Melted my Mind during a Mind Meld!

For all dedicated and part time “Trekkies” both young and old it was a sad day this year to learn of the passing of Dr Spock, Leonard Simon Nimoy. Probably the most type cast actor in the history of television.
“Spocky” was capable of conducting a Vulcan mind meld. The Vulcan mind meld was a telepathic link between two individuals, allowing for the exchange of thoughts, thus in essence allowing the participants to become one mind.
Even the fictional character Dr McCoy quoted back in the day “Vulcan mind melds; utter foolishness. Anybody with an ounce of sense wouldn’t share his brain with someone else; would you? I certainly wouldn’t.”
The first real step was taken in 2013 when researchers Rajesh Rao and Andrea Stocco, completed the first human-to-human mind meld, with one researcher sending a brain signal via the Internet to control the hand motion of a colleague sitting across the Seattle campus of the University of Washington
“The Internet was a way to connect computers, and now it can be a way to connect brains. We want to take the knowledge of a brain and transmit it directly from brain to brain.”
Andrea Stocco – University of Washington Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences

This is not a standalone step but rather a progression in the decade’s long research into brain computer interface.
Implications from technological change on the battlefield have always driven innovation and invention.

During the American Civil War, field commanders did not realise the impact the new rifled musket and mini ball would have on tactics.

They persisted in using outdated tactics and the result was over 600,000 deaths and more than 80,000 amputations during its four deadly years.

The longer range had soldiers running into the face of at least three volleys rather than one and rarely coming to grips with the enemy.

The spinning bullet striking any arm or leg would split the bone and invariably require amputation.

Any visit to antique, second hand and curio shops throughout America reveals a multitude of artefacts and inventions used by civil war amputees in the years after the war.
It is not surprising then given the number of amputee veterans resulting from IED’s (improvised explosive devices) during the last decade of America’s military efforts that major funding has come from the U.S. Army Research Office and the Pentagon’s Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency or DARPA.

The primary interest is brain-computer interfaces, in which electrical signals generated from one brain, are translated by a computer into commands that can move a mechanical prosthesis helping paralysed patients regain some power of movement.
But brain to brain experimentation has some bioethicists raising concerns about the more controversial uses.

They have a particular concern with experimentation into brain-networking. This method involves the linking brains together to create a collective network of thought.
For example in recent experiments, Miguel Nicolelis and his colleagues at Duke University wired the brains of four rats and had the same signal delivered into their brains and when a computer monitor showed their thoughts were synchronised they were offered a reward.

They were able to manipulate the brain patterns of the rats so they shared a collective thought pattern.

The resulting manipulation enabled the minds of the rats to act as an information-processing chain.

In other words they were able to train one rat to produce a brain activity and pass this onto the second rat that in turn passed it onto the third.
Don’t buy any shares in a rat trap company I’m thinking.
They have also demonstrated this with monkeys which don’t bode well for my mates at the pub.
“This is the first demonstration of a shared brain-machine interface (BMI), a paradigm that has been translated successfully over the past decades from studies in animals all the way to clinical applications,” Miguel A. Nicolelis – Director of the Centre for Neuro-engineering at Duke University

Will some futuristic marriage celebrant have a marriage mind meld ritual chip planted in the couples brains as part of the wedding service conducted on a holographic beach complete with virtual guests?

Forever after when your darling asks you “what are you thinking?” You will be truly screwed.
No more nothing, saying nothing will no longer do.

Related Articles:
Scientists achieve first human-to-human ‘mind meld’
Real-Life Mind Meld? Scientists Link Animal Brains
Scientists ‘mind-meld’ a rat and monkey
Researcher controls colleague’s motions in 1st human brain-to-brain interface
Direct Brain-to-Brain Communication in Humans


Me and My Robot

Way back my friend and I bought a Tandy robot arm. We assembled it like a Lego kit and linked it to a PC. What will we get it to do? We asked ourselves. Something simple, let’s see if we can get it to move a coffee cup from one spot to another. Four thousand lines of code later we are ready for a test run. It worked except it crushed the coffee cup. We fine-tuned, tested it again and it crushed the next coffee cup. Finally it crushed the last coffee cup in the joint. We were so frustrated sitting there with a table top covered in shards of ceramic shrapnel, what we needed was a good cup of coffee and a cigarette. Watching us was a newly sleepless father who observed: “If you blokes could get that thing to recognise a baby’s cry, change a nappy and put a bottle in its mouth you would make a fortune” Inspired we proceeded, but for some inexplicable random reason it would sometimes reverse. That Tandy robot arm would “out of the blue” wrap the nappy around the plastic baby’s head and jam the bottle up it’s fictious you know where. We never got passed the proof of concept phase.

Later in Wired magazine I was reading an article from a robotics expert who asserted we were going about it in the wrong way. Trying to design a robot in the image of a human was wrong. We evolved out of the trees too fast he claimed; our resulting skeletal design was flawed and inefficient. It condemned humanity to universal back pain and weak ankles.  We needed to base robotics on insects he said. Exoskeletons to protect the electronics, huge load bearing ratios that allow ants to carry ten times their own weight would be a better design model. His vision of the vacuum cleaner of the future was a main self-propelled unit you would program to follow a determined path around your lounge room. The second part would be hundreds of mechanical cockroach’y things you let loose in your lounge room. They would be light averse and hide under your furniture during the day. At night time they would come out and pick up dust n stuff. When you sent the main unit in on its rounds they would all scuttle out, drop their guts in front of it to pick up, and scuttle back and hide under your furniture. You would always have a spotless lounge room.

My problem would be creeping through the lounge room on my way to one of those late night urinations you need after five glasses of red wine and have one of those little metal mothers run over my foot in the dark. I would stomp thousands of dollars to mechanical death before I knew what I was doing. I’m sorry sir your warranty doesn’t cover you attacking your own vacuum cleaner.

What is more likely than human robots in our own image may well be the concept being shown in a great Canadian Sci-Fi drama called Continuum.  The main character Kiera is chipped into a smart suit. Instead of creating robots with artificial intelligence why not work with what we already have in our brainbox with radically amplified human intelligence (IA – Intelligence Amplification).

This technology has started with a bit of nootropic enhancement. The first step is to create direct neural links to information, a “telepathic Google.” Secondly a kind of built in “Google glasses” to develop brain-computer interfaces that augment the visual cortex. The third step involves the genuine augmentation of the pre-frontal cortex. To do this three major technological advances are required. An appropriate manufacturing technology which would involve nano-manufacturing techniques to design the millions of electrode brain-computer interface connections required. We need to discover exactly what each neuron does and locate the exact positions in each individual. Finally we are nowhere close to discovering the fine grained detail of brain function.

Would this cerebral overclocking lead to super intelligent insanity? How much augmentation is too much?  How would this IA’d human cope with a local community committee meeting? How would you talk down someone with super intelligent insanity?

As Ernest Hemingway said, “An intelligent man is sometimes forced to be drunk to spend time with his fools.” Somewhere out there near 2060 you may well want to pay to be chipped along with your dog.

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