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The alarming thing is the casual way his vision of the future slips between u- and dystopia
August 15, 2010 7:33 PM   Subscribe

Kevin Warwick plugged his nervous system into his wife's.

Some of the concepts raised in this ten minute doco are fascinating, some are a little crufty, but the zinger for me was the idea of piping raw brain signals between two people.
posted by mhjb (56 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm not in a position to watch video right now. Is there a transcript?
posted by LogicalDash at 7:50 PM on August 15, 2010


I remember hearing about this guy in 2000 or so talking about the RFID chip implanted and some of his plans and it was amazing to my mind back then. This is still amazing and incredibly cool. I don't think I caught it, but how did his mind feel the pulses coming from his wife's implant? With artificial limbs and things they hitch a ride on pre-existing neuron connections to other muscles and for adults new connections aren't made very easily so did he get some sort of pulse that felt like his own hand moved? Or was it like a hot flash or prick of pain? He speaks of it being very intimate feeling and I can understand that, as in simply 'knowing' when someone else moves their hand, but how did he experience it?
posted by Phantomx at 7:54 PM on August 15, 2010


I found the neurons in the kit bots horrifying. But that may be in part due to my phobia of being transplanted into a badly-made robot.

Does that terrify anyone else?
posted by clarknova at 7:56 PM on August 15, 2010 [4 favorites]


Formative experience with Saturn 3, clarknova? If so, you should not read Noir and find out what happens to people who violate copyright in the putative dystopia.
posted by adipocere at 8:05 PM on August 15, 2010


Phantomx: Here's the title of the paper where he details the process: Warwick, K, Gasson, M, Hutt, B, Goodhew, I, Kyberd, P, Schulzrinne, H and Wu, X: “Thought Communication and Control: A First Step using Radiotelegraphy”, IEE Proceedings on Communications, 151(3), pp.185-189, 2004.

Here's the abstract:
A signalling procedure is described involving a connection, via the Internet, between the nervous system of an able-bodied individual and a robotic prosthesis, and between the nervous systems of two able-bodied human subjects. Neural implant technology is used to directly interface each nervous system with a computer. Neural motor unit and sensory receptor recordings are processed real-time and used as the communication basis. This is seen as a first step towards thought communication, in which the neural implants would be positioned in the central nervous systems of two individuals.
posted by outlandishmarxist at 8:18 PM on August 15, 2010


I try try plug my nervous system into my wife's as often as possible. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge know what I mean?
posted by MikeMc at 8:29 PM on August 15, 2010 [6 favorites]


I'm suspicious that building machines with human level intelligence will prove far more difficult than all these guys imagine, partially because humans are so damn cheap. Instead, we'll likely have vast experience augmenting real human brains before we'll ever figure out how to build one from scratch.

The first "super-human" intelligences are more likely to be either augmented humans or parallel clusters of humans. In particular, we'll almost surely prioritize developing techniques for teaching brains to use the implants required by either, perhaps beginning by using stem cells to improve learning, especially language acquisition.

In other words, it's not simply that clustering humans is likely easier than building an artificial one, but there are more natural economic reasons for developing the technology. Btw, we could also simply raise parallel clusters of humans from birth, which might give better results than parallelizing adults.
posted by jeffburdges at 8:31 PM on August 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Such a simple experiment, but you just know the implications are mind-blowing. Even more impressive though were the little machines that used rat neurons to effectively learn how to move forward. Fraken hell...
posted by Skygazer at 8:33 PM on August 15, 2010


Brings a whole new meaning to "my spouse has really been getting on my nerves lately."
posted by Jacqueline at 8:33 PM on August 15, 2010 [16 favorites]


The Human Cloud. You heard it here first.

/begins screenplay
posted by unSane at 8:36 PM on August 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Interesting guy, but it gets on my nerves that every news source refers to him as the world's first cyborg. Uh, no, we've been putting chips in people since well before 98. You just aren't thinking of medical or disability tech.
posted by spaceman_spiff at 8:38 PM on August 15, 2010 [5 favorites]


And getting an RFID chip surgically implanted is just a publicity stunt when you can just as easily have one in your wallet as a card....or in your pocket whatever...
posted by Skygazer at 8:45 PM on August 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Jeez, that guy's still around?

That's depressing.
posted by dansdata at 9:20 PM on August 15, 2010 [5 favorites]


Ah, Cyber-Kev...
posted by Artw at 9:34 PM on August 15, 2010


Ugh thanks dansdata I should have done more research. I still like his ideas, even if he is a gumball.
posted by mhjb at 9:52 PM on August 15, 2010


What dansdata said; this guy has made a career out of doing things that really aren't that interesting from the perspective of people who are involved in real-life cyborg-type stuff (i.e. cochlear implants, visual prosthetics, other neural-machine interfaces, and so on. He connects some electrodes in his wife's arm to a transmitter, and a receiver to electrodes in his own arm, and all of a sudden we have the Borg Collective? I don't think so.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:02 PM on August 15, 2010 [4 favorites]


His arm. He put the implant in his arm.

If I were looking to deepen my relationship with my life, that is not the organ I would choose to use.
posted by LogicalDash at 10:10 PM on August 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


wife
posted by LogicalDash at 10:19 PM on August 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


I suggest not reducing your wife to such small proportions. Some women get upset about things like that.

I find this sort of experiment cool, but much less useful than already existing technology.
posted by wierdo at 10:51 PM on August 15, 2010


I think a flaw in this kind of thinking is to assume that, just because you're communicating with the world via an RFID implanted in your arm, that you're doing anything qualitatively different from how humans interact with the world around them naturally.

Sure, he can make a hand motion to turn on a light, but I can also make a hand motion to turn on my light. I flick a switch. I can even turn on my TV remotely, awesome cyborg me, by using my handy remote controller. And I didn't even have to have surgery.

My take is that he's actually doing a kind of hamfisted research into user experience design. UX designers and user-oriented product designers have been pondering how to help humans interact as efficiently, clearly, and deeply with the things around them for decades (at least). Fetishizing the fact that he has implanted an RFID in his arm -- isn't that just rad -- distracts from the core problems with his research. Which is that what he's doing with that RFID is, well, boring.
posted by chasing at 11:10 PM on August 15, 2010 [5 favorites]


I thought this guy seemed a bit off, especially when he was turning the lamp on and off by clenching his hand and became all giddy about it, and I'm thinking, has this dude not heard of the Clapper??

Now that I've seen all the articles on this quack, This FPP gives him a hell of a lot more credibility than he deserves. And now I'm suspecting perhaps those "rat brain"neurons were just pure theater.


Subspecies my ass.
posted by Skygazer at 11:11 PM on August 15, 2010


The first "super-human" intelligences are more likely to be either augmented humans or parallel clusters of humans.

I don't know if you've noticed this, but when people cluster, the average intelligence goes down.
posted by Grangousier at 11:18 PM on August 15, 2010 [9 favorites]


Geesh, I thought Kevin Warwick's self-grabbed 15 minutes of fame were long since over.

If having an RFID chip implanted in his arm makes him a cyborg, then my dog has been a cyborg for longer than Kevin Warwick has.

Also, I hereby announce that, after a 15-minute gastric implantation procedure, I am now the worlds first half-man half-cheeseburger.
posted by mmoncur at 11:56 PM on August 15, 2010 [12 favorites]


Also, I hereby announce that, after a 15-minute gastric implantation procedure, I am now the worlds first half-man half-cheeseburger.
posted by mmoncur at 7:56 AM on August 16


Similarly, after infesting the better part of a pack of McVities chocolate digestives, I am now the world's first half-man, half biscuit.

Oh wait... damn!
posted by Decani at 12:36 AM on August 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Also, INGESTING. Not infesting. Double damn. Must not post before morning coffee.
posted by Decani at 12:37 AM on August 16, 2010


It's Captain Cyborg!
posted by nielm at 12:51 AM on August 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Anyone with a pacemaker is more of a cyborg than this hack.
posted by ymgve at 2:44 AM on August 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


So, basically, he does party tricks... but they only work in his lab, unless he brings along his Roomba?

So, I guess he doesn't do kid's birthdays, right?!
posted by markkraft at 4:14 AM on August 16, 2010


...and no, they didn't "connect their nervous systems".

They had a threesome with a metal probe / triple-A battery. Happens in this town all the time.
posted by markkraft at 4:19 AM on August 16, 2010


A cyborg, you say? You mean, half-man, half-machine?
posted by kcds at 4:46 AM on August 16, 2010


I don't know if you've noticed this, but when people cluster, the average intelligence goes down.

I don't know if you've noticed this, but human culture and science.
posted by DU at 4:48 AM on August 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure what it says about me that all I could think about while watching this was, "Blackjack card counting computer interface!"
posted by ill3 at 5:08 AM on August 16, 2010


Fisher hates gravel,
Fisher hates shale,
it goes right through him....
posted by Homemade Interossiter at 6:06 AM on August 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm with you, clarknova. It was a little creepy, much more so when he described the one robot being surrounded by curious students with nowhere it could move, and "committ[ing] suicide."
posted by sldownard at 6:15 AM on August 16, 2010


So this is kind of like The Power Glove version of cyborgs?
posted by Theta States at 6:21 AM on August 16, 2010


"I wouldn't want to do it with a man"

great. "world's first cyborg" is a homophobe. progress. not.
posted by eustatic at 6:24 AM on August 16, 2010


Now that I've seen all the articles on this quack, This FPP gives him a hell of a lot more credibility than he deserves.

I've always despaired of the guy for his massive over-exaggeration of what he's attempting. And more to the point the fact that in fifteen years he hasn't really moved onto anything more interesting in the field.
posted by opsin at 6:26 AM on August 16, 2010


The press coverage is disproportionate to the quality of his work. His publications in peer reviewed journals are not entirely without merit. They are however, far from Nature or Science quality.

Regardless, this is an interesting post, especially concerning the conversation it has started.
posted by Homemade Interossiter at 6:36 AM on August 16, 2010


If you think about it, by me typing this, and you reading it, I've actually in a way connected our nervous systems. Disgusting, isn't it?
posted by Artw at 6:40 AM on August 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


As yuck-yuck stereotypical as it might sound, I would like the realtime ability to monitor my wife's blood and brain chemistry, in part because I suspect I have Asperger's and any clue about my wife's emotional state is better than nothing.
posted by mecran01 at 6:48 AM on August 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


eustatic: Just because he doesn't want intimacy with a man doesn't make him a homophobe. I believe the word you're looking for is "straight," or perhaps "hetero." I heard no statements about his views toward others doing that sort of thing.

Anyway, one of my biggest problems with becoming a cyborg or a transhuman or whatever is hardware and software obsolescence. Look at the tech landscape today. Standards are constantly being rewritten and eventually phased out. Format wars are as predictable as the tides (though their outcomes are less so). As cool as it sounds to be the early adopter of some bionic implants, they'll be outdated a couple years later. Maybe you'll be able to update your firmware and drivers to prolong the inevitable, but eventually you're going to need to replace the physical components with the latest and greatest.

Today, people live for decades and don't typically need replacement *anything* until their later years of life. Maybe they'll get an organ transplant or an artificial hip or something, then (if all goes well) not need more invasive surgery again. But when you start talking about cybernetics, all bets are off. If Moore's Law, as it's generally interpreted, continues at the pace it's going, you're going to have to go under the knife every five years at least. And that's if you can afford it; this kind of tech ain't cheap, and that's not even counting the cost of highly technical surgical installation. Not to mention proper uninstallation of whatever rig you were running previously.

I can't think of a scarier scenario than being stuck with decade-old legacy technology controlling my body, out of warranty, no longer supported by the manufacturer, running an out-of-date, unpatched OS with weird hardware compatibility issues that cause my left arm to flail wildly out of control five times a day. While all the cool kids are doing hoverbackflips over my house with their shiny new hotness. No way is insurance going to cover an elective upgrade like that; I'm screwed. Even worse if that platform I'm running was the loser of a format war and there's not even a decent selection of old software I can run. Don't get me started on the lack of antivirus utilities, that's another nightmare altogether.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 8:17 AM on August 16, 2010 [5 favorites]


Has this guy never heard of hyperbole? He mentions that the rat-brain-neuron path-finder robot "committed suicide" when it couldn't find a pathway.

No, not even remotely. It looked for a path and didn't find one. Remove a wall and off it would go. I can't believe this guy potentially gets paid for this shit.
posted by odinsdream at 8:18 AM on August 16, 2010


Has this guy never heard of hyperbole?

Where do you think he gets his inspiration from?
posted by vbfg at 8:58 AM on August 16, 2010


I just read Accelerando by Charles Stross.

I think Stross's view of implants moving along is much more likely. It's going to be an "exocortex" first, which we already are headed towards with smart phones. The only implants will be I/O for the computer on my hip.

I'm sorta excited about that, being able to spawn "AI" to look something up, and then report back. Anywhere from "who is this person, I'm sure I know them", to "find me the restaurant near here that has a wait time of less than 15 minutes".

So some mundane stuff is easily doable now, but the "who is this person" workflow is picture taking, image recognition, google search & distill.

tl;dr - Real AI is hard, real implants are hard, simple implants are awesome, we're already well on our way to having a computer in our pocket doing our thinking for us.
posted by cschneid at 9:14 AM on August 16, 2010


Ray Kurzweil, I've seen your damn singularity.

Your Robo-Mice are eating all my damn aluminium cheese. I want my Singularity University tuition back... Now.

Mankind didn't end with a bang, but a squeek... and lots of LEDs.
posted by The Power Nap at 9:47 AM on August 16, 2010


I'm not sure what it says about me that all I could think about while watching this was, "Blackjack card counting computer interface!"

Well, you'd have to hope that, if the casino catches you (and the odds are very good that they would), they're not being backed by the sort of organization that recognizes your right to be silent by stuffing your own genitals down your throat. Casinos don't want to give up blackjack, because of all the money they make from people who think that they can beat the house, either by counting (either using a device or through sheer Rain Man-esque brain power) or through some other system like the Martingale, but they're also not going to risk there being a commercially-available device that would cause them to lose money, which is why such devices are illegal in most jurisdictions where gambling is legal.

And it's all a moot point anyway, since whether or not you have a detectable device, they can ban you from casinos for no reason whatsoever; there is no right to gamble, and if you win too much too consistently, they'll probably do so on the suspicion that you're counting cards in your head, which is perfectly legal (as in Rain Man). Even if you leave a particular casino before winning too much, your name and/or face might be added to the Black Book (actually, the Griffin Book), and if you show up at another casino in town and win any substantial sum of money at the blackjack table, you could get banned from all casinos. Now, you might ask yourself, what are the odds that you'd be identified at different casinos from a picture out of hundreds, if not thousands, of surveillance camera photos in this database? Well, as a matter of fact (and to bring this back to the general topic of actual cutting edge technology being used in real-world settings, as opposed to Captain Cyborg nonsense), one of the main groups of people interested in facial recognition computer technology happens to be... casinos.

(And, yes, I had more than a casual interest in this at one time, when I lived in Memphis, which has several casinos just south of the city in northern Mississippi; I even had a blackjack program on my Palm for a while that coached basic blackjack strategy, and could even be adjusted for local rules, number of decks etc. I stopped when I realized that not only were there a number of dealer counterstrategies that I had no control over, but that I could get kicked out at any time.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:54 AM on August 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


When I saw the fpp, I was hoping for something a little more Brainstorm.
posted by dbiedny at 11:48 AM on August 16, 2010


This scene specifically.
posted by dbiedny at 11:52 AM on August 16, 2010


This takes me right back to NTK, when a significant amount of my net use was via email zines, who first exposed me to Cyber Warwick
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 1:37 PM on August 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Similarly, after infesting the better part of a pack of McVities chocolate digestives, I am now the world's first half-man, half biscuit.

You know which half of him was biscuit?

That's right. His DIGESTIVE system.

In my defence I made that joke up at age 9.
posted by longbaugh at 1:40 PM on August 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


I miss NTK. Made Fridays fun. Funner.
posted by Grangousier at 2:01 PM on August 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


it's all a moot point anyway, since whether or not you have a detectable device, they can ban you from casinos for no reason whatsoever; there is no right to gamble, and if you win too much too consistently, they'll probably do so on the suspicion that you're counting cards in your head, which is perfectly legal (as in Rain Man).

perfectly legal? not so fast. it depends where you are.

see Uston v. Resorts International, in which the NJ Supreme Court rules that Atlantic City casinos could in fact not prevent skilled players (i.e. card counters) from playing.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:05 PM on August 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Good point; that's true, mrgrimm... for New Jersey. (And even this article, which is pretty thorough, doesn't quite go into enough detail to say if NJ allows dealers to reshuffle as often as they want, which would make card counting moot.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:17 PM on August 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Agreed. I think there's been lots of twists on the legality of casinos' behavior in those cases. In Nevada, I think they now allow "reverse card counting," which allows the house to shuffle the deck early when the count reaches an advantage for the players, which would of course virtually eliminate the counters' advantage.
posted by mrgrimm at 3:04 PM on August 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


By the way, if you'd like to see what it looks like when a person does real work at the cybernetics/augmented-reality coalface, check out (Professor) Steve Mann.

That dude's been making himself look ridiculous for the sake of transhumanity since well before Warwick hit the headlines.
posted by dansdata at 12:33 AM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


You are flat wrong Grangousier. Yes, humans often behave rather stupidly when organized "naturally", but we largely understand the screw ups, like group think, and we've better organizing principles, like the scientific method.

In fact, almost all the really impressive human achievements are accomplished by groups, literary works being the exception. Just fyi, all those large mathematics proofs accomplished by one guy could be accomplished much more quickly by groups, but we mathematicians are kinda egotistical.

There is also the old fashioned way of making more smarter people : better education. If you're creating super-human intelligences by raising a hundred children whose brains are wirelessly linked, well yeah maybe you'll need an educational system that'll make sure they almost all turn into high functioning adults who work well together.
posted by jeffburdges at 1:32 PM on August 17, 2010


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