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Future Imperative

What if technology were being developed that could enhance your mind or body to extraordinary or even superhuman levels -- and some of these tools were already here? Wouldn't you be curious?

Actually, some are here. But human enhancement is an incredibly broad and compartmentalized field. We’re often unaware of what’s right next door. This site reviews resources and ideas from across the field and makes it easy for readers to find exactly the information they're most interested in.


The future is coming fast, and it's no longer possible to ignore how rapidly the world is changing. As the old order changes -- or more frequently crumbles altogether -- I offer a perspective on how we can transform ourselves in turn... for the better. Nothing on this site is intended as legal, financial or medical advice. Indeed, much of what I discuss amounts to possibilities rather than certainties, in an ever-changing present and an ever-uncertain future.

Friday, November 24, 2006

That Light in the Tunnel Is the Headlamp of an Oncoming (Toy) Train -- Bio-Feedback Awakens

Wired notes Hitachi's announcement of a neural-imaging-based brain-computer interface -- basically a control that in this case enables you to turn a train set on and off just by thinking about it. Wired comments:

The difference this time is that Hitachi's system doesn't invasively co-opt the nervous sytem, instead using a topographic modelling system to measure blood flow in the brain, translating the images into signals that are sent to the controller. So far, this new technique only allows for simple switching decisions, but Hitachi aims to commercialize it within five years for use by paralyzed patients and those undergoing "cognitive rehabilitation."

There's a couple of interesting ramifications to this biofeedback-like control. One, this is a kind of brain-machine interface much more likely to be accepted by the public than cybernetic implants, and is probably a far safer option too. This tool may also presage a greater interpenetration of society by biofeedback controls (whether standard EEGs or this bloodflow-scanning-based system), which are apt to teach people to use neurofeedback techniques with greater and greater facility. And neuro/biofeedback training can be extremely useful when it comes to teaching people to reduce stress, enhance mental function, and generally bring unregulated bodily processes under their conscious control.

Another twist we could see with these kinds of interfaces may mirror the emergence of texting -- apparently inefficient control systems that are used furiously by people who have grown up with them and developed great facility in them. Imagine what could happen if we get a standardised interface like Hitachi's, and then we get a generation of youngsters who can do increasingly complex things with them, like out-typing the fastest typists, manipulating images or willing original music into being, note-by-note. Since we don't have people who have trained themselves from pre-school in this fashion, we don't really know what the potential or the limits for this kind of technology actually are.

Cyber, Mind, Soc
Future Imperative


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