mixed image we do need and love our new gadgets. We cannot live without them or so it seems - and that makes us vulnerable to gadget sellers.

So all in all, technically a bit crappy and hugely expensive high-tech myo hands that go wah-wah, still look awkward, stiff and disabled as shown very well by Bertolt Meyer [link] - but believe it or not, they solve all of the above problems - wearing such parts, we may provide others with a sense of our competency but only the air of it, a notion of it, not the weigh-lifting and item-pinching reality of true manual competency. So we manage to stay out of harm's way with these gadgets. We might get a lot of attention with such ""bionic"" hands as they are all extremely loud and built as that, looking all geeky - so we know that attention getters are what we get. Not hands that make us really blend in and really function, that really hold up and lift, push, pinch or grab. And last but not the least, they prove that we are resourceful as snatching these latest gadgets makes us insurance or private money snatchers - both a good thing to advertise, apparently. But is that really what we want?

Maybe for time being and because we are bored. But ultimately, no, that is probably not what we want. On closer consideration, it is certainly not what we want.

Core values. We want to live our core values. Maybe all the disability stuff causes a blur, a shift of focus away from what is really important. But if you connect yourself with yourself, you will find that all of the above are non issues. Then you know what you need to do. That usually clears the table and you can see clear. If you still can't, stop evaluating prosthetic components and consult Eckhart Tolle.

Love. That is probably what we really and most urgently want, ultimately. And with love being based on hormones we may want to consider what runs these hormones. That is what we may want to really look for. Maybe love is a big word. So, start with trying to get respect. That's a big word for people with visible disabilities to go for. Enough to keep one busy for years, for sure.


And so reading through what makes us all tick, daily, I laughed long and I laughed hard when I saw this latest achievement in automotive social prosthetics: Sound Racer.

An insurance company, Hiscox, conducted a study about these sounds and there is a lot more to this as meets the eye. If you have a disability as a man, you suffer from women seeing you as not too male. Then you will have a clear interest in such developments and insights.

Luxury cars really do get pulses racing

London, UK (2 September 2008): New clinical research released today proves that the sound of a luxury car engine appeals to our primal instincts, surprisingly more so for women, even if they claim to have no interest in cars.

The study by luxury motor insurers Hiscox, found that the roar of a Maserati turned women’s heads the most.

Participants of the clinical study were exposed to a recording of various super-car engines being revved. They listened to the roaring engines of a Maserati, a Lamborghini and a Ferrari; and they were also exposed to a recording of a Volkswagen Polo, to ensure a fair comparison of arousal was measured with an every-day vehicle.

After 20 minutes their response was measured by the levels of the hormone, testosterone, secreted in their saliva.

The results showed:

  • The Maserati had the biggest impact on women with 100% of the female participants showing a significant increase in testosterone secretion
  • 100% of female participants showed a decrease in testosterone in reaction to the Polo
  • 50% of male participants showed an increase in testosterone in reaction to the Maserati
  • 60% of male participants showed an increase in testosterone in reaction to the Lamborghini

Despite nearly 60% of female participants admitting they were nowhere near as passionate about cars as their male counterparts, the women actually exceeded the men when it came to experiencing driving excitement, showing that their preferences were over-shadowed by their basic instincts.

David Moxon, the psychologist who conducted the study said: “We saw significant peaks in the amount of testosterone in the body, particularly in women. Testosterone is indicative of positive arousal in the human body so we can confidently conclude from the results out today that the roar of a luxury car engine actually does cause a primeval physiological response.”

Prior to the research taking place 63% of women and 66% of men admitted that their heads are turned when they hear a deep throaty roar in the road; proving primal instinct still rules the basic physiology of the human state of arousal in the 21st century.

Steve Langan, Managing Director of Hiscox UK commented: “We knew owners of luxury cars felt a connection with the sound of their vehicles, many of our customers turn the music down when they start their ignition. We have now scientifically proven the physical attraction people feel when it comes to cars. We are amazed by the results. Luxury cars do quite literally turn heads.”


David Moxon conducted the experiments on 40 participants, 20 men and 20 women. All were from professional backgrounds, aged between 22 and 61 years of age.

Each participant was exposed to a variety of car engine sound tracks for 30 seconds. The cars used were:

  • A Volkswagen Polo
  • A Lamborghini
  • A Maserati
  • A Ferrari

Their reactions were measured via salivary testosterone and a psychological questionnaire. (A testosterone measure was taken from each participant before the research began and then compared with the final sample taken once the research was complete.)

A loud noise is likely to have an arousing effect on a person’s physiology but this can be pleasant or unpleasant. By testing the saliva of participants clinical researchers were able to measure testosterone levels – a hormone which indicates arousal.

The data captured was then analysed accordingly.


So consider what prosthetic arms are: cultural artifacts. Do they do what you really want? Did you consider other cultural artifacts? Getting your house painted instead? Getting yourself a dog rather than a prosthetic arm? Starting a new hobby? Playing with Sound Racer? Do not let a narrow view stop you from widening your horizon. There is probably more inside the head than you think.

Cite this article:
Wolf Schweitzer: - Approaching social issues exploiting hormones- Sound Racer [science rant]; published 09/10/2011, 23:07; URL:

BibTeX: @MISC{schweitzer_wolf_1643205098, author = {Wolf Schweitzer}, title = {{ - Approaching social issues exploiting hormones- Sound Racer [science rant]}}, month = {October}, year = {2011}, url = {} }