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The Future of Mind Control of Physical Objects

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the somewhere-norbert-is-smiling dept.

Robotics 176

mattnyc99 writes A month ago we discussed the accomplishment when researchers got monkeys to feed themselves with a robotic arm controlled by their brains. But after all the recent successful experiments with brain-computer interfaces, will the technology ever make it out of the lab and into hospitals — or even into our hands, for the closest thing imaginable to The Force? Popular Mechanics takes a look at the future of mind-machine control, speculating on several theoretical applications once brains can adapt to devices via direct communication between, say, synapse and prosthetic. Quoting the field's leading neuroscientist: 'For the foreseeable future, the main benefit is for rehabilitation. But the research is showing that the brain can act independently of the body. One day, you could be sitting in an office and controlling a device from across the room — or in another building. And it's not just flicking a switch. It could be a nanotool that's moving through a tiny environment, and you can control it and see what it's seeing.'"

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176 comments

Prior Art (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24091433)

Fox News ! FP!

Taoism has a prior art claim on The Force, too (2, Insightful)

CarpetShark (865376) | more than 5 years ago | (#24092097)

I don't know where the OP got the idea that neural control of an artificial hand is the closest idea we have to The Force. The Force in Star Wars is only a thinly veiled reference to The Tao.

Re:Taoism has a prior art claim on The Force, too (5, Informative)

settantta (577302) | more than 5 years ago | (#24094155)

The Force in Star Wars is only a thinly veiled reference to The Tao.

Not so much referring to the Tao (The Way), which in it's purest form is not a "force" at all.

The Force of Star Wars fame is actually referring to Ch'i (or Qi in current transcription), which is referred to in the Tao Te Ching. It is also known as Ki in Japanese thought, and is equivalent to Prana in Hindu thought. Native American thaught also has something similar.

The concept predates Taoism by quite some time.

I do mind control of objects... (5, Funny)

dkf (304284) | more than 5 years ago | (#24091441)

With the assistance of my arms and hands, I find my mind can control all sorts of physical objects very easily.

Re:I do mind control of objects... (1)

smilindog2000 (907665) | more than 5 years ago | (#24091471)

Ha ha! That's funny. When I'm old, and my body is good for nothing, just rip out my brain, and wire it into a robot. Family get-togethers might be a bit weird... maybe I could get some cool upgrades?

Re:I do mind control of objects... (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 5 years ago | (#24091571)

I'd rather have my body rejuvenated and enhanced than replace it with the shoddy technology of the 20th century.

Re:I do mind control of objects... (1)

cp.tar (871488) | more than 5 years ago | (#24096061)

I'd rather have my body rejuvenated and enhanced than replace it with the shoddy technology of the 20th century.

Worry not! You will not have our body replaced with the shoddy technology of the 20th century.
However, the shoddy technology of the 21st century is a wholly different matter.

How would it feel to have a body with "Made in China" engraved on most of its parts?
No, I do not want to test it on my biological body, thank you very much.
It would be untrue, for one.
Someone send me a Chinese girl!

Re:I do mind control of objects... (2, Funny)

Z34107 (925136) | more than 5 years ago | (#24093103)

Make sure they keep your ghost intact. But, I suspect this to happen with increasing frequency as we approach a Stand Alone Complex...

Re:I do mind control of objects... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24091485)

You mostly use one hand with one object, right?

Re:I do mind control of objects... (1)

Spy der Mann (805235) | more than 5 years ago | (#24091881)

With the assistance of my arms and hands, I find my mind can control all sorts of physical objects very easily.

Just be careful of not shortcircuiting the neural interface, or we could get in serious trouble [imdb.com] :)

Re:I do mind control of objects... (5, Funny)

mrbluze (1034940) | more than 5 years ago | (#24092973)

With the assistance of my arms and hands, I find my mind can control all sorts of physical objects very easily.

Would all those present who have telekinesis, please raise my right hand.

Cool I guess (2, Insightful)

UseCase (939095) | more than 5 years ago | (#24091461)

Considering we are just now getting to the point where gesture/Multi touch UIs are becoming usable, I am a bit skeptical of the whole Jean grey UI thing.

Re:Cool I guess (2, Interesting)

peragrin (659227) | more than 5 years ago | (#24092331)

more like the lantian interface from stargate.
fighter pilots could focus on their targets to guide missiles in, select which targets to fire upon, etc.

Re:Cool I guess (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24094075)

FA18's can already do this.

Futurama (5, Interesting)

Forrest Kyle (955623) | more than 5 years ago | (#24091463)

If I had the option, I would opt to have my brain placed in a jar attached to a robot body in the event that my heart gave out or something.

I have to imagine there is someway to keep the brain alive chemically. If an artifical blood-like fluid could be manufactured that carried oxygen and nutrients to the brain, and some sort of electro-stimulus interface could transmit visual and audio data, it seems plausible (in a cartoonishly plausible way) that we could survive the deaths of our bodies and live on for several more decades as purely intellectual beings; an existence I would enjoy almost as much as my current existence. And don't get the impression that I'm willing to discard my body because I'm hopelessly fat and sedentary. I love my body. I have a black belt, I workout out at the gym, and I am physically active. But when those capabilities go away, I would love to live on and experience the intellectual future.

Re:Futurama (1)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 5 years ago | (#24092023)

You'd be so bored you'd want to die.

Re:Futurama (2, Insightful)

RulerOf (975607) | more than 5 years ago | (#24094871)

You'd be so bored you'd want to die.

Presumably, if this were a possibility, you'd also be able to stimulate the part of your brain that makes you so incredibly happy that you wouldn't care you were, well, just a brain.

Read up on The Hedonistic Imperative [hedweb.com], just in case you don't understand.

Re:Futurama (4, Insightful)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 5 years ago | (#24092815)

And what would happen if something happened to the input/output sensory link? You could be in a vat of this chemical keeping your brain alive forever. And no sensory input. It would be worse than being buried alive and it would last forever (or a very long time, at least).

Re:Futurama (3, Insightful)

FeepingCreature (1132265) | more than 5 years ago | (#24093559)

A common fear, but it's not like they'd just put you in a jar and forget about you. For instance, it would be trivial to add a simple challenge/response test, and trigger an alarm on failure.

Re:Futurama (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24093919)

If you're connected to a network you could always download porn to keep you busy. Virtual reality would be interesting as long as you knew it was virtual and you had an RSS feed on updates for your replacement body. All in all it could be the good life once they got past the Pong stage of programming for Brainware virtual tech. Congress would never have to sleep again and there would be an army of Robotic soldiers with human brains. I for one welcome our Roboticly enhanced brain overlords. Where do I sign up to be a part of the fun?

Re:Futurama (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24094227)

Actually, the experience would probably be quite similar to the effect of taking a large amount of a dissociative drug, like ketamine or DXM.

these drugs shut off sensory input into the brain (sometimes to such a degree that your body shuts down due to lack of response back to the body, and then you die, aka OD)

But the lack of sensory input generally has been known to have an effect similar to the concept of "enlightenment" You feel incredibly huge, aswell as incredibly small, and everywhere and no where simultaneously. the paradoxical feeling has been described as terrifying by some, and wonderful by others.

I don't think it would be much different in a case where your brain is existing on its own, with no sensory input, (or output for that matter).

but your brain would still eventually die, cells are cells, and there are plenty of diseases that break down the brain rapidly, and in specific ways that would cause such an experience to be absolutely horrible

Re:Futurama (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24092833)

How do you know you're not just a brain floating in a jar right now?

Re:Futurama (2, Interesting)

Joe Tie. (567096) | more than 5 years ago | (#24092965)

Sadly, the brain ages in the same way as any other part of the body. Even if you could keep it healthy, it'd still almost certainly die off of old age pretty soon after, and probably with senile dementia as an extra gift.

With understanding of ageing most likely not. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24093707)

We are starting to work out the DNA link and aging so that may not be the issue. 10 to 20 years most likely have some kind of long term solution to it.

More of a issue is storage. Ie when brain runs out of space to store stuff. We have never lived long enough to know exactly what happens to us at that point. Most people with senile dementia is slow able to reversible because its not chemically linked. Its linked to the old saying Use it or Lose it. Many studies have been done bring first grade teachers in to start teaching people with senile dementia as they start using there brain again most of the problem goes away. For the ones that it does not its something going wrong in brain chemically most likely from dna or cell damage.

Yes biggest problem is if you loss you inputs for a large amount of time. You will lose it one way or another. Or become lazy and start off loading all thinking to a computer then you will get senile dementia.

Re:Futurama (1)

Vastad (1299101) | more than 5 years ago | (#24094357)

One of the Ghost In The Shell SAC episodes features a scene discussing the psychology of people going partial or full cyborg and the significance of their 'ghost' as part of that mental stability, the need to simulate specific datastreams of biofeedback from a body that doesn't exist. I think it's fascinating for this to show up in an anime when most media I've seen regarding "brain box/cyberbrain transplant" sci-fi never satisfactorily deals with interoception (pain response and sensory information from internal organs) and proprioception (sense of the body in space) as part of our psychology.

Simply putting an unprepared human being in a Lily isolation tank which only affects our classic 5 senses puts people in stress. Sure you can get your TV eyes and microphone ears but how will a brain/mind really function without feedback from a "body".

Probably the best people to study before full cyberbrain transplant are those with paralysis from the neck down. I'm assuming that they lose interoception since its the same nervous system that moves their muscles and they must have extremely limited proprioception i.e. if they can still move their eyes, then visual stimuli is the only thing left to inform the brain about the position of the body. Certainly indivuduals with extreme paralysis will be prone to depression but I've never heard of anyone going insane from it. I could be wrong as it may just be a taboo subject and never published, researched or discussed anywhere.

Re:Futurama (1)

Thinboy00 (1190815) | more than 5 years ago | (#24095017)

I have a black belt, I workout out at the gym, and I am physically active. [snip]

There goes your geek card!

Re:Futurama (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24095293)

You might do a search for the Immortality Institute. Though I don't think there are many of the brain-vat persuasion to be found there.

Re:Futurama (1)

nanostuff (1224482) | more than 5 years ago | (#24095435)

That's fiendishly crude and sloppy. If you have the technology to do this plus receive and send all necessary neural data, you will surely have the technology to replicate the biological network in a more durable medium and forego such a haphazard implementation in the first place.

Nanotool? (5, Funny)

HaeMaker (221642) | more than 5 years ago | (#24091475)

That's not what she said.

Re:Nanotool? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24092241)

"that's moving through a tiny environment" Well, that's because she's really tight.

Re:Nanotool? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24092889)

That's not what she said.

you must have been drunk. that's exactly what she said.

"...the main benefit is for rehabilitation..." (1, Insightful)

Iamthecheese (1264298) | more than 5 years ago | (#24091483)

I'm tired of scientests refusing to admit the full implications of their work. It hold back society and fosters an atmosphere of complacence. There is no reason at all, if it can be used to control a prosthetic, it can't be used for telepresence, using my computer [crunchgear.com], driving my car [wikipedia.org] or any thing else. Anything at all.

Re:"...the main benefit is for rehabilitation..." (4, Insightful)

vux984 (928602) | more than 5 years ago | (#24091857)

I'm tired of scientests refusing to admit the full implications of their work.

Its more a case that due to the astronomical cost, difficulty, and less than ideal results, for the forseeable future medical use is the only application where the cost isn't too high, and the risk is acceptable, and the clumsy results are still infinitely preferable to what's available otherwise.

Long term sure, maybe we'll be operating our computer, car, and TV by thought. But nobody is going to pay $250,000+ for a system that lets them change the channel with an 80% accuracy of it getting it right.

On the other hand, for someone paralyzed from the neck down... even clumsy control would be a godsend.

Re:"...the main benefit is for rehabilitation..." (5, Interesting)

AnalogyShark (1317197) | more than 5 years ago | (#24092345)

I was thinking more along the lines of the military when he said the implications. We already have planes that can fly without a pilot (UAVs). If a person could wholly be inside a plane mentally (in a sense), imagine the increased control one could have, without the limitations of G-forces on a pilot's body or the fear of real death. And the military definately has the budget.

Re:"...the main benefit is for rehabilitation..." (1)

guruevi (827432) | more than 5 years ago | (#24093909)

They already do that in a sense with the UAV's. The controller has a screen (or multiple) where he/she can see what the sight is out of the UAV and they have a controller similar to what would be available if you would be sitting in what would be the cockpit for such device. That is fairly cheap and does it's job well, no brain-links necessary.

The problem as mentioned many times before in these applications is that if you make missions more like a simulation/computer game than the real thing, there will become a disconnect between the guy that pulls the trigger and it's targets while pilots currently still have the final control. Another issue would be what happens with something bigger than a UAV if the communication is disrupted (jammed, out of range, technical malfunction...)

Enders Game (1)

spandex_panda (1168381) | more than 5 years ago | (#24095281)

Enders game [wikipedia.org] by Orson scott Card is about something like this, this kid is trained to play some video games and gets really good, then the games get really complicated and he's the big commander, then after its all over he is told that it is all real (oops I spoiled it). Quick order the book from ebay and forget I said this cause I think it is a good book. Just remember that the writer is a bit of a christian (I guess all Americans are...)

Re:"...the main benefit is for rehabilitation..." (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24094319)

Theres still implications of risk, the devices they use for these applications are incredibly invasive.
You install tubes that permeate your skull, and those tubes are laced with wires.

Electrodes are inserted to, and placed on the brain, and the devices that you connect to are in no way mobile.

Additionally, when controlling devices such as jet planes, you're talking about a piece of hardware that costs millions of dollars.

Flying at Mach 2, and pulling massive amounts of G's is all well and good, but if you lose your wireless connection for even a split second, it could mean the destruction of said multi-million dollar piece of military hardware.

the military would much rather have a person in the seat of that plane, who can account for small problems when they arise, and even big ones, without the risk of losing connection. it puts the pilot at risk, but the financial side of it is more important to military bodies.

Re:"...the main benefit is for rehabilitation..." (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24091961)

+1 Insightful. To the flamebait modder, -1, Christian.

Re:"...the main benefit is for rehabilitation..." (1)

renegadesx (977007) | more than 5 years ago | (#24092153)

"Once you go down the lazy path forever will it dominate your desitny" - Yoda

Re:"...the main benefit is for rehabilitation..." (1)

Idiomatick (976696) | more than 5 years ago | (#24095963)

People wont invest in something they thing is impossible. Tech illiterate believe that it is more reasonable to replace something (a leg) than control something different like a car. Legs people understand we mostl all have some so they assume hey thats doable. Truth that driving a car would be WAY easier doesn't really matter.

That's nice (1)

jmerlin (1010641) | more than 5 years ago | (#24091525)

Let's stick probes on something and say that we understand it because it produces semi-predictable pattern of electrical signals. Woohoo, we're so heading towards neural interfaces like The Matrix!

Not so fast... (3, Insightful)

wild_quinine (998562) | more than 5 years ago | (#24091547)

About ten years ago I saw someone controlling a cursor (badly) on a computer screen using electrodes planted in a headband. Last couple of years it hasn't been much better and now they're shoving things right into the brain. Seems like the tech is going backwards if anything, and frankly until it is non-invasive I don't think it's going to catch on much - even in the medical field, even for those paralysed from the neck down, there are better options that getting wires in the brain.

Re:Not so fast... (1)

Thought1 (1132989) | more than 5 years ago | (#24091671)

Check out Emotiv [emotiv.com]. They've got a non-invasive headset with a full API that's good enough even for control of video games, among other things. I'm thinking that the "hard-wired" approach was intended to be linked to the researcher's comment of "primarily for rehabilitation", specifically, attempting to restore something that has already been physically lost.

Re:Not so fast... (5, Insightful)

IdeaMan (216340) | more than 5 years ago | (#24091919)

Brain-computer interfaces need to be implanted and active before the child learns to speak. Some feedback needs to be given to the child in terms of flashing lights the child can see. Adults will take many years of training to approach what a child will learn during their early stages of development.

I would hazard a guess that the most inane of enhancements will have the most impact. Instantaneous access to a simple calculator and 50 gigs of ram/flash storage alone would enable uncanny abilities in humans. The ability to carry on simultaneous conversations with N other similarly enhanced humans, or even the concept of conversation using wide symbols rather than very narrow and slow bandwidth communications protocols such as speech would also have a huge impact on society.

This research has been going on for far too long with the squeamish ones of you holding it back waiting for non-invasive. Requiring non-invasive is like trying to build a Tempest device to access a computer inside a faraday cage instead of just putting in an Ethernet card and running a cable out.

The number of uses an enhanced human will use the implant for will make the rest of us all look like deaf and dumb quadriplegics by comparison. Having an interface in place before an injury would greatly shorten the rehabilitation time of an unfortunate amputee.

Re:Not so fast... (3, Insightful)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 5 years ago | (#24092135)

?

I have access to a simple calculator - it's my brain. It's quick, easy, and pretty damned accurate.

I think I can store just a tad more data than 50 GB.

I don't know about you, but I can already communicate pretty damned well with multiple people at once.

A child does not learn such things quickly. There's a reason they teach cutting and gluing and writing and coloring and all that in preschool and kindergarten. Children lack motor skills. The brain takes a long time to develop them. How long was it before you could hit a ball with a bat reliably? How long did it take you to learn to drive? How long did it take you to learn to type?

The more you do something, the sooner you will become adept at doing it. Children will have little impetus to learn their newfangled brain implant interface. There are things on the floor that need tasting, there are other children around, and I think the neighbors just got a puppy.

An adult, who is paralyzed, will have (depending on the situation) a section of brain that is not being used, and a serious motivation to learn to work their new robo arm. Sure - some people will break down and cry and not succeed (see current physical therapy), but if it was the difference between having an arm and not having an arm, I'd work my ass off to make sure I learned to use that arm.

Re:Not so fast... (1)

Thinboy00 (1190815) | more than 5 years ago | (#24095089)

Children have much more plasticity than adults. Ergo, they can (and will) allocate entire brain areas to interface with the device. This is impossible in adults (or at least, impossible without an enormous amount of effort, and that only goes as far as operant conditioning. It won't permanently "set aside" a region of the brain).

Re:Not so fast... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24094603)

"...instead of just putting in an Ethernet card and running a cable out" isn't all that apt a simile. Rather think of your metaphorical computer as having no PCI slot for this ethernet card, and the case has no screws, so you have to cut it open and destructively solder in your ethernet circuitry onto the mobo - except you have no way of tracing the circuit diagram, or finding out which bit does what exactly.

Re:Not so fast... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24095665)

Oath of Fealty?

captcha: "conflict" lol.

Re:Not so fast... (3, Informative)

mailchandra (914582) | more than 5 years ago | (#24092493)

One of the big issues with recording from the skull is the quality of the data. The skull attenuates the signals considerably and besides you have all sorts of artifacts from head motion etc.Anyway, there is yet reason to hope. Finding usable realtime data from noninvasive recordings is going to be very very difficult. The reason you do want to shove things or place electrodes in the brain is to improve the signal to noise of the recordings. With implanted electrodes in specific areas of the brain such as the motor cortex you get excellent clean signals which can then be further processed using clever machine learning algorithms. However, there are still problems because gunk builds around the electrodes and chances of infection and so on. Having said that, as electrodes become smaller and smaller, it should soon be possible to place electrodes a few microns thick inside the skull. Presumably in the future you will be able to have a USB like plug on your skull to control things. This is optimistically 10 - 15 years off in the future.

Re:Not so fast... (1)

wild_quinine (998562) | more than 5 years ago | (#24092593)

Having said that, as electrodes become smaller and smaller, it should soon be possible to place electrodes a few microns thick inside the skull. Presumably in the future you will be able to have a USB like plug on your skull to control things. This is optimistically 10 - 15 years off in the future.

Call me old fashioned, but no fucking way I'm getting one of those.

Re:Not so fast... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24092543)

I remember that, but I thought it was controlled by impulses in his arm.

Inconvenient TV remote? (3, Funny)

DeadDecoy (877617) | more than 5 years ago | (#24091569)

Just think of how inconvenient it would be to have a brain-controlled TV while having friends over. You'd either be fighting over the controls or the channels would switch to porn the second a commercial popped up.

Re:Inconvenient TV remote? (3, Funny)

NovaHorizon (1300173) | more than 5 years ago | (#24092175)

There's nothing inconvenient about the TV switching to porn during commercials..... ever..

Re:Inconvenient TV remote? (1)

c6gunner (950153) | more than 5 years ago | (#24093069)

Right. It could get a little awkward, though, when your 8 year old niece goes from watching "Dora the Explorer" to "Star Trek the Next Penetration".

Re:Inconvenient TV remote? (1)

NovaHorizon (1300173) | more than 5 years ago | (#24093107)

you're sudden startle reflex though would change it to the Simpson's instantly, and coincidentally just in time for Homer to go "D'oh!"

What are the limits of brain plasticity? (4, Interesting)

Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) | more than 5 years ago | (#24091601)

What if mastering a prosthetic interface is like learning to speak a language without an accent, something that's almost impossible to do as an adult?

What if people who grew up before this technology gets perfected won't be able to compete in the workforce?

Re:What are the limits of brain plasticity? (4, Interesting)

halsver (885120) | more than 5 years ago | (#24091981)

If working with many computer illiterate baby boomers has taught me anything, no. This won't ever be a problem.

However, though I can perform research on the internet 5 times faster than most BBs by no means can I spell or do math in my head nearly as well as many of them. Not to mention my handwriting is terrible!

What skills will be lost to people who rely on this future tech too much?

My guess... (1)

denzacar (181829) | more than 5 years ago | (#24092587)

It will be more like dancing or martial arts.
Learning to move your body (and it's individual parts) in a particular way.
Doing a shitload of simple, repetitive exercises until you learn to do it with grace that makes it look natural.

A note to whoever will be developing this technology:
Making the training moves "danceable" (following a rhythm or a tune) will probably greatly reduce the duration of "the learning period".

main benefit is for rehabilitation? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24091629)

"For the foreseeable future, the main benefit is for rehabilitation"

Is he sure of that? What about for control of vehicles? I imagine DARPA's foaming at the mouth for the first brain-controlled tank.

strange brew that's good for you (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24091701)

That would be Kombucha.

Ghost in the shell. (4, Interesting)

plasmacutter (901737) | more than 5 years ago | (#24091733)

Anyone interested in the dark side of direct neuro-prosthetic communication should watch ghost in the shell: stand alone complex.

In this show, set in the near future (about 25 years from now), a common means of entry into enemy strongholds involves directly hacking people's motor functions and turning them into marionettes.

A constant arms race is underway pitting entry vs "attack barrier" defenses which lash back against neuro-hackers and attempt to fry their brains.

hmmmm, brains (1)

Phantom of the Opera (1867) | more than 5 years ago | (#24091843)

I suppose it would be like an epileptic attack. If you did something like a DDOS attack, you'd run into the boundary that neurons can fire at most 3 times a second.

Maybe the Borg started off as a very advanced MMORPG.

Re:Ghost in the shell. (1)

EdZ (755139) | more than 5 years ago | (#24092669)

And more interestingly, cyberbrains can enter and 'autistic mode', where all external connections are refused, negating the hacking problem. Also, checkout the first movie (and original manga) for some interesting discussion into the borders of 'humanity' when humans may not have any biological components left, and machines may be entirely biological in nature (or entirely bodiless).

Re:Ghost in the shell. (1)

trytoguess (875793) | more than 5 years ago | (#24094363)

Why in blazes are people with high security clearences allowing any outside access to their components?

Re:Ghost in the shell. (1)

im_thatoneguy (819432) | more than 5 years ago | (#24094723)

Exactly.

Ghost in the Shell is precisely the sort of show that perpetuates bad stereotypes of the future.

It seems pathetically easy to A) implement extremely simple shutoff routines and B) limit the amount of external access to the brain.

I think Spam in my inbox is a more accurate assessment of the future threat to my cybernetic enhancements than marionettes.

If we get to the point where data is streaming in at conscious levels and my consciousness is sitting in the middle of the internet's "stream" then we've already effectively become a hive mind. We've already implemented thought crime and put a portion of each of our attentions to tracking down anybody who has intent to harm within the bounds of our laws and will be able to coordinate the law abiding masses almost instantly to identify and remove any cancerous personalities.

If our technology is so sophisticated that someone can be brainwashed that implies we have an extremely accurate understanding of conscious thought and the complete subversion of free will. A world where we can completely simulate and override free will is a world where everybody's thoughts can be pre-screened for intent.

If it's an arms race... it's one the hive mind is going to dominate.

Re:Ghost in the shell. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24094763)

I have not seen the series, but perhaps without the enhancements they could somehow be defeated easily in combat, but they do not have the space to fully shield [wikipedia.org] their brain.

reaction time (2, Interesting)

NovaHorizon (1300173) | more than 5 years ago | (#24091863)

So... the question becomes how long until the neural interface can create movement in an object in less then 1/7th of a second.

Why do I ask that? Because 1/7th of a second is roughly how long it takes for an electric pulse from your brain to reach your fingers.

Why is that important?

First Person Shooters...

Brain == The Slave Driver (1)

Gigadafud (413848) | more than 5 years ago | (#24091887)

Other than the functional ability of moving my brain around from location A to location B and replicating, isn't the body more or less a tactile feedback machine for my brain more or less?

I have always thought of my brain as being the little alien dude in Men In Black controlling that mechanical body.

Pop. Sci. & Pop. Mech. (0)

breem42 (664497) | more than 5 years ago | (#24091895)

Why do we keep seeing links and stories from these two? They were great fun as magazines when I was 12, but please!

Perhaps there should be an article category -- "sensationalism/ridiculous speculation" that I can filter out. I can already hear the replies -- "You haven't been on /. long have you?" It's not this isn't news for nerds. Maybe I'm just not as nerdy as I once was, or my brand of nerdism includes a desire for less fanboy-ism.

In Sci Fi reading... (4, Interesting)

skelly33 (891182) | more than 5 years ago | (#24091907)

I'm in the middle of a novel by David Brin titled Earth. In it he describes a futuristic version of a human-machine interface called a "sub-vocal" which reacts to nervous impulses for speech before they turn into physical movement. He imagines that such a think only works for someone with a very clear mind and sharp focus because drifting thoughts may cause bad signals. In the story, this manifests as obscure commands to the interface and sometimes verbalizing thoughts that normally would have qualifies as "inner monologue".

While it is only a story, the author is a real sharp cookie, and it seems quite plausible to me that hyper-sensitive electronics could go wonky if the operator were not 100% focused on them - and when are we really 100% focused on anything? I do not have total focus on driving if I'm conversing with someone, listening to music, or thinking about my day. Could obscure thoughts wreck my ming controlled car?

NOT just a story... it exists already... (1)

denzacar (181829) | more than 5 years ago | (#24092703)

They call it Audeo. [newscientist.com]

It was discussed here at Slashdot [slashdot.org] couple of months ago.

Re:NOT just a story... it exists already... (1)

skelly33 (891182) | more than 5 years ago | (#24093541)

Wow - my post was rife with type-o's... was in a hurry (one more vote for post edit support here on /.!). Yeah I saw that Audeo thing when it was posted here, but when I watched the video it looked like the guy was actually moving muscles in his throat and neck. The version in the story sounds more like pure thought reception well ahead of muscle signals; the Audeo thing IS a way cool step forward though!

Am I... (4, Interesting)

Sklyan (1263518) | more than 5 years ago | (#24091949)

...the only person who feels that the human thought patterns are too flakey and un-predictable to be put in this sort of situation. Anyone who has ever tried to take up meditation will tell you how frustrated, as well as surprised, they were to find out that you're really not in control of your thoughts as much as you would think.

What about controlling virtual objects? (2, Interesting)

Spy der Mann (805235) | more than 5 years ago | (#24091965)

We don't have to limit ourselves to the physical world (think Neuromancer). A few years ago, a friend of mine showed me a tale (forgot the url, sorry) about a scientist creating 3D pictures and doing advanced CAD using a neural interface and a holographic display. Imagine not even needing a mouse pointer to modify a curve, but instead just imagining what the curve will look like. And of course, having realtime feedback.

Add a little AI to it so you can tell the program what parameters to modify as you're molding the object being designed.

Now imagine if you could program software this way using the a VR (and user-friendly) equivalent of UML.

Re:What about controlling virtual objects? (1)

CarpetShark (865376) | more than 5 years ago | (#24092073)

Imagine not even needing a mouse pointer to modify a curve, but instead just imagining what the curve will look like.

At that point, combined with fabbers, we'll be starting to get technology similar to the Krell's, in Forbidden Planet.

xmod 0p (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24091991)

a conscious sta8d asshole to others

Where are the nerd culture jokes? (1)

Bovius (1243040) | more than 5 years ago | (#24092003)

Let's see, scanning.....scanning....yep, not a single Borg or Krag reference.

I'm looking forward to my brain being transplanted to a titanium frame so my life can continue as an evil overlord in the Technodrome.

Monsters from the Id (2, Insightful)

hedley (8715) | more than 5 years ago | (#24092101)

Don't be too quick to take a nap once that synapse parser starts getting the REM raw data. I would recommend a 'sleep' mode on that circuitry.

Shadowrun anyone? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24092107)

Application of this technology has been designed to death in the cyberpunk literature! From replacement body parts, to mind-controlled drone vehicles, to full immersion VR. Skip Matrix, go directly to Snow Crash, get a Shadowrun Cybertech sourcebook on the way (Man & Machine or Arsenal).

Finally! (4, Funny)

Jafafa Hots (580169) | more than 5 years ago | (#24092339)

We will be completely freed from the destructive and dangerous effects of exercise and physical movement!

Re:Finally! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24093165)

What comes to mind:

  • May the Force be with you. [replace midi-chlorians with nanobots]
  • - There is no spoon?
    - Then you'll see, that it is not the spoon that bends, it is only yourself. [Mind control of objects that aren't there]

First application depends on origin. (2, Funny)

ZarathustraDK (1291688) | more than 5 years ago | (#24092445)

If in America : "Scientists have recently developed a handfree TV-remote-control, so now all you fat bastards don't have to waste those precious joules operating a regular remote.

If in Japan : "Scientists have recently developed an obedient sexbot which knows exactly what you want; tentacles sold separately."

Re:First application depends on origin. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24093615)

Haha oh man! America fat jokes and Japan sex jokes! You are on the bleeding edge of internet comedy, sir!

Ryogo (1)

Ryogo (1303193) | more than 5 years ago | (#24094837)

I fail to see how this is amazing. decode the signals your brain sends to your muscles... and instead put computers there. those signals will move the robotic equipment. easier said than done, but with this we can cure the paralyzed, i say, continue this research... and then we can have ultra omega super humans that can fight wars for us... kinda like a brain in a jar -_- (scary, aint it)

Negative Brainwaves (1)

pipingguy (566974) | more than 5 years ago | (#24094889)

Well, at least this partially explains why my (formerly always recoverable) Windows machine won't boot any more since I got my Mac. Could also be the dents in the motherboard from the baseball bat I suppose.

Re: (1)

clint999 (1277046) | more than 5 years ago | (#24095057)

And more interestingly, cyberbrains can enter and 'autistic mode', where all external connections are refused, negating the hacking problem. Also, checkout the first movie (and original manga) for some interesting discussion into the borders of 'humanity' when humans may not have any biological components left, and machines may be entirely biological in nature (or entirely bodiless).

open design... open technology (1)

Emesee (1155401) | more than 5 years ago | (#24095475)

this may have been said, but suppose this just isn't going to be available for what some may call an unreasonable amount of time suppose these people just released the technology like the people at reprap, molecubes and fab at home are... what would that hurt if the technology is not going to be available? a loss of future profits? then is it a matter of money? are they being selfish, or are they just being reasonable and prudent? that would be nice.

Flaunting Ignorance (3, Informative)

DynaSoar (714234) | more than 5 years ago | (#24095987)

"...via direct communication between, say, synapse and prosthetic."

No, don't say 'between synapse and prosthetic' because that's definitely not going to provide the information necessary to send a command of any kind. Synapses do not represent qualia (the 'quantum of thought'). Neurons don't either. It requires a softwired network of neurons to contain a single element of thought. Softwaired because all neurons are hard wired to all others with a maximum separation of 6 synapses, the average being 3. The neurons not required for a particular qualia are prevented from participating in synchronized firing. The result is 10^3 to 10^5 neurons firing together. All those neurons participate in other of such functional networks at other times, the difference being the addition of some neurons that weren't in the first network. Sometimes many of the neurons in one functional network participate together in another but the second collection represents a very different thought, feeling, etc.

The interested can read up on it in "The Organization of Behavior" by Donald O. Hebb (for which those functional networks are named: Hebbian cellular assemblies). Just the first chapter. Hebb himself said everything necessary is there, and all the subsequent chapters expand on it. I'm taking potshots at Popular Mechanics not for being a poor source of informed neuroscience, but because they've had plenty of time to do their background research but obviously didn't. Hebb's book came out in 1949.

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