“it’s a Sleepless world, they’re just awaking to it”

Posted by on June 9th, 2013

Warning [SPOILERS]: if you care about the plots of Nikita, Iron Man 3, The Bourne Legacy… stop now, go watch ‘em all then come back. Hi!

Philosophy so physical makes for a very handsome tribe.


This scene from Canadian science-fiction drama show Orphan Black is the best rendering of a Grinder Bar yet seen on screens small or large. In fact, I’m not even sure what the others are.

And it’s a good reason to take a whip-around look at the world of pop culture as serious business, and re-examine the state of the #transhumanfuturepresent.

First we have the latest season of the spy soap, Nikita. Referring in-show to its “spy fi” plot elements, the absolute transhuman drama of cyborg hand upgrades and cutting edge transplant dramatic problems. Don’t bring a possibly evil hand to a knife fight or something.

The settings of Iron Man 3 and The Bourne Legacy are both unquestionably transhuman. Neither film is a journey of a character to science-fictional state (see recent highlights: Limitless, Chronicle), but rather their starting condition.

(We can wedge Hanna in here too, though it’s more properly a genetically engineered super-solider girl coming of age fairy tale, innit).

In Iron Man 3, Tony Stark (1.0) not only has upgraded-girlfriend-dramas (well, Red She-Hulk solutions) but the plot driver is a conflict between two competing paths of self-directed human evolution: man/machine co-evolution and direct genetic hacking (hopefully not precluding the eventual arrival of Zeke Stane (Tony Stark 2.0) onto the big screen, that plot having been mined from The Five Nightmares arc of The Invincible Iron Man).

Speaking about playing Aldritch Killan, Guy Pearce mentions that Extremis also upgrades the subject to become one of the beautiful people:

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In The Bourne Legacy, our hero, who totally isn’t being chased by the mutant wolves of The Grey as it opens, is the latest iteration of the super-soldierspy program. His motivation is to hold onto his upgraded self, lest he reverts back to being the guy from The Lawnmower Man, or something.

Once you’ve gone transhuman…

Back in Canada, and actually set-in-Canada Canadian drama Continuum, which apart from featuring an absolutely bad-ass tech suit rather a lot like Deus Ex: Human Revolution‘s (itself a bridge between its low-grade #peakcyberpunkfuture and today, a cyborg hand reaching back to the present), combines transhuman future cop trapped in the present drama, with standard procedural drama, and excellent sociopolitical critique. Honestly, the first show on TV that I wish I was writing for ([blink]%HIRE ME%[/blink]).

Plus in the actual RL, we have Google Glass, already getting surpassed by the Meta. Pioneers like Steve Mann and Neil HarbigesenSports stories speculating on specific upgrades already being outdated… and other things I’m sure I’ve missed. So tell me!

and while we’re talking, let’s discuss the anti-posthuman agenda of Star Trek, most recently seen in Into the Darkness:

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Litmus test: who is the real villain in X-Men: First Class?

And we leave you with the trailer for Elysium, grinder revenge pr0n if ever there was one:

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Hacking your Enlightenment and other transhuman future titbits

Posted by on August 22nd, 2012
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Particularly fascinating interview with Jeffery A. Martin here, not just for his research into the Enlightened, but for his eventual synthesis towards a speculative life for the newly near-immortal.

Other transhuman future titbits from around the web of late:

An Illustrated Dictionary of Cyborg Anthropology by Amber Case

Posted by on December 28th, 2011

Amber Case, Cyborg Anthropologist (who we’ve interviewed here) has produced this excellent dictionary of terms for her field.

For those who came in late…

Cyborg Anthropology is a way of understanding how we live as technosocially connected citizens in the modern era. Our cell phones, cars and laptops have turned us into cyborgs. What does it mean to extend the body into hyperspace? What are the implications to privacy, information and the formation of identity? Now that we have a second self, how do we protect it?

This text covers various subjects such as time and space compression, hyperlinked memories, panic architecture, mobile technology, interface evaporation and how technology is changing the way we live.

But wait, there’s also cute illustrations by Maggie Nichols, like this one for Hyperlinked Memories:

I just bought mine, perhaps this is why you should cash that cheque from the Chemical Bank your nan put in your holiday card?

FuturePresent News Special – 1-11-11

Posted by on November 1st, 2011

Here’s your menu for today’s FuturePresent news round-up:

  • MSFT’s “Productivity Vision 2011″ video:
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    via GeekWire who give this nice description:

    As the new video opens, special eyeglasses translate audio into English in real-time for a business traveler in Johannesburg. A thin screen on a car window highlights a passing building to show where her meeting will be the next day, based on information from her calendar. Office workers gesture effortlessly to control and reroute text and charts as the screens around them morph and pulse with new information.

    And on and on from there, making our modern-day digital breakthroughs seem like mere baby steps on the road to a far more spectacular future.

    Now I want my fucking spex now as much as the next cyberpunk, BUT… actual world problems solved here? ZERO. When the current estimate is that 80 Million new jobs need to be created to replace the ones lost during this recent period of disaster capitalism, building a shinier operating system hardly seems likely to help.

  • In better cyberpunky news, from the very same Microsoft, there’s OMNITOUCH:
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    via Design Taxi, who give us this succinct description:

    OmniTouch is depth-sensing projection system worn on the shoulder.

    With the system, hands, legs, arms, walls, books and tabletops, become interactive touch-screen surfaces—without any need for calibration.

    If only they didn’t look so terrible. Get ya mod on there future-dwellers!

  • It may have over 5Million views, but let’s take a look at the QUANTUM LEVITATION video again
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    via Gizmodo. Advances in basic science and engineering, now we’re talking!

  • If you like SCIENCE! you’ll love simulated pocket universes:

    Some of these universes would collapse instants after forming; in others, the forces between particles would be so weak they could not give rise to atoms or molecules. However, if conditions were suitable, matter would coalesce into galaxies and planets, and if the right elements were present in those worlds, intelligent life could evolve.

    Some physicists have theorized that only universes in which the laws of physics are “just so” could support life, and that if things were even a little bit different from our world, intelligent life would be impossible. In that case, our physical laws might be explained “anthropically,” meaning that they are as they are because if they were otherwise, no one would be around to notice them.

    MIT physics professor Robert Jaffe and his collaborators felt that this proposed anthropic explanation should be subjected to more careful scrutiny, and decided to explore whether universes with different physical laws could support life.

    The MIT physicists have showed that universes quite different from ours still have elements similar to carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen, and could therefore evolve life forms quite similar to us, even when the masses of elementary particles called quarks are dramatically altered.

    Jaffe and his collaborators felt that this proposed anthropic explanation should be subjected to more careful scrutiny, so they decided to explore whether universes with different physical laws could support life. Unlike most other studies, in which varying only one constant usually produces an inhospitable universe, they examined more than one constant.

    Whether life exists elsewhere in our universe is a longstanding mystery. But for some scientists, there’s another interesting question: could there be life in a universe significantly different from our own?

    In work recently featured in a cover story in Scientific American, Jaffe, former MIT postdoc, Alejandro Jenkins, and recent MIT graduate Itamar Kimchi showed that universes quite different from ours still have elements similar to carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen, and could therefore evolve life forms quite similar to us. Even when the masses of the elementary particles are dramatically altered, life may find a way.

    “You could change them by significant amounts without eliminating the possibility of organic chemistry in the universe,” says Jenkins.

    Keep reading… And if that’s not heavy enough for you, how about a paper on the Mass of the universe in a black hole (via reddit)

  • From the macro to the micro – Scientists create computing building blocks from bacteria and DNA [PhysOrg]:

    The scientists constructed a type of logic gate called an “AND Gate” from bacteria called Escherichia coli (E.Coli), which is normally found in the lower intestine. The team altered the E.Coli with modified DNA, which reprogrammed it to perform the same switching on and off process as its electronic equivalent when stimulated by chemicals.

    The researchers were also able to demonstrate that the biological logic gates could be connected together to form more complex components in a similar way that electronic components are made. In another experiment, the researchers created a “NOT gate” and combined it with the AND gate to produce the more complex “NAND gate”.

    The next stage of the research will see the team trying to develop more complex circuitry that comprises multiple logic gates. One of challenges faced by the team is finding a way to link multiple biological logic gates together, similar to the way in which electronic logic gates are linked together, to enable complex processing to be carried out.

On Google’s vision of an ‘augmented humanity’

Posted by on February 13th, 2011

The following video is Google’s soon to be ex-CEO, Eric Schmidt, presenting to IFA 2010 a vision to create an ‘age of Augmented Humanity’; it also features demos of then new GoogleTV and various new automagical apps for Android. It goes for an hour, if that’s too long, there’s the cliff-notes version over on GIGAOM.

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Now I love Accelerando and other such SF novels as much as the next post-cyberpunk, so the idea of my own personal AGI has its appeal. And so long as we don’t up with the world’s most annoying Microsoft Paperclip, I’m cool with that. BUT.. there’s a few holes in this vision, at least the way I see it.

Primarily, that it’s based on a nice smooth vision of the future, projected from an ideal yesterday.

Foremost being that these automagical apps they’re demoing seem to be designed to solve middle class problems. And, if you’re paying attention, the middle class is vanishing. Which leaves the over-educated and/or under/un-employed on one side and the global elite on the other. Neither of which need help buying shoes while visiting Berlin (the example given for Conversation Mode of Google Translate.) The Favela Chic (as Sterling calls them; soon to be, if not already, us) will gladly take the free OSs and services, but won’t be clicking on ads. Nor will the Global Elite (see: The Rise of the New Global Elite, if you haven’t already). If they want translation services, they’ll hire a human with 100% accuracy.

And it’s advertising that Google are and shall continue to use to monetize their system. Maybe I’m the only one that find the ads before popular YouTube clips (and nearly every other video streaming service) highly annoying.. a tax, no less, that I refuse to pay. Just as I never click on the ads that appear in search results or gmail, I don’t even see them. But then I don’t use loyalty cards either, and all of these things are apparently popular. For the moment.

So, point number two. The mythical always on high-speed network, the various flavours of delicious mobile and wired broadband. Which it is. Mostly. In cities (where we’re told the population will continue to centre themselves in). In what we used to call the first-world. Which have largely been under-invested in infrastructure thanks to widespread implementation of economic rationalism. So that a tiny, weany little thing called the weather breaks it. Snowed under, cables freeze and snap. Floods shut off power stations. Hurricanes and tornadoes etc etc. Life in the 21C. All the supercomputers are still there in the Cloud, but inaccessible.. useless. Also, there’s the little thing of being in a country that decides to just shut off the internet. That too.

So, think a few years ahead. You’ve all read about the potential of biocomputing and have been pirating tv shows and movies for years (partly because they have the advertising already chopped out of them) thanks to.. what’s that? Peer to Peer technologies. What if the Favela Chic-types figure out how to homebrew, say in 5years, in DIYbio labs, their own supercomputers and seed their own clouds? Google.. you say? I remember them.

Even this year we could see open-source phones that can create and communicate across their own mesh network; it’s not hard to do this with the Android platform, and the openmoko project also has a lot of potential. There’s a reason WalMart busted ass to be the first help out the victims of Katrina. That because there’s no reason that leaderless, self-organising groups couldn’t themselves pour into the next city or area that is the next victim of heavy weather, with just this tech to distribute, donated from hackerspaces local and abroad. Because everyone’s connected now; if they don’t know someone directly affected, they know someone that knows someones that is.

Now, I’ll jump back into this from another angle, in another post, shortly, but suffice to say: a top-down, device to network to cloud computer and back again, automagical friendly (not in any way censored.. oh no, heaven forbid) solution looks awful nice yesterday; but in today’s world, which is just a preview of tomorrow’s.. it’s already looking like wishful thinking. Yes, I’m being dramatic, but these are increasingly dramatic times.

Third and finally, do we really want to merge with the Googleplex? To become Google’borgs? Because that’s what this ‘Age of Augmented Humanity’ amounts to. Now, believe me, I’m all for the continued co-evolution between man and his tools, BUT.. I’m also, clearly, emphasising the importance of questioning and critiquing this.  And doing it ourselves, with full control.

Fundamentally, it comes down to two questions: how much trust will you place in an Algorithm? and how much is your data really worth? To be continued..

Lock memories in with odor reactivation

Posted by on January 26th, 2011

Interesting brain hack discovered by researchers, using smell to lock-in a memory during sleep.

WIRED has the story:

In the new study, volunteers played a Concentration-type game in which they had to remember the locations of pairs of cards. Meanwhile, a mask wafted a slightly unpleasant odor into the volunteers’ nostrils. Once the volunteers had mastered the game, some stayed awake while others took about a 40-minute nap. Researchers reactivated the memory in some volunteers by releasing the odor again. After the nappers woke up, the volunteers played a slightly different version of the card game and were tested to see how well they recalled the locations of the original cards.

Both sleeping and awake volunteers who didn’t have their memories jogged by the odor remembered about 60 percent of the pairs. When researchers triggered memory reactivation while volunteers were awake, recall of the correct locations dropped to about 41 percent. The researchers had expected that result. Previous studies have shown that replaying a memory while awake makes it vulnerable to interference from new material, such as from the second card game.

But the real surprise came when the team replayed memories in the sleeping volunteers and checked how that affected their waking performance. “With odor reactivation, they were almost perfect,” says coauthor Susanne Diekelmann, a psychologist and neuroscientist at the University of Lübeck in Germany. Volunteers correctly picked out about 84 percent of the original card pairs when the memory replayed during a nap that consisted mostly of deep slow-wave sleep (volunteers were woken up before they entered rapid eye movement, or REM, sleep).

Brain scans also revealed that different areas of the brain were involved during memory replay depending on whether the volunteers were awake or asleep. While awake, replaying the memory triggered activity mostly in the right lateral prefrontal cortex, a part of the brain involved in memory recall. But during sleep, memory replay was associated with strong activity in the hippocampus and parts of the cortex. The hippocampus is involved in memory formation, and memories are transferred from short-term memory in the hippocampus to long-term memory in the cortex. Reactivating memories during sleep may speed the transfer, Diekelmann says.

The researchers are now testing whether replaying memories during REM will also stabilize them. Brain activity during that sleep state is similar to that while awake, so the researchers suspect memories may become unstable during REM to allow for editing and reorganization.

hat-tip to Digitalyn

h+ talk neurotech with Zach Lynch

Posted by on August 23rd, 2009

h+ have a great interview with Zach Lynch, author of The Neuro Revolution: How Brain Science Is Changing Our World .

In “This is your brain on neurotechnology” they look at how society might be re-shaped as neurotech matures and becomes more widely used.

This is just a taste:

For example, there are over 100 compounds in clinical development right now focused on treating some form of memory loss. And we expect a small handful of these over the next decade to improve memory in normal humans. So you can imagine the inherent coercive force that will emerge as those treatments become developed. Imagine a 65-year-old programmer living in San Francisco and she’s competing with a 25-year-old in Mumbai, India. Neither one knows whether the other is using one of these cognitive-enabling drugs.

And it’s not just drugs; there are neurodevices in development that will be able to improve memory and speed learning. What we’re going to see is what I call “neuro competition.” This is the next form of competition that individuals and businesses and nations will adapt to gain competitive advantage –- except this will be a neuro advantage. Just as companies today compete for a competitive advantage in information technology –- whether it’s the latest social software, the latest IT backbone, the latest servers, or the latest customer relationship management systems –- they will use neurotechnologies to improve their competitive positioning.

Karl Schroeder on ‘Rewilding’

Posted by on August 1st, 2009

The following speech by Karl Schroeder is an excellent summation of the future we’ve been documenting here, the world that lies just around the corner:

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His thoughts on, well I guess you have to call it Nature 2.0, are a nice progression on some of Kevin Kelly’s ideas in his book Out of Control.

via BoingBoing | Futurismic

More confirmation AR will be built into future iPhones

Posted by on July 26th, 2009

AppleInsider are adding to the rumors that iAugmentedReality will soon be here:

iPhone developers and users excited by the prospect of augmented reality apps, which overlay information and controls on top of real-world objects seen through a camera, have been told to sit tight until the next release of the iPhone OS exits beta.

Although iPhone 3.1 has so far only been known to expose some video camera controls for developers, third-party producer Acrossair was told by Apple that the future release would be needed for its Nearest Tube and future Nearest Subway apps to work properly.

The apps are already highly dependent on the built-in compass and autofocusing camera of the iPhone 3GS, both of which are needed to alternately recognize the direction the iPhone is facing as well as to get a detailed enough look at a subject to tag it with information. As a demonstration of the technology, Acrossair’s software can show the subway stops visible in a particular direction and their distance relative to the user.

Acrossair’s app looks very cool. If progress continues linearly, we’re really never going to get lost again.

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via chris23

Jamais Cascio says Getting Smarter is the only way out of this mess

Posted by on June 29th, 2009

In his article for The Atlantic, Get Smarter, Jamais Cascio points out that only by embracing all forms of intelligence augementation might we have a chance of surviving, and ultimately taming, an increasingly hostile future.

By 2030, then, we’ll likely have grown accustomed to (and perhaps even complacent about) a world where sophisticated foresight, detailed analysis and insight, and augmented awareness are commonplace. We’ll have developed a better capacity to manage both partial attention and laser-like focus, and be able to slip between the two with ease—perhaps by popping the right pill, or eating the right snack. Sometimes, our augmentation assistants will handle basic interactions on our behalf; that’s okay, though, because we’ll increasingly see those assistants as extensions of ourselves.

The amount of data we’ll have at our fingertips will be staggering, but we’ll finally have gotten over the notion that accumulated information alone is a hallmark of intelligence. The power of all of this knowledge will come from its ability to inform difficult decisions, and to support complex analysis. Most professions will likely use simulation and modeling in their day-to-day work, from political decisions to hairstyle options. In a world of augmented intelligence, we will have a far greater appreciation of the consequences of our actions.

Coping with the various world-histori­cal dangers we face will require the greatest possible insight, creativity, and innovation. Our ability to build the future that we want—not just a future we can survive—depends on our capacity to understand the complex relationships of the world’s systems, to take advantage of the diversity of knowledge and experience our civilization embodies, and to fully appreciate the implications of our choices. Such an ability is increasingly within our grasp. The Nöocene awaits.

thanks to halia for the tip-off!

more cognitive enhancer drugs are on their way

Posted by on April 21st, 2009

From The New Yorker:

…given the amount of money and research hours being spent on developing drugs to treat cognitive decline, Provigil and Adderall are likely to be joined by a bigger pharmacopoeia.

Among the drugs in the pipeline are ampakines, which target a type of glutamate receptor in the brain; it is hoped that they may stem the memory loss associated with diseases like Alzheimer’s. But ampakines may also give healthy people a palpable cognitive boost.

A 2007 study of sixteen healthy elderly volunteers found that five hundred milligrams of one particular ampakine “unequivocally” improved short-term memory, though it appeared to detract from episodic memory—the recall of past events.

Another class of drugs, cholinesterase inhibitors, which are already being used with some success to treat Alzheimer’s patients, have also shown promise as neuroenhancers.

In one study, the drug donepezil strengthened the performance of pilots on flight simulators; in another, of thirty healthy young male volunteers, it improved verbal and visual episodic memory.

Several pharmaceutical companies are working on drugs that target nicotine receptors in the brain, in the hope that they can replicate the cognitive uptick that smokers get from cigarettes.

Everything Old (in your Headmeats) is New Again!

Posted by on December 5th, 2008

Hensch and his collaborators have now found that basket-cell development is controlled by a protein called Otx2. Overexpressing this protein can trigger a critical period of plasticity, while removing Otx2 halts it. While the findings are specific to the visual system, Hensch notes that different sensory systems also possess basket cells, and those might function the same way.

A second mechanism for manipulating neural plasticity in adults is blocking inhibitory molecules that the nervous system produces to stop neural growth. “The nervous system is hostile to growing new axons [the long neural projections that connect cells], which is why recovery after spinal-cord injury is so challenging,” says Hensch. 

Myelin cells, which form an insulating layer around axons, secrete some of these inhibitory molecules. By experimenting with certain drugs that loosen myelin, Hensch and his collaborators found they could make the normally stable visual system of adult rodents become plastic again, allowing amblyopic rodents to recover. (However, the drug used in the study is toxic, making it unlikely to be a useful therapy.)

     The article goes on, in brief, to explore the possible links between brain plasticity and autisim and the possible downsides of re-engaging the brain’s “plastic” state at later ages.    

You know, it’s not hard science by any stretch of the imagination, but I can’t help but think of Grant Morrison’s claims that A) Mr. Fantastic uses his powers to enhance his brain’s plasticity, and B) that Mr. Fantastic has Asperger Syndrome.


60 Minutes story on Brain-Computer Interfaces

Posted by on November 4th, 2008

More evidence of our science-fictional present; when a story about Brain-Computer Interfaces appears on 60 Minutes, rather than a science program:

thanks for the tip-off mith!

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Kevin Kelly on “Evidence of a Global SuperOrganism”

Posted by on October 25th, 2008

Kevin Kelly has posted a fascinating essay on his blog, further exploring his idea of that all the computers connected via the internet form a superorganism, the One Machine.

This megasupercomputer is the Cloud of all clouds, the largest possible inclusion of communicating chips. It is a vast machine of extraordinary dimensions. It is comprised of quadrillion chips, and consumes 5% of the planet’s electricity. It is not owned by any one corporation or nation (yet), nor is it really governed by humans at all. Several corporations run the larger sub clouds, and one of them, Google, dominates the user interface to the One Machine at the moment.

Manufactured intelligence is a new commodity in the world. Until now all useable intelligence came in the package of humans – and all their troubles. El Goog and the One Machine offer intelligence without human troubles. In the beginning this intelligence is transhuman rather than non-human intelligence. It is the smartness derived from the wisdom of human crowds, but as it continues to develop this smartness transcends a human type of thinking. Humans will eagerly pay for El Goog intelligence. It is a different kind of intelligence. It is not artificial – i.e. a mechanical — because it is extracted from billions of humans working within the One Machine. It is a hybrid intelligence, half humanity, half computer chip. Therefore it is probably more useful to us. We don’t know what the limits are to its value. How much would you pay for a portable genius who knew all there was known?

via MAKE

Esozone Reminder

Posted by on October 8th, 2008

From the Origonian’s coverage of Esozone:

They call “Esozone: the other tomorrow” a festival, but don’t expect corn dogs and Ferris wheels. Fringe thinkers, visionary artists and occult musicians from around the world will gather at Watershed, a rambling, ramshackle building near Sellwood for a weekend of … well … the inexplicable.

Noah Mickens, who will take part in the festivities, defines it this way: “Esozone is an exhibition of scientists, philosophers, magicians and performance artists, gathered together by a subculture of young radicals who don’t recognize the distinction between the four.”

    Esozone: the Other Tomorrow opens Friday in Portland, Oregon.   Where else can you participate in a “show and tell” of Mad Science and Occult Technology  one day and discuss 2012 or hear Hecate perform the next?  It promises to be an interesting event.

    Also:  I note because people keep asking me, I won’t be there to cover the event, sadly.   But I’m sure there will be at least a few of our readers there.   

Daniel Suarez’s Long Now lecture on our “Bot-Mediated Reality”

Posted by on August 23rd, 2008

Probably best to wait on reading this if you’ve a had big weekend, because this is the stuff to make the most sober tres paranoid.

Is our robot overlord future already here? Daniel Suarez thinks so:

Forget about HAL-like robots enslaving humankind a few decades from now, the takeover is already underway. The agents of this unwelcome revolution aren’t strong AIs, but “bots”– autonomous programs that have insinuated themselves into the internet and thus into every corner of our lives. Apply for a mortgage lately? A bot determined your FICA score and thus whether you got the loan. Call 411? A bot gave you the number and connected the call. Highway-bots collect your tolls, read your license plate and report you if you have an outstanding violation.

Bots are proliferating because they are so very useful. Businesses rely on them to automate essential processes, and of course bots running on zombie computers are responsible for the tsunami of spam and malware plaguing Internet users worldwide. At current growth rates, bots will be the majority users of the Net by 2010.

Here’s the full lecture, a meaty hour of knowledge (plus QnA) – so grab a coffee and sit down, ears ready or copy it to your mp3 player of choice. I really think this is one not to miss!

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

All that being said, I’m not really sure I agree with the solution he proposes, to:

…build a new Internet hard-coded with democratic values. Start with an encrypted Darknet into which only verifiably human users can enter. Create augmented reality tools to identify bots in the physical world. Enlist the aid of a few tame bots to help forge a symbiotic relationship with narrow AI.

But there is definitely a lot to think and talk about, before we lose the reins altogether on our society!

IBM’s PENSIEVE – Next-Gen searchable outboard memory

Posted by on July 29th, 2008

This is the PENSIEVE user interface (click through for high-resolution):


This is IBM’s promo video for it:

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This is ganked from PhysOrg:

“This is like having a personal assistant for your memory,” said Dr. Yaakov Navon, the lead researcher and image processing expert from IBM’s Haifa Research Lab. “Our daily routines are overflowing with situations where we gain new information through meetings, advertisements, conferences, events, surfing the web, or even window shopping. Instead of going home and using a general web search to find that information, PENSIEVE helps the brain recall those everyday things you might normally forget.”

…By simply typing the person’s name into PENSIEVE, you can recall when and where you met them, and any related information garnered at that time. You could even browse forwards or backwards in time to find out what events transpired before or after the initial meeting.

Another use of this technology is in reconstructing and sharing an experience or memory. If enough media-rich data was collected about a particular event, it can be used to build a more complex visual associative representation of the experience.

“This is where the real power of collaboration kicks in,” said Eran Belinsky, research team leader and a specialist in collaboration. “You can recall the name of the person you met right before you entered a meeting by traversing a timeline of your experiences, or share a business trip with colleagues by creating a mashup that shows a map with an animation of your trail and the pictures you took in every location.”

This is the corporate future and it is only just starting to get messy. Let us just say I would be very careful now about using any company property for personal reasons.

Obviously this is awesome technology for personal use though, but I would want to be controlling the database. In a secure location. (According to CSI) Police already take people’s mobile phones in the event of emergency or tragedy. Would you want to hand over an indexed/tagged, searchable lifestream?

That being said, how rad would it be if it pulled-in CCTV images of you walking around?

Philip K Dick :- becoming more a prophet of the modern condition every second.

BBC’s Human v2.0 documentary

Posted by on July 8th, 2008

Broadcast in October, 2006, so it lacks for some of the even crazier theories and realities we’ve seen since then, Human v2.0 is still an interesting watch; building quickly from basic neuroscience and Moore’s Law, through to remote-controlled rats, and wiretapping a monkey’s brain to control a robot arm and beyond – and then peppering it with quotes from the Unabomber’s Manifesto to remind the audience that not everyone is pro-Change.


Now if they had just questioned whether a mind can be uploaded a little more often, the show would not date quite so bad. Like those shows from the 1970s with quotes from Marvin Minksy about how machine vision is a sure thing within ten years.

via Planet Damage.

Potential Parkinson’s cure is up your nose!

Posted by on June 17th, 2008

From ABC News:

Australian scientists have discovered that stem cells found in the back of a patient’s nose can produce the chemical which is missing in people with Parkinson’s disease.

Parkinson’s disease occurs when the brain cells that produce the chemical dopamine stop working.

Without dopamine, nerve cells cannot function, leading to muscle problems.

Researchers from Griffith University and the University of Queensland harvested adult stem cells from the noses of Parkinson’s disease patients.

They found that once the nose cells were cultured and infused into animals with Parkinson’s disease, the cells began to produce dopamine.

Professor Peter Silburn from the University of Queensland said it was an important breakthrough, as the cells could be easily harvested from patients.

That is correct. In your nose. Which skips the whole fetal stem-cell debate.

Now, one has to think this can not be limited to just curing Parkinson’s either. Will the near future see us also popping into a clinic every few years for a quick scrap of the nose and coming back for a brain-boost a few weeks later?

See Also:

Drugs to keep your brain young

Posted by on June 16th, 2008

From Technology Review:

Drugs that encourage the growth of new neurons in the brain are now headed for clinical trials. The drugs, which have already shown success in alleviating symptoms of depression and boosting memory in animal models, are being developed by BrainCells, a San Diego-based start-up that screens drugs for their brain-growing power.

In the last ten years, scientists have discovered that new neurons are born in the adult brain and that increases or decreases in this cell growth, known as neurogenesis, may be involved in myriad brain diseases, including depression, schizophrenia and stroke. Subsequent research has shown that existing drugs, including Prozac and other antidepressants, boost neurogenesis. In fact, that property may be an integral component of the drugs’ effectiveness–for example; some experiments suggest that new cell growth in the hippocampus is necessary for antidepressants to work.

Clinical trials of the company’s lead candidate, known as BCI-540, began earlier this year. The drug, originally developed for Alzheimer’s disease, boosts brain cell growth by 20 percent.

Drugs that boost brain cell growth may also aid cognition. Previous research has shown that neurogenesis in the hippocampus, a brain area integral to learning and memory, is important for maintaining plasticity in that part of the brain, which in turn is linked to memory function. “With aging, there’s a decrease in neurogenesis,” says Kriegstein. “The hypothesis is that if you could boost neurogenesis to compensate for that age-related decline, you might maintain functional levels.”

BrainCells is also testing a compound, known as BCI-632, for its cognitive enhancing properties. “It’s the most neurogenic compound we’ve seen,” says Schoeneck. While the compound hasn’t yet been tested in humans, it appears to boost at least one type of memory in rodents. The company aims to begin clinical trials next year.

Novel drug combinations may also have neurogenesis-boosting power. For example, researchers at Brain cells have found that a respiratory drug and a cardiovascular drug, both already on the market, seem to dramatically boost brain cell growth in cellular tests.

I really want to know that last part – which pre-existing medz do I combo up to keep my brain young? The rest I can wait for – clinical trials being there for a reason and all.

thanks for the tip-off Wolven!