Volume 2, Issue 1
1st Quarter, 2007

What it Might "Feel" Like to be Connected to Devices That Will Expand or Enhance Human Function With Cyber Abilities

Lawrence J. Cauller, Ph.D

Page 7 of 8

Image 53 - Cyberkinetics

You are welcomed to download this video online, but here is a fellow that's participating in clinical trials of this cortical control technology right now. He has a device implanted in his motor cortex that allows him to control simple actions such as moving a computer cursor across a screen by learning to generate patterns of cortical activity in his motor cortex.

My initial excitement about this demonstration of cortical control has been thoroughly dampened by the realization that alternative technologies such as voice recognition systems can provide equivalent results in any such patient capable of verbally expressing their intentions without the risks associated with this invasive brain procedure.

Image 54 - Interactive Neuronal

Any serious consideration of the potential value of these brain-based technologies quickly collides with the ugly medical realities of such invasive brain procedures. Current state-of-the-art in cortical interface technology involves penetration of the brain tissue with arrays of electrodes that fail to continue working for more than a year at most. They have to be taken out and replaced with new devices with a further risk of brain injury.

Image 55 - Biomimetic

But some researchers are going even further. In this figure from a group at the University of Southern California, they're actually using integrated circuit chip technology to replace circuits of connected neurons to bypass damaged areas of the brain. Now I have been known to come up with some far out ideas, but even I can’t imagine how anyone could take this project seriously.

Image 56 - McDonald's Action Figures

The animated cartoon worlds that capture the imagination of our children every time they tune into the tube today, have already prepared them to accept a neuro-cyber vision of their future, and they are ready to go, okay?  They understand, perhaps better than we, the amazing possibilities that lay ahead; my son was 7 years old when he received this action character, Galidor [1], in a McDonald's Happy Meal, This is from a popular cartoon where this good guy has this brain controller and he can put on different arms to make different things happen.

Image 57 - Peripheral NeuroProsthetics

I believe that by all accounts, the most promising technology for the future of neuro-cyber integration will involve devices that interface with the peripheral nerves that extend throughout our bodies.

The demonstrated success of peripheral nerve methods is far more promising, and eliminates the risks associated with invasive brain procedures.

Image 58 - The Cochlear Implant

The best example of a peripheral nerve interface is the highly successful Cochlear implant. Thousands of people have had their hearing restored by cochlear implants. But many in the Deaf community reject the use of cochlear implants, raising what amounts to the first significant objections to the unlimited use of a neuro-cyber enhancement technology.

This heralds the future emergence of passionate resistance to the widespread acceptance of neuro-cyber technology and the sort of objections we may expect from those most likely to reject any opportunity to be enhanced. We might not want our children to be enhanced.

Imagine a time when we may choose to have a device that can plug into our nervous system and allow us to access information on the Internet just by thinking about it. The schools may expect us to provide our children with this educational tool, all right, and we may not want that. We may find ourselves in the same situation as today’s Deaf community.

Image 59 - Epiretinel Visual Prostheses

Another very encouraging peripheral nerve technology is being developed that involves implants that actually go into the retina, to directly stimulate the optical nerve fibers that carry visual inputs into the brain.

Image 60 - Implantation of Silicon chip

Perhaps the most elegant example is shown here, this simple disk is all that's implanted. It converts the light energy passing through the eye into electrical impulses that stimulate the optic nerve fiber. No external anything, no cameras, no coils, no processors.

This literally replaces every function of the retina, from photo-receptor to optic fiber activation. Now, you can go beyond this and use it for enhancement. Put on your glasses with a little laser device that feeds in whatever information you want. It doesn't have to be what you're looking at, it can be something else, like a website, projected onto other parts of the retina, appearing at the periphery of your visual field.

Image 61 - Cybernetics

This is the area of neural interface technology I work in - hooking up the peripheral nerves for motor control of external actions and for tactile sensory feedback about the consequences of those actions.

This shows a researcher who implanted such a peripheral nerve interface into his own arm, to demonstrate a human subject can effectively control external systems with this sort of interface. The interface taps into the same motor control signals that travel down the peripheral nerve fibers in his arm that he would otherwise use to move his fingers. He controls the movement of his wheelchair just by thinking about moving his fingers. He can just sit there and control his wheelchair without actually having to move. This interface worked for about six months as he went about his daily activities freely moving his implanted arm and hand.

Image 62 - Neuro-micro-transponders

What I'm working on are microscopic implants that can be individually inserted into the nerve with a minimal risk of damage. Each of these Neural Micro Transponders ‘NeuTs’ is completely self-contained, without wires or connections, and without batteries.

Each NeuT is powered wirelessly by an external ‘reader’ coil on the overlying surface of the skin. Based upon the fundamental design of Radio Frequency Identification Devices (RFID), the extreme simplicity of this proven wireless technology permits the ultra-miniaturization of our Micro Transponders. Like the toll tags on our car that identify us when we pass under the toll booth coil, our Micro Transponders use the same RFID technology to send control signals from the nerve to the reader coil on the skin, and receive instructions from the coil to stimulate sensory nerve fibers. This miniature RFID technology is not futuristic. It's happening right now.

Image 63 - Hitachi RFID

These microscopic RFID chips are commercially available, based upon the same wireless technology that we are using for our peripheral nerve interfaces. You can see how tiny they are.

So the idea would be to sprinkle these over the brain, and sprinkle these over the peripheral nervous system for the least invasive direct wireless communication.

Image 64 - Nuero-Micro-Transponders 2

Here is our mock-up for our NeuTs. Each of these is a four channel device. I have placed 25 of them here, for a total of one hundred channels on the nose of FDR on a dime; compared here with the penetrating electrodes everyone else is using. This leads to my last slide.

The evolution of human capacity must engage the same fundamental process of NeuroInteractivity responsible for all human development. The expansion of NeuroInteractivity across the interconnections between brains will kindle the self-organization of a shared experience for the construction of a common action-prediction foundation that fuses the selves of both conscious entities which become mutually transformed into a completely new form of conscious being.

Another important ramification of this vision of human evolution is that artificial beings are far more durable than their biological counterparts. The personality of the biological entity can be imprinted upon the fused consciousness of the hybrid being and lives on indefinitely beyond the mortal life of the biological donor.

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[1] Galidor: Defenders of the Outer Dimension or simply Galidor is a show that ran on Fox Kids in 2002 with a total of 26 half-hour episodes. The series was created by Thomas W. Lynch, the creator of The Secret World of Alex Mack and The Journey of Allen Strange.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galidor  March 9, 2007 1:04PM EST

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