This is the Future

Posted: January 29, 2010 in Braak, future
Tags: , ,

You take your skull, okay — while it’s still on your head and your brain is inside.  You’re alive in this scenario, right?  And you drill a hole in it.

You’ve got a small device, about the size of a big watch face — one of those chunky watches that they sell at Fossil.  We’ll call it a medallion.  This is what it has in it:  electrodes (possibly:  very tiny lasers), a gyroscopic battery that charges up when you move your head, and bluetooth.  The edges of the device are porous and the battery gives them a very tiny charge; bone cells, which are piezoelectric, accumulate in the pores, suturing the device into the skull.

You stick this guy in the hole that you made in your head — around your parietal bone, probably, where the squamous border meets the frontal border.  There’s a suture there, it’s soft anyway.  This spot is roughly over the inferior frontal gyrus, or Broca’s Area.  It’s closely associate with speech expression.

Maybe you use a different spot, it doesn’t really matter.  You’re trying to find a spot where there’s a lot of variation in neuron expression on purpose.

The electrodes get maps of different neuron expression and dumps them via wireless into a processor that you carry with you; about the size of an iPhone.  Maybe thicker, maybe a little bigger, so that you can improve the battery life and processing power.  Plus, you wouldn’t actually need a phone in it.

Experiments are necessary; after you’ve first got the medallion installed, you start trying to express different things.  Different maps of neurons are expressed on your processor’s face, the way that music on your media player makes those fancy weird designs.  This is called the Calibration Period.  During this time, you find unique, replicable designs that you can call up repeatedly by remembering what you were trying to express.  You tag them until you have a small vocabulary.  Maybe ten.  Your little processor remembers those patterns, and you use a primitive syntax to arrange them — three pictures of any of your ten, giving you a thousand individual “sentences”.  The sentences are associated with commands; any commands you want.  “Turn the phone on,” “start the car,” “open google chrome.”  Whatever.

Congratulations, you can now telepathically communicate with your environment.

This is unethical, by the way; medical science won’t let you drill a whole in someone’s head just to see if you can wire them to an iPhone.  That’s probably why the Chinese or the Koreans will get to it first.

  1. I fire up my espresso maker with a hateful glare. Must diversify.

  2. SB7 says:

    I went to a talk a few years back by a neuroscientist from (I believe) the University of Warwick who wired an electrode array into his radial nerve. You can get a lot of the same results that way with a much lower risk of catastrophic infection. The fact that he patched into his own arm like that was so delightfully mad scientist of him.

  3. braak says:

    Yeah. I guess I just want all brain science to involve trepanning.

  4. Moff says:

    I don’t want to telepathically communicate with my environment. I want to telepathically communicate with cats.

  5. braak says:

    Here’s the problem with that: cats are idiots. What do you think they’re going to say? “I like fish.” “Look at my butt.” “I like to bite your face.” Scientists set up cameras to watch cats to see what they did all day. You know what cats do all day? They stare out the window.

  6. Moff says:

    Ha! The cats have you fooled, too.

  7. braak says:

    Listen: Jeanine’s cat tried to eat a beer bottle cap THREE TIMES. Once, it accidentally set itself on fire. Our cat hurts herself biting her tail, because she forgets that it is hers.

    If this is a trick, man, these suckers are committed.

  8. braak says:

    Anyway, it’s probably easier to put electrodes right into a cat’s brain than it is to do it to a person, anyway. Also, for some reason, less unethical.

  9. Moff says:

    You’re basically saying the same thing that a half-orc shopkeeper with an Intelligence of 7 would—“What are you going to do with bat guano?”—right before the fireball happened. Just because it doesn’t make sense to you

    Also, the cats don’t need the electrodes.

  10. braak says:

    That…is an extremely tortured metaphor analogy.

  11. Moff says:

    It makes a lot more sense once you fully understand the extent of cat powers.

  12. braak says:

    Also, presumably, if I knew precisely what kind of shop a half-orc with an intelligence of seven might keep. Why is he selling bat guano if he doesn’t think anyone would need it for anything?

  13. Moff says:

    He inherited the shop from his father, who—and this is surprising, I will admit—was not the orc half of the couple, and he has a capable manager who’s been there since not long after it opened. And he’s fine with the rote tasks that constitute most of running a business, and possibly blessed by Gruumsh. And he’s not selling the bat guano—he just recognizes it, for reasons that are probably apparent but won’t be spelled out here in case any ladies are reading.

  14. Moff says:

    And I don’t want to be a jerk, but you’re making this very complicated.

  15. braak says:

    First of all, you ARE a jerk.

    Second of all, you’re the one that introduced the half-orc shopkeeper. I’m just trying to make sure that the comparison is sound. But this still hasn’t clarified anything, except that the shop is not a bat-guano selling shop–which would justify your dismissal of the half-orc, on the grounds that a shopkeeper who sells bat guano would certainly have to be of below average intelligence not to be aware of the regeant’s use in fire spells.

    Is it like a general store, or something? Does it sell dry goods?

  16. Moff says:

    OH MY GOD. OBVIOUSLY it is a general store, and it also sells pull-tabs.

  17. Hsiang says:

    Hi everybody, what did I miss? I would have checked in earlier but I was staring out the window all day.

  18. sebastian says:

    “This is unethical, by the way; medical science won’t let you drill a whole in someone’s head just to see if you can wire them to an iPhone. ”

    That would have worked if you hadn’t stopped me.

  19. Jesus, I go to work for nine to twelve hours and it gets full-on nerdly in here.

    That said, let’s say the spell calls for consecrated moly …

  20. braak says:

    What, you mean some kind of holy moly?

    That’s plainly nonsense. Where are you even from?

  21. V.I.P. Referee says:

    Friggin thought processes. Making your arm move is one thing. Stacking and racking sensory information and establishing memory recall is another kind of big mess; it’s hard to transfer or record on an external device because there’s yet a defined order of prompts to follow (as far as memory retrieval is concerned). The brain “likes” to burrow bits of info all over the place. Sometimes it moves these bits unexpectedly. There’s some strong work being done in this area–as far as making your brain transfer some of it’s dope labour to another machine–but as far as thinking or reflecting on deep-rooted and hidden processes from the perspective of external observer, that’s still in the tub.

    I have a friend who chases these patterns in a fancy lab, in a fancy technical university. It takes intense concentration, repetitive tracking and the following of imprinted info picked up by scanned imagery. Tasks not unlike chasing mice and staring out a window for hours on end.

  22. V.I.P. Referee says:

    …and what did you see, Hsiang? TELL US.

  23. V.I.P. Referee says:

    Let me say, this is a strong perspective. I wasn’t being condescending in the last comment. You really could jump off from this and see where it goes. What you’ve described are objects behaving like artifiical limbs. The mind sends a control to do something, the limbs don’t “think”, they gather information and send it back to the brain for processing, then the brain sends out more commands.

    The problem with “mind control” anything–or designing a device that acts like a satellite office for the brain–is that the limb depends totally upon the brain to continue to tell it what to do and the brain isn’t too keen on taking demands from a limb. That’s why it’s difficult to design a truly “thinking” machine, which is what the limb would need to be. You could send a signal in the form of a an actual neurological “conversation” (where the limb and brain interact like “equals” ) from the limb to the brain that would seem destined to be interpreted in a specific way, but the brain could decide to do something entirely else with the information, break it apart and store it in areas where it’s difficult to retrieve and piece together again. The brain is used to being king and apparently doesn’t appreciate competition from the underlings. You can “tell” a computer to store and retrieve information in a specific way but you can’t always expect the same from the human brain.

  24. V.I.P. Referee says:

    Now, mind control by way of one brain to another by proxy of a man-made machine–like a computer–seems to be very effective. Through this, your brain recognizes it’s not facing a fake but the “real deal” (most of the time–ha). It’s amazing how persuasive another mound of grey matter can be.

  25. Dr Emilio Lizardo says:

    I think this sort of thing may be how Jeffrey Dahmer got started.

  26. braak says:

    The line between “scientist” and “psychopathic murdering cannibal” has always been a fine one.

  27. Dmart says:

    What about the theory that since your brain only has so many neurons, dedicating some of them to mind control/computer implants/whatever cuts down on your brain’s ability to handle its everyday shit? How much bladder control are you willing to lose to start your car with mind control?

  28. braak says:

    Well, I don’t buy that theory; especially because, as you can see, the principal design of this system doesn’t dedicate motor control to radiotelepathic output processes–it piggybacks control signal on top of pre-existing functions (in this case, speech processing).

  29. V.I.P. Referee says:

    …and some of the weirdest brain matter questions, involve virtual “dead zones” left behind following strokes or brain damage and the neurological roadwork your brain builds around these areas to compensate for potential losses. Doesn’t always happen but sometimes it does. Why does it? Why doesn’t it? You can look at some brains and say:

    “This person shouldn’t be able to function in the way they do.” But brains adapt.

    Neurological traffic can be re-routed by snipping areas and positioning barriers (chemical or mechanical inhibitors) that re-direct it around the brain–like pin balls in a game–but they don’t always make a difference. All that’s really accomplished from this, is to turn-off neurological “broken records” and “crossed lines” (like what happens in the brains of people who have recurrent seizures or severe schizophrenia) but sometimes the brain gets around such procedures. The human brain can be very sneaky and its processes are less understood than we’d like to admit.

  30. Dmart says:

    Right, but now you’re dedicating some of those speech processes to the telepathomajigger and not, y’know, speech. So maybe — maybe — you can convince the car to turn on when you think “key”, but what about when you’re talking about keys? Or you just randomly think about keys during the day? It’s like losing the game, but wasting more gas.
    The thing about the stroke victims is a good point, though. Your brain would probably figure something out. I just wonder if being psychic would necessarily have a cost in other places.
    This whole criticism is based on a throwaway line in an obscure science fiction novel about emotionally disturbed undersea power plant operators, though, and I would actually quite like a working programmable brain implant, so don’t let me stop you.

  31. braak says:

    I don’t think it’s a big deal; I mean, I learned how to play the guitar without giving up knowing how to do anything else (I think)–there’s probably a lot more capacity in there than we give it credit for.

    Also, because of the way I’m imagining it working, instead of convincing the car to turn on by thinking “key”, it’d be more likely that you’d turn the car on by thinking “Seven Key Wet.” There is a possibility that you’d end up with some overlap, but I imagine it’d be small. Moreover, it may be that there’s a way to distinguish between addressing the implant and speaking something out loud–a very small change in neural processing (the equivalent of learning how to say “you” in a foreign language) that actually doubles the efficacy.

    And things randomly turning on in the world may just be a side-effect of radiotelepathy that we have to suffer.

  32. RixiM says:

    I stopped reading these comments because they are all very haha. people actually do this stuff. QEEG is the most reasonable method that comes to mind, there are many others. As for you other article on getting data into the brain…. I actually wrote a bunch of short stories about how that would work. Basically, the idea was to place a “wire mesh” throughout the brain (we can do that without actually damaging the brain, there is a lot of space in there on the scale of the thinnest wire possible.) and then simply allow the signal from the wire to interfere with electrical properties of the brain and vice versa. The only hard parts, aside from producing and inserting the “wire”, would be getting the translation of the signal out of the wires and properly mapping the data from the wires to the correct regions of the brain. The first could easily be solved by triangulating signal strengths. The second would be solved by knowing where the wires were placed and again, using triangulation. I see latency as a real problem… I also see the mapping as being a much bigger issue than what i mentioned. There are major issue with external interference that I glossed over in this explanation. Basically, one wouldn’t know if their thought were their own, but that’s fine, because it would all feel the same. Tampering would be stopped by way of physical access. For an assortment of reasons having to do with the natural plasticity of the brain, I don’t really see a system like this ever actually being useful, but it’s fun to think about regardless. In thinking about this a little more the actually hard part would be making a wire with the necessary properties, although I am fairly sure it is physically possible.

  33. braak says:

    I’d still be concerned about a system like that. A wire mesh that’s built to directly interfere with brain properties, and has the capacity for both signal output and input? How would you restrict signal inputs? If they exist for the purpose of gathering feedback on output signals, then they’d have to be accessible in a way that could be exploitable.

  34. V.I.P. Referee says:

    “The only hard parts, aside from producing and inserting the “wire”, would be getting the translation of the signal out of the wires and properly mapping the data from the wires to the correct regions of the brain.”

    Oh, only that? Well, then, that’s a horse of a different color.

    “… I also see the mapping as being a much bigger issue than what i mentioned.”


  35. braak says:

    Oh, yeah, I forgot about that. The number of possible connections between neurons in the brain is a larger number than the number of atoms in the observable universe.

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