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Linking Hardware To Wetware 195

Vikki_R. writes: "Wired has an article about grafting a microelectric circuit directly onto a human brain cell. Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin have been working on developing an interface between semiconductors and neurons. Imagine being able to give your computer a piece of your mind ..." Update: 11/25 22:54 GMT by T : Here's an earlier post linking to a different article on the same research.
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Linking Hardware To Wetware

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  • So... (Score:2, Funny)

    by dimator ( 71399 )
    When can I plug in to the Matrix?
    • Re:So... (Score:3, Funny)

      by captin nod ( 517564 )

      Yes, welcome to the real world.
      Imagine having your leg haxx0red by some l33t script kiddie.
      hahahaha uyore l3g has b33n haxx0red! (kick self in head)
  • Isn't Caltech the leader in this area?
  • What happens when you're stuck with a once-only 1.0 beta wetware implant and your friends are getting 8.0 upgradable bioware?
  • I could see this being used to control artificial limbs rather then control computers. It would be neat to have a brain w/o a body to give your computer "logic" and reason.
    • Then. Back then, we made $2.00 per hour.
      Than. I am cuter than you.

    • Another much more immediate application would be to use the interface to regain control of existing limbs that have had their nerve motor control damaged or severed, such as the case is with paraplegics.
    • > I could see this being used to control artificial limbs rather then control computers. It would be neat to have a brain w/o a body to give your computer "logic" and reason.

      And think of the possibilities for case modding!

      (Seriously - when my body wears out, I'd love to have my brain implanted in a robot. Rad-harden the thing, graft on some controls for an ion engine, throw some glucose-producing plants into a hollow dome, and fire me into space, baby! I'm gonna tour the Solar System even if it's the last thing I do!)

  • My friends have always said my memory I can finally get it upgraded! ;-)
  • Or a peice of my software to my mine ;-)
  • by Anonymous Coward

    There are a lot of benefits that can come from this type of technology. The first thing that comes to mind is restoring sight to those who have optic nerve or retinal damage, situations where the optical facilities of the brain are still functional. Hearing has been restored for people with what are called coclear (sp?) implants. I think if the blind could someday be made to see, it would be pretty awesome.

    On the other hand, I worry about things like the memory implant that was suggested in a recent poll. I don't doubt for a minute that people would jump at an opportunity to have some implant to make them smarter. Worse yet, these things would probably be offered by the scariest companies, one I don't feel I need to mention. Who knows what Sci-fi nightmares could come true.

    • Devices of this type already exist, just not on the scale described in this article. For example, it is already possible to get retinal implants. The quality is such that you can only see large letters and general motion, but it exists none the less : It is also already possible to implant electrodes into the brain of somone who has been paralysed, and have them control a mouse by thinking of moving their abscent body part.
  • Scary possibilities (Score:2, Interesting)

    by mgkimsal2 ( 200677 )
    I suspect by the time they have this issue sufficiently researched and tested, wireless connections will be pretty much commonplace over much of the world. Imagine being able to THINK of something and have relevant information directly IN your brain. No more going to the library (does anyone ever do that anymore? It's all I had growing up!), no more 'surfing the web' to find information. It'll all just be THERE - ready for mental ingestion without physically having to DO much work.

    I also think about how this will be abused - IM and 'wireless' ads are two that come to mind. Billboards and ads are annoying enough, but you can turn off the TV/Radio, or close your eyes, or look at something else. Imagine NEVER being able to get away from this stuff - mentally, I mean. It'd be pumped into your brain directly - those stupid human body filters like your eyes, feet, etc. won't be able to stop those ads from embedding themselves into your brain...

    I know, it's all farfetched, and I kind doubt I'll see widespread adoption of this in my lifetime. But for any possible UPSIDE of this, I see way too many downsides. :/
    • Isn't there an Outer Limits episode about this?

      If I recall the episode correctly, everyone in the world has implants and can get information instantaneously, except for this one man who has some sort of defect so he has to learn from books. He is pretty much an outcast, until the day the system crashes and no one knows anything on their own, so he becomes the leader.
      • Yeah, I remember that. There was either a bug in the system, or someone released some kind of virus. Because of that, everyone infected suddenly got really bad OCD and impulsively counted things. The one person who didn't have the implants was also the only literate person there, as no one else needed to read. ONce the network goes down (by having one person read a specific electrical pattern out of a book), he begins to teach everyone to read again.

    • you can turn off the TV/Radio, or close your eyes, or look at something else. Imagine NEVER being able to get away from this stuff - mentally, I mean

      Just press the tip of your nose. That's the "mute" button.

    • No joke. If I get a wireless head computer connection, I'm going to insist on the firewall of the gods before I go under the knife...
    • I wonder if the brain could be used as a data store like in the movie Johnny Mnemonic - i guess it could be used to store information in a lossy way, like images. I always wanted to have a big portable space when going to a friend to exchange data :)
      • I wonder if the brain could be used as a data store like in the movie Johnny Mnemonic

        Poor Johnny was a courier of information; he didn't actually have access to it. They put a hard drive in his head, sure, but the I/O didn't go to anything biological. The new USB keychain drives are just as good and don't need the brain surgery.
        • If I remember correctly, he had to let delete some of his data in brain (his childhood) to have more space (or to have free space at all?). There was no harddrive IMO. I guess that is rather biological. (And he could store 80 GB of raw data, with his compressor he could store 160 - and he was overloaded with a full 320 GB. :-)
    • Lotsa downsides, yes, most related to 'system' security. Lotsa upsides, though. Imagine what this would do for education. How much of what we all went through was "Memorize this for your test tomorrow". Wouldn't it be fantastic if we could dispense with nearly all of that and jump straight to understanding of concepts rather then spend years memorizing mostly useless facts?

      How about occupational specialization? The sum of human knowledge is getting so huge that nobody can be an expert in more than a few fields. Not least of all because nobody lives long enough to learn more than that. If we can add whole rooms to our memory and thinking capacity, what more could we accomplish?

      I'm trying to imagine what this could do to software design; rather than typing code and looking at it on a screen, we'd simply write it in our minds. It'd certainly be faster; combine it with instant recall of the entire program, no matter how large, and you've got a truly powerful programming tool. It'd make Emacs and VI look like punched cards.
    • No thats not it (Score:1, Redundant)

      by HanzoSan ( 251665 )

      The second we have a brain to computer interface.

      The problem will be, How will the government "Control" what people think? IF people have telepathy, forget about national security. IF people can just think something to someone else, or connect to a globle internet of thoughts well then

      Theres no way the government can easily say "You cannot think this, its illegal" But i'm sure they will try.
      • Re:No thats not it (Score:2, Informative)

        by lucius ( 189447 )
        Are you serious? You actually think that humans could possible build a machine that could decode thoughts realtime from brain impulses?

        At the moment it's a massively nontrivial task to tell if monkeys are looking at black or white. Do you think a computer (no matter how much people idolise the things) could tell the difference between two basic thoughts? For a start you'd have to interface to some massive fraction of the number of nerve cells, then you'd have to get all this data to a huge computer somewhere and have it analysed. And for what? The best way to find out what someone is thinking is to just ask them. There'll never be a computer that can read peoples' minds anywhere near as well as a good trial lawyer who's trained to study faces.
        • You actually think that humans could possible build a machine that could decode thoughts realtime from brain impulses?

          That statement, sir, fits into a long line of similar statements. From da Vinci saying that we will never travel to the moon to all too recent claims that cloning humans is impossible. I am not saying that it will occur in my lifetime or yours. Several things hover on that "ten years" away mark for a century, and then happen. The next day, nobody thinks that it's extraordinary. I have no idea how many interveing technologies will have to be developed, or even what a "machine" of that era will look like... or what will be considered a human mind. But to say that humans cannot achieve a thing has been consistantly contradicted by slow but punctuated technological progress.


        • Do you think a computer (no matter how much people idolise the things) could tell the difference between two basic thoughts? For a start you'd have to interface to some massive fraction of the number of nerve cells, then you'd have to get all this data to a huge computer somewhere and have it analysed. And for what? The best way to find out what someone is thinking is to just ask them. There'll never be a computer that can read peoples' minds anywhere near as well as a good trial lawyer who's trained to study faces.

          I appreciate your attempt to reign in wild speculators who think mind-reading is as easy as sticking a wire in the brain, but "never" is a long time. If Moore's Law continues and noninvasive scanning technologies continue to improve at the rate they have for the last century, then the technology for this might be available next century, or even this century. Or genetic engineering might have the capability to plant a large number of noninjurious artificial probes.

          What's much harder than the collection is the data analysis. We still don't really have much of a grasp on a scientific level of what consciousness is or what thoughts are. What's more, the data so far concerning machines that try to allow the handicapped to write via brain waves indicate that the brain's state is extremely variable from hour to hour, so that the same signal patterns don't recur even when the person is having what they think is the same thought. I have a feeling we will only begin to make substantial progress in consciousness research once we create the necessary data collection technologies, and even then it may be decades or more before the problem is solved to the extent that, say, the human genome is now.

          On the other hand, simple affectors and effectors are certainly a much easier problem than global mind-reading or the direct absorption of information. When the first generally useful neural interfaces become available, they'll probably function a lot like a modern head-mounted computer with speech recognition. There will be a virtual screen with translucent overlay of the visual field, a way to speak into the system while not speaking aloud, and some way to point on the screen. This is probably not more than two or three decades away. The question is what it will be good for, since the same technology in an external form through wired glasses, a miniature microphone, gesture recognition wristwatch or ring, and tiny personal computer will all be available without surgery or bioengineering. Privacy in public spaces is the only major advantage that comes to mind.

    • I also think about how this will be abused - IM and 'wireless' ads are two that come to mind.

      Think the phone companies will go for this? No way, unless they require you to send all your messages through their filter servers... then the FBI can carnivore your mind, and make sure that you don't commit any "thought-crimes", or maybe my fiancee will just kick me in the nuts everytime I walk past another beautiful woman.

    • Do you know how difficult it would be to have the computer programmed and interfaced in a manner complimentary to it being capable of understanding what the human brain is thinking? Sure, it could *send* stimuli, but I highly doubt it could provide any type of an "interactive" experience. We're not advanced enough for that (yet!) I think this stuff is possible, it just involves a massive amount of intelligence we don't yet have.

      Regarding it being moral, I see nothing immoral about it so long as our world doesn't become like an apocolyptic sci-fi novel. ;)
      • Which is why I said I don't think it'll happen in my lifetime. Even if I live a long time, I probably don't have more than 50-60 years left(!), so I think I was pretty conservative in my estimate.
        • Oh. Yeah. Wish I noticed that before I replied. I feel like a moron.

          The technology being discussed in this article is probably going to be doing usefull things a long time before 50-60 years from now, it just won't be accessing memory. It might be used in prosthetics or research comparatively quickly.

          I don't know if they're able to put these dots in living people (I doubt it) so the insanely promising concept for the near future would be research in biological computing, just like the article describes. Again, by near future I just mean less than 50 years :)

          Anyway. Interesting points.
    • bah. who's to say that when something is piped into your brain artificially, you will remember it any better than someone who piped it in the old fashioned way?

      the means do not necessarily change the end. you won't learn any faster, you'll just get headaches from buffer overflows. and God forbid your worst enemy knows you have this and decides to wave an electromagnet in your direction. just like overloading a wire makes it hot, overloading other circuitry creates lots of heat as well.

      I'll pass on this "upgrade".
    • Er... That will be a while longer. By the time they have this particular technology researched and tested, we might have wireless connectivity everywhere. But this technology isn't going to allow us to do what you're talking about. We're many decades (at least) from understanding the mechanics of how memory works. We're learning fast, but still mostly about the macro elements. It's going to be quite a while before we can trap a memory lookup like that :)

      Also, until we have personal massively parallel supercomputers for everyone, there's another totally impenetrable roadblock for this idea. The kind of processing required to implement a human-like memory system would be completely impossible on any mechanical device like current computers. Instead of 1 processor with 32 bit instructions, we have 1,000,000,000,000 processors with 1 bit instructions. Er... debatable how many instructions. Still.

      This technology will probably be useful for something in a relatively short period of time. Just not memory. Perhaps (rudimentary) vision or hearing for blind or deaf people.
  • The Propehets' words come true ;o)
  • What if we could install operating systems on our brains?

    This'll be a big area of expansion for Linux. Everyone will install it rather than Windows so that they don't crash their minds.
    • I don't think this will be like installing a RAM upgrade in your head. More like hooking the existing computer (your brain) up to another over some Cat5. If the new system crashes, you have to reboot it, but it won't affect the original. It would certainly suck when that happened, though. It be like a temporary lobotomy; it's over once the add-on reboots, but until then you're limited to your own grey matter.
    • I'm sorry, but between the Linux vm system fiasco and a few issues not that long ago I won't touch Linux 2.4 series with a 10 foot poll for my computer -- sure ain't shoving it into my head.

      I'm thinking OpenBSD for this one. Very few serious issues and half descent out of the box security.

      Grandma will run windows and will always wonder why shes broadcasting her recipes to all her friends on her Brainmail client.
  • ...that i am having a bad case of carnivore today!
  • If slashdot editors actually read slashdot:

    Nerve Cells Connected to Semi-Conductors []

    "I won't expect Wired editors ever to be that clueful."
    • do the slashdot editors really get PAID for their work?

      if so, who's the boss? someone who's afraid to reprimand his employees, obviously.


      • Geez!!! Give them a break! I bet most people don't read things on their own websites. Even when you do, it's much easier to spot things on other people's sites than it is on your own one.
        If you really wanna complain about something, go compain about people using "then" instead of "than" and other (more important) things like that. If you want to post a link to an earlier article, feel free to do that too.
    • Gimme a break. /.'s Groupthink is really annoying. I really DO wish the editors payed a ttention to stuff that's been posted before.

    • Tomorrow's Slashdot headlines today!

      1. New Microsoft worm
        Posted by CmdrTaco [.] on Mon 26 Nov 11:26 AM
        from the neener-neener dept.

        FrickinIdiot [mailto] writes: Slashdot [.] is reporting on a new Microsoft worm (big surprise). A new unnamed worm has been released and, once again, Microsoft software is the target. More specifically, this new worm targets Microsoft SQL servers [.] with no administrator passwords set. Once the server is infected, it logs onto Internet Relay Chat (IRC) servers and is ready to receive commands and act accordingly. What I thnk is anyone still using Microsoft software desrves what they get.

        ( Read More... [.] 70 of 269 comments )

      Yes, folks, this is an actual Slashdot headline from tomorrow! Note the clues: Lack of respect for users of Microsoft software, direct cut-n-paste from the submitted article without attribution, small typos in the editorial comments and of course a total lack of knowledge about what was posted the day before on the front page.

  • If I am not mistaken, they have already taken the brain of a sea lamprey and connected it to a motor on wheels (and it actually moved around on it's own, until the brain die), so this is sorta old news then, huh?

    The full arcticle is here []
  • hmm, I wonder what govmt agencies will blame problems and delays on when we get neurolinks, "Oh I'm sorry, your application got lost because a secretary's head crashed yesterday"
  • I am not sure but I believe another story about this was recently posted here. In any case it is very interesting and deserving of coverage.

    A collegue of mine here at the University of Tokyo has mention that similar work has been done in his lab. It seems clear to me that the next major breakthrough in computing will be the elimination of the unwieldy and awkward keyboard.

    It has been discussed what the next major User Interface metaphor will be; That is, what will replace the familiar desktop? I believe that the Desktop will remain with us until the end of manuel input devices. I do not believe we will ever see an efficient three dimensional user interfact metaphor until we have more efficient ways of interfacing with our machines, be it with our eyes or through or neurons or whatever sort of technology might be on the horizon.

    At least, that is my view on the matter. I would welcome hearing from you if you disagree. Thank you.

    R. Suzuka
  • Imagine teaching you brain stuff directly into neurons .. you simply know it. The Matrix all over =) ..

    dd if=/tmp/Alan_Cox_kernel_hacking.img of=/dev/brain
  • 31337 will own windows users LITTERALLY!

    Brings a whole new meaning to the term 'zombie'.

    I tell for sure if the chick down the street is dating someone!

    Two words: Test CRAMMING.

    Be affraid to even so much as LOOK at a McAffee retail box.

    Norton Ghost sales to public schools would ski rocket.

    Imagine a realy bewolfe cluster of Natalie Portman Cruisers (see above).

    A million reasons to fear the local BOFH.

    people will run benchmarks against each other.

    Quake lan parties will require that you check firearms at the door, lest you forget which world you're in.

  • It's exactly because of computers that I've been steadily losing my mind...

    I don't think giving it another piece would help this any.... :D

  • isn't it frightening that the things gibson wrote about that you stuck in these things were called microsofts?

    dear god=>

  • It really seems to have no real purpose
    I know brain to computer interface sounds good, meaning you can think and the computer translates thoughts into action.

    However, direct physical interface is not the way.

    Perhaps a patch which goes onto your skin is ok, but directly to your brain cells? Why make yuor braincells attach to a CPU?
    • Ever want a harddrive hooked up to your brain? That whole memorization thing becomes irrelevant. First, of course, you need an interface.
      • Why? (Score:1, Redundant)

        by HanzoSan ( 251665 )

        Its stupid though, The brain has infinite space, unless you have some sorta disease where you lose your memory you dont need a harddrive.

        Theres no computer which even comes close to matching the human brain at all except for perhaps math and logic.

        And as far as brain to computer interface goes, hooking directly up to braincells is just not the right way to do it, I dont think its practical.

    • Invasive (ie where you have to cut tissue open) interfaces are bad because it is basically an open wound that is open to infection; also, any foreign materials (wires etc.) inside the body will be attacked by the normal defence mechanisms.
      This has been countered somewhat by materials with low bioreactivity (I don't know too much about that) but still there is the problem of the open wound.
      One option would be to have the interface under the skin and the information transmitted via a coil (like the bionic ear, pioneered by those cool aussies at cochlear []).
      Another option is to induce a current directly in nerves without placing anything inside the body at all; I *think* its called functional electrostimulation []. Its the kind of thing that is useful for paraplegics of all sorts, and centres around regaining the use of existing limbs that have had their nerve control damaged or broken in some way.
    • Seems like Mods here are abusing their power again
  • wow... soon we'll get advertisments transmitted directly in our brain...
  • Hacking? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Trevelyan ( 535381 )
    Just think if we has the same level (or more) interface with a computer has they do with each other, imagine how easy it would be to hack boxes.

    the slow part of hacking system would be your interface to it, and bottle necks in there (eg keyboard) i never tried my self, but imagine a good original hack requires a lot of prep work, eg writing tools, poking into your tcp/ip and stuff.
    and during the actual hack you dont have time to make quick changes, probably need to abort write your tools some more and start again.
    where as with this you could hack stuff like, with the full utility of your human ingenuity, instinks , imagination etc

    not only that, as well as hacking other machines we could try hack into each other, with the strong of mind or skill winning.
    just imagine what future version of script kiddies would do with their parents, if they didn't like being sent to bed w/o supper.

    did any one see that 'Outer Limits' episode where every one bar a few with brain disorders. had a live net connection to their brains, and they all got a virus. It was upto the few w/o the link to try save the others from crainial overload.

  • by Waffle Iron ( 339739 ) on Sunday November 25, 2001 @07:12PM (#2611308)
    It looks like Sun will have to ammend those disclaimers in the Java license:

    This software may not be used to control aircraft, nuclear power plants, or anybody's mind.

    • That's scary. Java is being used as the development platform for DD-21 []. Not only will it be controlling aircraft, it will also be control all sorts of stuff that are directly related to national security. I guess the DoD forgot to read the click through license ;-)
  • Whelp, I guess now we get to see how many people really meant that C++++ in their geek code.
  • So, how long will it be until I can pop those spare 128MB SIMMs into my head, and finaly rember where the !@$ I left my keys? But seriously, This could lead to some really cool research, especialy in prostetics. Imagine, with the tech we have now, it would not only look like your other arm, but you yourself wouldnt know the diffrence. You could control it just like your old arm. Quite cool, if you ask me. Then, for could probly make telapathy devices...As in, I see what you see, and stuff. Or with 802.11b cards in the back of our heads...we could be the borg. The posibilities of this are endless
  • An ingestable swarm of nanobots that can take position within our brains, interfaceing directly neuron by neuron before computer generated thoughts become part of our consciousness.

    When the time comes, will you "cross over"?

    (read Kurzweil Age of Spiritual machines)
  • although I still believe it's a long way off, being able to interact at the protein, and possibly even bio-electric level with opens up some great doors for being able combat a wide variety of cellular problems. Think directly shutting down cancer cells, or changing telomerase lengths to increase lifespan. Maybe even finding a way of increasing the speed of biochemical reactions and electrical signaling in the mind (overclock your brain on the next Geraldo)... but seriously:

    IMO there are still some major hurdles to be lept in the development, e.g. Finding a stable power supply for these semiconductors so they can operate for any period of time. Sure, we can just say, let us leech some bioelectricity from surrounding tissue, or maybe convert sugar like muscles, but there's the actuality of doing it, versus the simplicity of saying it.

    Plus, if we need widespread modification of a large body of tissue, and we plan on doing it with an injection of a foreign body in the bloodstream or otherwise, you've still got to contend with the body's own immune system, and possible toxic reactions from breakdowns of semiconductors and their binding materials.

    So fear not, your brain probably won't suffer from a cataclysmic BSOD or fsck from hell for a few years yet.

    So, besides my "what ifs" above, I think this is a good thing.
  • If computers could be given neurons, then it would be possible to make them feel PAIN!
  • In related news, the FBI is planning to release project Brain Drain, following in the footsteps of project Midnight Lantern.
  • Next thing you know, we'll end up with a world like in Johnny Mnemonic or something... 80 gigs, right in the head. Of course, by the time people have computers in their brains, storage capacities will be much higher than that.

    And then you'll get things like people getting a new sort of amnesia where the computer malfunctioned and erased data inside the person's head... or if there's built-in networking, crackers will get directly into people's brains and put memories there that never took place, or they'll record your thoughts for their personal use.

    Will you need a firewall inside your brain? How about virus protection software? A computer inside your head, especially one with network connectivity, will give new meaning to the term "virus" as it applies to humans.

    Maybe the government wants to install computers in every person's head for thought policing, er, convenience reasons. Then, cool hacks will appear on the net allowing you to shield your thoughts from the government, while making artificial legitimate thoughts appear on the networking interface for the government to see. Then, the government will pass all sorts of anti-terrorism laws against modifying the computer in your brain. And they'll come up with monitoring software capable of determining if you have modified the software in your brain's computer.

    Of course, there will be failures of some sort or another, and people will become delusional or they'll simply lose control of themselves because of an illegal instruction fault (while upgrading their firmware, er, brainware) and start flopping around or something. This brings new meaning to debugging.

    In short, whatever possibilities a computer inside your brain makes possible, it's nothing when compared to the disadvantages. OH WELL.

    • You're ascribing flaws to a technology that doesn't yet exist. Presumably, if or when brain implants become feasible, they will only become widespread if problems like security, crashes, etc, are 99.99% eliminated. Otherwise they will be used only by handicapped people. Kind of like today's laser eye surgery. If it's as problem-riddled as you speculate, it simply won't be used, so there's nothing to worry about.

      As for government abuse, I could make the same argument about traditional computers: the government can build huge databases of personal info, spy on us with Carnivore, etc. This is a social problem, not a technological one. Computers can be used to restrict freedom but they can also greatly increase it, as when oppressed people use it to get information from the free world. I imagine the same will be true of a brain implant technology.

      I think that in general, development of potentially beneficial technologies shouldn't be stopped because of possible social consequences down the line. After all, then the telephone came out, there were worries that it would turn everyone into loners.

  • This would be a dream come true - no more headaches from monitor refresh.. no more raster burn.. no more RST.. DWIM...

    But I can also think of one major problem with this: Bugs in the code which translates binary commands into neural impulses.

    Death: The ultimate denial of service attack.

  • ... you accidently type "rm -rf /" while having your brain mounted.

    now THAT would be bad luck :)

  • 'Nie has his own list of applications for such bioelectronic devices, such as tissue engineering and sound and light censors, which "either enhance the body's function or act as a probe that lets you observe the body's function," he said.'

    Sound and light "censors" argh! That's audio and video conquered in one fell swoop. Soon it'll be pay-per-view just to drive to work...
  • "Activation code."

    if (!code){ you don't come out of suspend in the morning; }
  • The article mentioned censors. Perhaps this is just a typo of "sensors" (I hope so), but if they ever manage to hook up a little computer that won't let me hear "bad" words (I still don't see how they are bad...), I will be very angry.
    • haha.. Parents will turn that on. All the kids in school will go around say BEEP this and BEEP that -- using actual beeps just like their parents do.

      Of course, that just means the word BEEP will become the new bad word a few decades from then. We can eliminate the entire language one word at a time this way...
  • seeing as the Central Nervous System is miles of neruons...usually a boost is needed to power most circuits.

    Where would you put the plug?

    Uh...forget I asked.
  • Similar stuff.... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by aiken_d ( 127097 ) <brooks@tang[ ] ['ent' in gap]> on Sunday November 25, 2001 @08:16PM (#2611469) Homepage

    ...Michael Colicos, the guy over at [], has been working on something similar in his day job; in fact, his work will be on the cover of the Novebmer 30 issue of Cell (probably the most pristigous biology journal).

    Colicos also has a series of "virtual intelligence" programs and screensavers (win32 only, unfortunately) that do some interesting stuff.


  • ... they remember to mount a scratch monkey [].
  • by div_2n ( 525075 )
    One of the goals of pushing the technological envelope is to remove and overcome bottlenecks to any process. We have seen bottlenecks overcome in the past. One example is punch cards. Having to point and click or type is just another bottleneck that will eventually be alleviated.

    The merging of humans and computers has been a process long in the making. Computers operate in binary and humans operate in a complex visual world. The original computers had to be operated bit by bit. Eventually command-line made it to the scene. Then GUI's made an appearance. Then VR was realized. There aren't too many steps left to place interaction directly to the brain level.

    I only have one major fear about it. The brain has thus far been a closed system. We don't really know how vulnerable it is. It might sound crazy, but I don't think it entirely impossible that we will find that a brain is easily controlled or exploited once a link is established.

    Of course, that is my opinion founded in pure hypothetical so it must be taken completely at a casual value as such.
  • Gives Blue Screen of Death a whole new meaning.
  • ...that is, until someone cracks into you and stops your heart. Then it sucks tremendously.

  • Humans rely on memory a lot, day to day, but also things like being a witness in court. As so many things become easy to forge (photos, recorded voices etc), are we in danger of losing our legal system?

    If all physical evidence can be faked, and all mental evidence can be faked, are we left with anything?

  • Diamond Age (Score:2, Informative)

    by tjackson ( 50499 )
    I just finished Diamond Age about 5 minutes ago. Go read it. NOW.

    The reason I say this is because in this masterpiece work by Neal Stephenson, one of the focuses of the book is on a society of 'Drummers', a group of people connected with wetware. They have nanosites circulating in their bloodstream, and they use the hosts' brain in... well... I would tell you, but it's kinda a major plot element. Go read this book.

    P.S.: I would pay large amounts of money to be able to do what mgkimsal2 [] says. [] (without the ads, of course.

  • Security issues aside, having a networked brain and the capacity to access an unlimited wealth of information is surely my wettest dream. However, getting from the point of attaching neurons to computer circuits to the point of downloading knowledge a la the Matrix ("Now I know how to fly a huey, yahoo!") is a much harder problem.

    The human brain 1) develops over many many years and throughout that time develops patterns unique to the individual's experiences; and 2) it develops in relation to a body via which it interacts with the world. This is why so much CogSci research focuses on the issue of "embodiment". The paradigm of brain as discursive controller is fading away in favor an emphasis on the role of the physical (both body and environment) in what we typically regard as cognition. (See Being There by Andy Clark for an amazing read).

    Given this, knowledge, especially knowledge that manifests in physical behavior, must either be "installed" in a manner highly sensitive to the idiosyncracies of the person, or through a long period in which the body and brain are trained to work together on a problem. Therefore, I don't think it's all that plausible to instantaneously know how to fly a huey, to drive a car, to type, etc.. As someone else observed, we'll see this technology used in prosthetics far sooner than we'll have Matrix/Johny Mnemonic style scenarios.

  • by Lerc ( 71477 )

    Imagine being able to give your computer a piece of your mind

    Imagine being able to give your mind a piece of of your computer.

    Read "The Peace War" - Vernor Vinge
  • It is fascinating how biotechnology (e.g., cloning, stem cells, etc) is racing toward replacing body parts while strictly mechanical solutions are racing toward the same goal (e.g., self contained heart, silicon/neural interfaces). Unlike clockwork hearts vs biological replacements where the biological replacement is without doubt the ultimate fix, silicon enhancements of the brain offer possibilities that natural neuron solutions cannot achieve such as 100% precision for mathematical calculations at high speed.

    Gives silicon augmentation a new meaning. People will start looking for small scars under the ears and hairline for proof that someone's intelligence is not "natural."
  • I want this bad. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by pclminion ( 145572 )
    I've been thinking about these kinds of devices for a while now. Getting the chip to physically interface with a neuron is not actually that tricky. Getting the interface to communicate data bidirectionally in a meaningful way is an entirely different prospect.

    One technique that could be used is an artificial neural net that is trained to be a transducer between wetspace and chipspace. This NN would sit between the microchip and the neural interface, translating signals to and from the two domains.

    The only thing that would be left to do is to train your own brain (learn, basically) to interface with the chip. This might be difficult, or it might be easy. Biofeedback is actually a very good technique and it could be used in this arena as well.

    I wonder what the first true brain/chip interface would do. I have a lot of trouble putting names to faces I've only met a few times. It would be nice to look at a face, and suddenly be aware of the name because my little computer looked it up for me.

    I can think of plenty other applications. You could do evil-complex math in your head, or visualize anything you want with total realism (ok, maybe some people might abuse that ;) What else?

  • Just so long as it doesn't run a Microsoft OS. A Blue Screen of Death is something I would SURELY want to avoid!!!

    --Experience is what you get when you are expecting something else--

...there can be no public or private virtue unless the foundation of action is the practice of truth. - George Jacob Holyoake