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The Bio-mechanic...

By Zeram in MLP
Thu Dec 07, 2000 at 06:52:48 PM EST
Tags: Technology (all tags)

Well it seems someone has finally decided to take that first step. What it means is anyones guess. Professor Kevin Warwick who is the head of the Cybernetics Department at the University of Reading UK, is going have a chip implanted, that will be connected to nerve fibers in his left arm.

[editor's note, by rusty] Before you hail the coming of the cyber-savior, do read some background info on Warwick. I wouldn't go so far as to say the man's a loon, but... Oh who am I kidding? The man's a loon. Please exercise judicious skepticism.

In practical terms this means very little. This is very much a "what if" experiment, and no one knows what will happen. However the repercussions of this experiment producing a working interface between a human nervous system and a comupter chip, are far reaching to say the least. Experiments like this have been done before to help the hadicapped attain higher levels of functionality, however this is first time it has been attempted without the express goal curing some sort of affliction.

A quick search through google of the term "cybernetics" produced some interesting results. From this website which is a good source of information on cybernetic theory, to this company which really has nothing to do with cybernetics. It is interesting to see that the concept of cybernetics is very much a cultural phenomena, even though we are just now starting to seriously develop it as a science.

Anyone reading this has some concept of this could mean for the future of humanity. The real question is how will people react if Professor Warwick acheives serious results?


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Neural computer interfaces...
o A promising new technology! 12%
o The end of humanity! 3%
o Nothing to get excited about, yet... 21%
o Will never be practical! 1%
o Will enslave us in a way that gives Bill Gates serious wood. 26%
o Will produce better humans one day! 14%
o Makes me want to watch "Ghost in the Shell" again! 19%

Votes: 56
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o Google
o Professor Kevin Warwick
o background
o info
o Warwick
o website
o company
o Also by Zeram

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The Bio-mechanic... | 17 comments (17 topical, editorial, 0 hidden)
El Reg:) (3.60 / 5) (#1)
by titus-g on Thu Dec 07, 2000 at 05:11:59 PM EST

The Register has been following Kev's work...

Worth a quick read before you entrust the future of your race to him...

--"Essentially madness is like charity, it begins at home" --

More clues... (4.00 / 2) (#7)
by leviathan on Thu Dec 07, 2000 at 07:30:46 PM EST

At Kevin Warwick Watch which is worth checking every month or so when they're back up-to-date...amazing how often the guy pops up, especially when he's got a new book out. Also NTK has been running a good bit of coverage, including local revolt, his last public excursion, and plenty of other good stuff if you do a search for kevin.

He keeps turning up on UK news services, though I'm still waiting for him to do something newsworthy.

I wish everyone was peaceful. Then I could take over the planet with a butter knife.
- Dogbert
[ Parent ]

Warwick (2.00 / 2) (#3)
by Carcosa on Thu Dec 07, 2000 at 05:56:35 PM EST

Warwick is doing some crazy sheeit, mon. He's interested in being able to store and replay sensations into his brain, and he thinks he can do it. By experimenting on himself, he's able to endrun a lot of possible ethics questions. Right now, as I understand, he has some kind of transponder that makes doors open for him at his university but he's going a lot farther than that. This is going to happen sooner or later, it's bound to, and it's going to happen suddenly, and it's going to have widespread implications. Sooner or later we're going to understand sensations and visuals enough to replay them. Perhaps wouldn't be too hard to make a "driver" for the optic nerve IE Virtual Light. INteresting subject

"Kevin Warwick Breaks America" (2.50 / 4) (#4)
by _cbj on Thu Dec 07, 2000 at 06:11:32 PM EST

As titus-g points out, Kevin Warwick has no small history as a loon. And now he's Coming to America, it seems. Appropriate? Heh, maybe.

Of all The Register's articles on him (shame on you non-Reg readers), I like the intro to this one, entitled "Waking up to Warwick: is the media-obsessed fantasist on the way out?"...

Professor Kevin Warwick, the self-proclaimed cyborg philosopher and object of regular Register ridicule, has been having a tough ride of late, finally receiving a bad press after years of positive, knee-jerk coverage.

Hooray for Kuroshin, finally jumping on the knee-jerk coverage bandwagon!

rectified, but... (2.50 / 2) (#9)
by rusty on Thu Dec 07, 2000 at 08:27:19 PM EST

How does the guy keep getting normally sane publications to cover him like he's not a mental case? Is it just the combination of "professor" and his reality-defying claims, or what? Like, if I have some kind of academia-cred, and I make up the biggest wildest tale I can think of, people will just believe it?

Well, anyway, good lesson for everyone. Just cause it was on the web doesn't make it true.

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

Warning! Critical O2 Shortage In... (3.00 / 1) (#11)
by Mad Hughagi on Thu Dec 07, 2000 at 09:11:45 PM EST

...my lungs and Warwicks head!

This guy has definately gone on a random walk when it comes to the genious/madman thin-line. Some of the stuff outlined in the Register almost made me pass out laughing. If I could meet this guy for about 4 hours I could probably make the most outrageous science fiction movie of the last decade! (it would definately be a hit with the stoners!)

On the more sobering note it really is sad that this guy is so out there/serious at the same time. I feel very bad for the one fellow who has a problem finding work due to having done his schooling at the same university where Warwick is. To have such a stigma attached to you for simply having gone to the same institution as this guy really shows you how much Warwick is disliked by the scientific community.

It's a shame that he makes cybernetics look so Mickey Mouse (He placed a simple transmitter under his skin and claimed it to be an 'implant'). The subjects that these guys have to study and know expertly are extremely varied and mentally taxing, they surely deserve more credit than being represented by Warwick. If I had to switch majors this would be one near the top of my list.


We don't make the products you like, we make you like the products we make.
[ Parent ]

It makes a good story (none / 0) (#15)
by pw201 on Fri Dec 08, 2000 at 08:15:46 AM EST

How does the guy keep getting normally sane publications to cover him like he's not a mental case? Is it just the combination of "professor" and his reality-defying claims, or what? Like, if I have some kind of academia-cred, and I make up the biggest wildest tale I can think of, people will just believe it?

It makes a good "scientists have said" story for the papers (eg "scientists have said that falling into boiling water may hurt"). Also, maybe he's one of those people who've done good stuff in the past but now have some, erm, unusual ideas (anyone seen Brian Josephson's web page recently :-).

[ Parent ]

My original writeup (3.66 / 3) (#5)
by BOredAtWork on Thu Dec 07, 2000 at 06:39:36 PM EST

Well, this beat my writeup of the same article to the submission queue by 5 minutes... so, this is getting all the votes, but people have told me to post my writeup here so it doesn't die...


CNN is running a story on what appears to be the first chip implant into the central nervous system. A UK professor is having the chip implanted in order to experiment on himself in several areas. Perhaps more interesting is that if he deems the experiment a success, his wife will undergo a similar procedure, to determine how an 'enhanced' couple can interact in new ways.

This certainly raises loads of new questions. Is it ethical? Is it good science? Is it just a publicity stunt?


What interests me most is the idea that one can conduct an experiment on themself, when they have obvious desires to see the outcome lean in favor of their research, and have it considered a valid study by their peers. I'm curious how Warwick (the professor in question) plans to keep his studies valid, when double-blind research isn't a possiblility, so far as I can tell.

I'm very curious how this research is going to be justified to the more conservative folks out there. There's plenty of people out there who will start screaming about us "playing God" and such, I'm sure. Does this really cross that line...?

One additional note: Assuming this is a success, and his wife gets a similar chip, and (as the article suggests) the chips can communicate, remind me to never, ever play cards with them :-).

Crossing lines (none / 0) (#6)
by Eloquence on Thu Dec 07, 2000 at 06:59:57 PM EST

There's plenty of people out there who will start screaming about us "playing God" and such, I'm sure. Does this really cross that line...?

Does it really matter? It's not like we have to expect the Spanish Inquisition. If there are reasonable arguments against human-machine-interconnection, let me hear them, but I'm not interested in people who not only believe in a supernatural force they call God but also think they know what this being wants and want to force other people to act according to this belief.
Copyright law is bad: infoAnarchy Pleasure is good: Origins of Violence
spread the word!
[ Parent ]

The Spanish Inquisition? (5.00 / 2) (#8)
by rusty on Thu Dec 07, 2000 at 08:23:41 PM EST

No one expects the Spanish Inquisition!!

Our chief weapon is surprise. Surprise and fear. Fear and surprise. Our two chief weapons are surprise, fear, and...

Oh, c'mon. You can't just go dropping "the Spanish Inquisition" around here and expect to get away with it.

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

Old News (3.00 / 1) (#10)
by Eloquence on Thu Dec 07, 2000 at 09:02:02 PM EST

Another UK researcher has already built something much more sophisticated.
Copyright law is bad: infoAnarchy Pleasure is good: Origins of Violence
spread the word!
Mental Integration (2.00 / 1) (#12)
by interiot on Thu Dec 07, 2000 at 09:54:13 PM EST

This post may seem offtopic in the midst of all the Warick-bashing posts, but what the heck...

A mind-machine neural connection is sufficient to create a thought-controlled computer, in the same way that your toe is thought controlled. (that is, it's not thought control in that a machine is directly reading your mind, with no additional effort on your part. But it's still unconscious)

It also results in "mental integration" in the same way that a cyborg is a machine that's physically integrated with a body. The computer would almost be seen as part of your identity (because use of the computer doesn't distract from other physical activities and because its use wouldn't be detectable by other people). So, google.com gives you infinite long-term memory, m-w.com gives you perfect spelling, and ICQ makes things very hard for teachers to administer traditional tests.

Let me just say... (2.00 / 1) (#13)
by Zeram on Thu Dec 07, 2000 at 11:53:31 PM EST

that I posted this as a what-if. I had never heard of this guy, and didn't really think of this as serious research. But maybe if he can produce something useful it will inspire someone to do something serious. I had actually never heard of this guy before, but after reading up on him, I'm alomst sorry I posted this story, and I am kind of surprised that CNN would report about someone this far out on the fringe.
Like Anime? In the Philly metro area? Welcome to the machine...
Is he really that much of a loon? (4.50 / 2) (#14)
by Merekat on Fri Dec 08, 2000 at 06:59:36 AM EST

And if he is, does it matter?

Even if one exponent of this field really is a few sandwiches short of a picnic as opposed to someone who is feeding the media chunks of sensationalism to publicise the more outrageous aspects of his work, does this really invalidate the whole premise? I don't mean the premise of cybernetics as such, which is fascinating in itself, but the idea of investigating something without the express goal of curing some disease or illness. It has been a while since I've done any science, but I remember the concept of a 'control'. To me, investigating the technology itself to see how far it can be pushed without aiming for a particular result seems quite important.

Actually, I'm not fully convinced he is a loon, or rather no more of a loon than any other extrovert with a cause. I was at a talk he gave last year and was fully prepared to be cynical. I came out of it surprisingly thinking that maybe this wasn't necessarily the sensationalist, voyeuristic hype I thought it would be. He really only started talking about the sexual aspects etc. when pushed to by questions from the audience and looked a bit embarrassed about it.

I've always had the greatest respect for other peoples crack-pot beliefs.
- Sam the Eagle, The Muppet Show

Pretty much (5.00 / 1) (#17)
by rusty on Fri Dec 08, 2000 at 08:45:02 AM EST

Yes, he is, for the most part self-promoting, sesationalistic, academically suspect, and generally loony. Warwick, as a person and as a researcher, is not really to be trusted, IMO.

But, the questions that usually come up when he pops up in the media are nevertheless interesting ones, which is why, I think, he's always able to get so much attention for such silly things. The fact that any given discussion of how far the human/machine interface could go was spurred by a new Warwick-sighting doesn't make that discussion invalid in any way. Although, I'd have to say that Phillip K. Dick already did a much better job exploring the same issues, and in a less fictional way that Warwick, to boot! ;-)

I don't sadly, have anything interesting to say on the actual topic. I just wanted to point out that my editorial coment wasn't meant to cast doubt on the whole subject, just to point out that this individual happens to be a nut.

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

Kev's on telly (4.00 / 1) (#16)
by pw201 on Fri Dec 08, 2000 at 08:30:30 AM EST

For those of you in the UK, Kevin Warwick is doing the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures this year. They're usually on the BBC sometime between Christmas and New Year. So we can all watch and see whether he really is crazy or not.

Where's the creditial check? (none / 0) (#18)
by turtleshadow on Mon Dec 11, 2000 at 12:33:57 AM EST

"I saw the dull yellow eye of the creature open; it breathed hard, and a convulsive motion agitated its limbs." Frankenstein pg. 51

Since even before 1815 scientists had to face societies fashions on morals via the ethics of Dept Chairs, Regents etc....

But I have to ask is this guy going into the American Univeristy system -- a despairing thought if the ethics boards allow this-- or worse soleless corporate America? Where if the FDA dont catch ya its OK.

The procedure, the timing, the thought is almost poetic for the 21st centry

The Bio-mechanic... | 17 comments (17 topical, 0 editorial, 0 hidden)
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